Christmas: a marketing strategy in India

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

New Delhi, December 12, 2017: As the winter approaches, it is time for Indians to join Christmas celebrations.

Over the years, the feast marking the birth of Christ has cut across religious and regional boundaries in this Hindu-majority nation.

This could be seen as symbolizing widespread social acceptance of India’s Christian community, which constitutes only 2.3 percent of the 1.2 billion population.

But some facts mitigate against overly simplistic conclusions.

Of the nation’s 23 million Christians, 60 percent are socially disadvantaged Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, and members of tribal communities.

These groups witnessed 260 violent incidents – including attacks on individuals, pastors and places of worship – in the first five months of this year.

Christian leaders say that while interest in Christian events such as Christmas has grown, many Christians are still sidelined in society.

This trend has been particularly evident since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power nationally in 2014.

The BJP government, soon after assuming power, declared Dec. 25 as ‘Good Governance Day’.

This required all BJP parliamentarians and senior officials to attend their offices on Christmas Day, even though it is supposed to be recognized as a holiday.

As in other parts of the secular world, Christmas in India is fast becoming a reason to have a vacation as well as an opportunity for commercial marketing of consumer products.

This phenomenon accelerated as English education became more widespread.

The winter vacation linked to Christmas started in English-medium missionary schools then spread to private schools across the entire nation.

Youth and children have particularly embraced Christmas.

Even so, until a decade ago Christmas wasn’t a feast widely observed, except in Christian pockets of southern and northeastern India.

With the advent of globalization and the Internet, people in India have been exposed to the culture of celebrating Christmas, but it has become more secular in nature.

Few non-Christians are interested in its spiritual and religious aspects.

Kay Benedict, a Delhi-based senior journalist, notes that the period is seen more as a time to have a break from work or other obligations and to socialize.

Decorative items such as bells, statues of Santa Claus and Christmas trees can be seen at commercial outlets.

Bakers work overtime to produce Christmas cakes relished by one and all.

Jingle Bells becomes the song of the month and many TV shows focus on Santa Claus distributing gifts.

Even schools with mostly Hindu students organize functions with a dress-up Santa.

At most city churches in northern India, considerable numbers of non-Christians join carol singing or attend the midnight Mass on Dec. 24.

However, a recent social media video that went viral showed some of the Indians interviewed stating that they thought Christmas celebrated the birthday of Santa Claus.

Joseph Dias, a Mumbai-based Christian leader, said that Christmas in India had become a marketing gimmick.

The fact that India is a former British colony meant concepts of western culture – including food, clothes and language – had considerable appeal.

Christmas, therefore, provided an opening for the sale of products associated with a western lifestyle.

An emerging ‘mall culture’ abetted this commercialization, Dias said.

He added that some Christians had helped to portray a false image of Christmas by neglecting its significance as marking the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger.

– ucan

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