India is a country that celebrates hundreds of festivals, both national and regional, every calendar year. Diwali, Navratri, Bihu, Lohri, Eid, Janmashtami are some of the well known festivals we are aware of.
But we also celebrate certain “Western festivals”. These include Christmas, Easter, New Year, etc and are celebrated in India and in other countries, largely by people who follow Christianity.
Since festivals are a human construct, made by us and for us, they do carry motives and impact us. Let’s understand and explore all the significant mental impacts they create, examine if those are affecting us positively or negatively.
Christmas is one of the biggest and most famous festivals in the world. It is a long holiday in most Western countries. It is said that holiday traditions are essential in building a strong bond within the family as they connect us to our history and help us celebrate generations. And as we know, there are many Christmas traditions like decorating the Christmas tree, the house, singing Christmas carols, family meals, giving gifts to close ones etc.
The Christmas tree symbolises the angels mentioned in the accounts of the nativity of Jesus, which creates positive energy within people and a sense of hope. It is during winter that we celebrate Christmas and winter is very harsh and very cold. Along with a Christmas tree, we also decorate the house interior with plants, garlands and evergreen foliage, demonstrating that spring will come after this harsh cold.
Candles are placed in each window to demonstrate that the Christians believe in Jesus Christ and that Christ is the ultimate light of hope in the world. Songs are sung in the church and houses. These songs are known as Christmas carols.
A special family meal is a crucial part of the tradition. During this holiday meal, there are special food items prepared for the feast. These food items vary from country to country. Cakes, drinks, and meat are generally common. Giving each other presents as a token of love is also an essential part of the tradition. Cities are lit up with decorations and lights during this period.
What positive impacts does Christmas create?
Christmas is the happiest time of the year. Many people are excited with just the thought of Christmas. During this time, we are all with our family, which can be heartwarming as many of us only meet our cousins, siblings, and parents during Christmas. This creates warmth and a feeling of security within us.
Family meals are great for erasing all past conflicts and eating peacefully without grudges. This helps to strengthen the bond. A few food items may evoke good childhood memories and create nostalgia which is humbling and reliving.
Exchanging gifts to celebrate loved ones is a Christmas tradition. Thoughtful gifts with a touch of emotional background and a genuine gesture help to lift the mood and spread happiness among our people. It may create a positive impact on the person and generate a sense of belongingness which, according to social psychology, is the major factor every individual seeks.
Music, in general, helps create positive vibrations, which is also used as a therapy method for many patients suffering from anxiety. Singing carols and some traditional folk songs are very helpful in achieving calmness and relaxation. These too can evoke good childhood memories, which are joyful reminders.
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Christmas lights are a very bright and attractive factor of the Christmas traditions and the most evident and joyful reminders that Christmas is around the corner.
During our childhood, decorations and lights were followed by good things, times and happy things. So, just as classical conditioning is the process in which we associate a neutral stimulus with another unconditioned stimulus. For example- Christmases were happy. We experienced many unconditioned stimuli, which led to excitement. So, neutral stimuli like decorations may trigger the same positive response.
Thanks to the feeling of togetherness during this period, the suicide rate is low, which means that the state of depression and suicidal thoughts is less.
People also serve the poor. And a lesson of sharing is learnt by the children and us causing social development.