Celebrating Jan 1st as New Year – Marketing Extravaganza

Last night viz Dec 31st, I returned late from office and during the course of my ride back home saw temples organising pujas and aartis on the occasion of Jan 1st. I heard that there are also midnight abhishekas in some temples. At the same time, there were a number of youngsters – boys and girls moving around in bikes and of course by the time I hit bed which was about midnight, I heard as usual the sound of crackers and the screams of “Happy New Year” !

It left me wondering about what makes this such a popular event in Bharat. It is possibly the most celebrated event in the country with the exception of Diwali. Most activists who complain about pollution during Deepavali and Ganesh Utsavs are somehow very silent during this event when thousands of plastic greeting cards are printed and distributed & liquor flows like rivers.

Romans introducted Jan 1st as the new year after the introduction of the month January. It was much later accepted by the Christian countries and they introduced the celebrations as the day of circumcision of Christ. The growing popularity of Jan 1st as the new year and Valentine’s Day as a day of love in Bharat seem to have some deeper dimensions and possibly reflects the state of the society . Have these celebrations days acquired popularity because they cater to the basic instincts of society ? For example unlike on Ugadi, you are free to drink and scream on Jan 1st and it is treated as an accepted practise ? The same goes for Valentine’s Day vs. Baisakhi and some other recently acquired “Days”…

Is this a reflection of the state of society falling prey to a marketing extravaganza Or am I seeing too much into it ?

7 thoughts on “Celebrating Jan 1st as New Year – Marketing Extravaganza

  1. Sumanth Sharma

    I stand to be corrected, however, IMHO Few things why ….

    * We have little or no knowledge of the significance/relevance of our own festivals in general
    * Very few of us know and follow “our” calendar
    * We have two distinct calendar “sauryamaana” and “chaandramaana”, and even amongst the “chaandramaana”, south of Godaavari, and those north of, have a phase lag of “one paksha”, owing to as to when we consider as first phase of monn i.e. from new to full or vice versa.
    * Keeping indifference aside, for various reasons, a vitiated atmosphere
    exists as a result, not everyone in Bhaarath would converge.
    * The masses need more and more occasions to celebrate, the English New year, being a non Hindu one, naturally present a great oppurtunity to non practicing Hindus, where they find it convenient as there or no implicit austerities which otherwise apply to auspicious Hindu events, and hence the masses feel comfortable on this day as they can let loose their hunger for sensory pleasures, blah and blah. Its a total no-bars day for many
    * Last but not the least, the ones who make a heck of this the most, the “white collared” working class, and their families, find that all companies, Schools, Colleges, all Institutions follow the Gregorian calendar

    As a result of a lot of these factors and more, they find more ekaatmataa (total lack of atmaa perhaps!! , or perhaps more because of no conflict zone) and feel it easier to consider January 1 as the new year

  2. Shankar

    It is not that a valentine day appeals to a basic instinct and that a vasanta utsava does not. But there is an understanding of the instinct, and a streamlining of its expression in Hindu festivals, which is not seen in the imported ones.

    The question then is, why should there be a streamlining of expression? Why can individuals not express themselves as they want?

    But that calls for another question – are individuals only trying to express themselves or trying to conform to what is glorified by someone to be the way to express?

    And the answer is clear – there is a tremendous pressure created on the youth, to “conform” to a valentine day way. There it is not individuals expressing, but individuals trying to *conform* to what is told to them by media, and in ways that the media tries to hype and popularize.

    It applies to valentine day or new year or pub culture or any such western import. In the name of freedom, it is actually a snatching of freedom, an attempt to brainwash the youth by presentation of some value and by snubbing another.

    The next question is about popularizing a particular way of celebrating. For the likes of archies and the media, there is an obvious money angle for which they try to glorify the valentine way – and which is not there in a traditional celerbration. In a way, invasion of culture is not a goal but a means for economic goals of the corporate.

    The Hindu society also has its reasons for promoting its way of celebration. The reasons are not only contrasting but also deeper. First, the Hindu society is a *society*, it has a strong social fabric. Public expression of any individual phenomenon, has very different consequences in India than abroad. What merely results in individual perversion as an extreme of freak out in the west, results in group events and social nuissance and even pollution in India. So there is a stronger reason why individual phenomena should be limited to individual lives in India.

    Nextly, it is not only that youth is particularly attracted to such freak out – they have no alternative at that stage. The training required to understand the traditional way is not there. The traditional living that gives an inward completeness to human mind is not there, and as a result there is an aimlessness, an incompleteness in the average teenage mind. And that has to be filled in by something – if not something profound, then something superficial like the pub culture or valentine freak out.

    People have an immediate retort to this, saying that they do achieve high career goals and the incompleteness argument does not hold. However, if career does fulfill one’s inner space, then by that very reason the need for such freak out should not be there. Synthesis that offers fulfilment, is not frequent but a very rare thing. Career is not such.

    The other real problem, is the modern day problem with marriage institution. Growing careerism is resulting in late marriages, and people try to find “early” options and alternatives. On one hand there is a genuine problem – that basic education is unable to offer decent livelihood. On the other hand there is a growing ambition, frivolous wants and expenses that offer no justification for the damage careerism is doing to the marriage institution and thereby harming social stability on the long run.

    This is just the problem part. I will try to follow up the solution part in another comment, as this response is already longer than the article itself 🙂

  3. Ashok

    Hmm what you have said needs some thought definitely. But then look at it from a different perspective. For ages there has been a process of Sanskritization and Localization going on in our society. Sanskritization wherein the local ways, festivals, etc get incorporated into the larger
    Hindu pantheon and Localization wherein the set Gods and religious practices of Aryan dharma get a localized version to suit to the individuals needs.
    I see the incorporation of New Year celebrations, in the same vein. Something alien to our ways came in, and is gradually getting converted into something which a normal person can connect to. Compare this to a decade back wherein the New Year had significance only for Christians with masses and prayers in Churches, but nothing in Temples. Today, as you correctly said the Temples have incorporated this into there fold as well. This is our strength and beauty.
    Gradually all the days which perturb us, will get incorporated into our tradition and Sanskritized.. and then the people who thought they could shake the foundations of our culture using such tools would be scampering for something else…

    1. arisebharat Post author

      Ashokji, do you feel that the temples have incorporated it as a strategy, compulsion OR a genuine belief that this is a new year and hence must be celebrated by offering pujas to the Lord at 12 midnight which on other days is supposed to be the time where the Lord is resting.

      1. Ashok

        Temples have incorporated so as to fulfill the needs of the devotees… As far as God’s schedule of rest, etc.. goes it is neither here nor there…

        These manifestations of new year, Christmas, etc. are nothing but coming together of people globally, shrinking of distances, and consumer driven economy… Business needs reasons to prep up and attract consumers, which in turn drives the economy and which leads to material growth… And that is all .. Places having Hindus in significant numbers from business perspective (outside India) have bigger Hindu festivals on an increasingly larger scale…

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