It has been a while since my last visit to our neighbourhood supermarket. While I was pondering the implications, all of a sudden my mother remembered that she had forgotten to buy sugar in her last shopping tour. I had no option except running to the supermarket. As usual, the car park was full of vehicles and the place was crowded.
As I entered the building, the first sight was a huge Christmas tree with hundreds of little boards saying Naththal Cash (Christmas money). “Christmas? in November?” I was surprised. “Isn’t that too early and by the way what is Naththal cash?” I wondered. The word was alien to me, but I right away realised that this must be something related to their latest marketing campaign. I took a closer look.
Of course! They were encouraging their customers to buy more supplies from them qualify themselves for a raffle draw.
This Naththal Cash was the name of the contest. I must say, I was shocked to see the way they used a religious festival to promote their business. Going beyond our country’s oceanic boundaries, we can see that this type of campaigns have become very common in most parts of the world in the recent past.
The Christmas season is the best time of the year for the business community, irrespective of the business being big or small.
Even the street vendors earn their living by selling Christmas cards, masks of Santa Clause and Christmas decorations. During Christmas, selling Cyprus trees is another common sight.
Many of you must have seen these trees or rather branches, which are available mostly near Vihara Maha Devi Park. Who says Christmas is not profitable? Vendors can sell anything during this period.
That is why the marketeers spend more than half of their budgeted advertising amount during this time, expecting the biggest windfall of the year. These days even the least Christmas item is advertised by highlighting some connection to it.
If you see a mosquito coil advertisement saying ‘this is the best coil you can use while you are at the midnight mass’ do not be surprised! People do get brilliant ideas like those! Many of you must have noticed that a number of new shops pop up during the season. They know that as soon as they open they will have a considerable amount of sales to cover their initial cost.
Maria is a retired teacher. She recalls how she used to celebrate Christmas with her family. “We enjoyed our Christmas lunches a lot more than nowadays. We celebrated Christmas according to the old traditions. After the Christmas lunch, we used to break Christmas crackers, which were made by Akki and myself. Now, Christmas is like another name for shopping.” She laments. Somewhere down the line, the real holiday spirit has been lost.
Instead, the celebrity awe struck, materialistic attitudes have replaced the joy surrounding the Christmas season. Many companies advertise their products as if those are essentials to celebrate Christmas in the right manner. Not only that, some toy companies wait until Christmas to launch their latest products. As a result, children demand their parents to buy those toys as their Christmas presents. Helpless parents have no option than trying their best to fulfil the child’s wish, as they do not want to disappoint them during this festive season.
In the movie Jingle all the way, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the role of such desperate father, who tries his best to buy a newly introduced action figure toy for his son as a Christmas present. The movie shows how people stand in queues from morning, to do their last minute Christmas shopping. Though it is somewhat unusual for us in Sri Lanka, this is a common thing in the Western world.
Sometime ago it was in the news about a man who was trampled to death while other people rushed into to a supermarket after waiting in a queue for hours to start Black Friday shopping. The interest surrounding Christmas has now shifted from what the season is meant to represent. It has now become a marketing tool and a product-focused event where consumer commodities are incredibly in high demand and companies will try anything to make a profit during the holiday season.
It would be good to see the old traditions return and Christmas to be celebrated for the right reasons not as a commercial opportunity. Making these occasions more prominent would be a good way to enhance the peoples’ Christmas spirit and for them to realise the importance of the holidays.