Having just celebrated Friendship Day in India – a holiday which has yet to take hold in America – and reading more disappointing news about America’s economic outlook, I realized that a modest boost to America’s retail sector can come from India…in the form of imported holidays.
What all Americans acknowledge, and at times reluctantly embrace, is that so many holidays have become associated with giving gifts. This revenue boom is heard loudest in the retail sector and some believe that the retail industry is part of a cabal to create holidays simply to encourage consumer spending. They may not be completely off base. For example, Black Friday, as it is known in America, is generally not the dreary event it sounds as though it should be. Indeed it is the day when stores begin their holiday sales, in an effort to anticipate the gift giving which takes place during December, largely as a result of Christmas and Chanukah.
This generally means huge revenues for stores across the nation. Last year, Black Friday data showed shoppers spent $10.66 billion on Black Friday in 2009. The figures were compiled by ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago research firm that tracks sales at more than 50,000 stores.
So, we have established the correlation between holidays and consumer spending. Now, to establish some new holidays the key to success will be the fact that America’s holidays are largely the combination of a number of cultural holidays – from St. Patrick’s Day to Earth Day, there’s always a reason to get someone a gift, even if it’s only a card. And, if the retail industry want to get things going again, they may want to import some of India’s finest holidays. It would only be fair for these holidays to take off in America – after all, the American retail industry has been successfully exporting their holidays (Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day chief among them) for decades.
Here are a few worth considering:
Rakhi (Rakshabandhan): A festival where the sister ties a beautiful thread on the hand of her brother to solidify their relationship and he vows to protect her and give her gifts. Name one holiday that comes close to celebrating the unique roles of sisterhood and brotherhood? I say that means there’s a void to be filled. Keep an eye out for the celebration later this month!
Holi: A festival of colors celebrated during spring/harvest season. This is arguably the closest thing to a Mardi Gras celebration that India has and yet it has a Thanksgiving theme. It certainly has the same ornate decoration that you might see at Mardi Gras celebration, as celebrants cover themselves in a rainbow of colors. It would like a second Thanksgiving,only much more fluorescent.
Whether or not America imports these holidays as their own is up to them. But having celebrated them for my whole life, I can tell you that regardless of any anticipated economic benefit, Americans would come to appreciate the values and ideals embodied in these celebrations.