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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Holidays Are Time for Joy, Not Frenzy




It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Not so strange a development, considering it's Christmas Eve. But to anyone for whom this holiday season is not his first spent in Moscow, it's somehow different this year -- brighter, cheerier and definitely more Western.


A drive down Moscow's main street, Tverskaya Ulitsa, can leave no doubt that Russia's holiday season is increasingly influenced by outside traditions. Every few meters advertisements urge consumers to buy while wishing them happy holidays.


Like national economies, Christmas is becoming globalized. But as Southeast Asian markets have shown recently, globalization can have its good, as well as bad, effects.


One of the benefits has been that authoritarian regimes find it harder to suppress freedoms and rights without international censure. Even communist and, until just a few years ago, officially atheist, Cuba will be celebrating Christmas this year, largely thanks to the efforts of Pope John Paul II who will be visiting the country.


The religious liberalization that brought the rebirth of the Russian Orthodox Church and religious holidays also brought the arrival of other religions to a country in which religion was long suppressed and people kept largely ignorant of their own faith. It was said that under the Soviets, even Ebeneezer Scrooge would have liked Christmas. After all, it was a working day.


Then, and for many Russians today, New Year's Day was the season's main reason for exchanging gifts and decorating yolki, or holiday fir trees.


But now, Russians also must deal with two Christmases: the one celebrated by millions of Western Christians -- and, increasingly, non-Christians -- around the world, and Orthodox Christmas, on Jan. 7. And this can only mean greater confusion.


Many in Russia, particularly in major cities, view images of what they still stubbornly, and wrongly, refer to as "Catholic Christmas," and all the ugly commercial frenzy that accompanies it as distasteful. For the most part, they are right.


There have been many recent accounts in the U.S. news media, for instance, of "shopping rage," a psychological state in which the consumer loses his temper under the stress of holiday gift buying. A recent visit to Detsky Mir, Moscow's most famous children's toy store, shows that Christmas may be spreading the disease here, although, fortunately, to a far lesser degree.


It would be a pity if Russia, which is still grappling with its forced atheist past, were to be poisoned by the crass commercial urges that often seize Western countries on a holiday that can serve as an occasion for family reunion or religious joy.