My Cultural Currency: Commercial Christmas

Illustration by Maggie Miller
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By Tanya Madhani, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 6, 2015

Despite the fact that I belong to a long line of practicing Hindus, I am, surprisingly, a big fan of the holiday season — in particular, Christmas.

You’d think I’d be uncomfortable at the sight of predominant Christian imagery and music during this time of year. But I take it in stride.

I’ve bought into the commercial hype of Christmas. Maybe it’s the result of living in the United States for so long, but as soon as my calendar shifts to December my entire demeanor changes.

I’m in it for the aesthetic appeal, for the very fact that everything just looks prettier around the festive time of year. Mall and home décor — considering the amount of tinsel and sparkles that occupy every corner — look like they’ve been blessed by the ghost of Liberace.

It seems as if, almost overnight, I turn into an ugly-sweater-wearing, Vanilla-Bean-Noel-smelling, compulsive candy-cane-eating version of myself.

I know Christmas is a significant and auspicious time for Christians, but I guiltily get excited just at the prospect of listening to Wham! and Mariah Carey Christmas tunes 24/7 without judgment.

December is my moment. It’s what I’ve been waiting for since practically the day after Christmas the year before.

I can blast my Christmas Spotify playlist, appropriately titled “YAS CHRISTMAS YAS,” and put on an elaborate one-woman lip-sync performance of “Baby It's Cold Outside” — which is ordered four times consecutively in the playlist — without the intense, burning shame that usually follows when I do the same thing in the middle of July.

As an outsider from another faith, even the commercial buildup around Christmas can’t avoid reminding me about the true meaning of the holiday. Believe me, I’m aware that Christmas is about family, charity and worship.

Diwali, the festival of lights, is a particularly important holiday for Hindu families, where, in a manner similar to Christmas, loved ones make an effort to spend time together. During the holiday, families will decorate their houses with lights — again, like Christmas — and eat special, celebratory meals.

But, because of the relatively small Hindu community here, I haven’t been able to enjoy Diwali the way it’s mean to be celebrated. There are no light-adorned houses in the middle of October, no Diwali songs playing on the radio and no special ABC Family movie countdown.

It’s just another October. And although it’s irrational — considering Hinduism is a minority religion in America — the lack of awareness never fails to disappoint me.

Because my own religion isn’t practiced as widely in the U.S. as Christianity, communal celebrations of big festivals such as Diwali have been missing for the majority of my life.

Christmas is a national phenomenon and by partaking in the hype around Christmas — the ridiculously-decorated houses, the red Starbucks cups — I feel like I make up for Diwali’s lack of festivity for myself.

It’s comforting to know that when I’m jamming out to “Last Christmas” and starting on my 15th box of candy canes, the rest of America is doing the same.

And I don’t feel so alone.