A certain king once prepared a lavish feast to celebrate his son’s marriage. As was the custom in his kingdom, on the day of the banquet he sent out his servants to fetch the invited guests to revel in the celebrations. To the utter dismay of the king, his servants came back disappointed. All of the invited guests had given some reason or the other to express their regret and inability to be a part of the celebrations. The king lamented over his foolishness to have invited such people. He then ordered his servants to go to the highways and bring as many commoners as they could to enjoy the grand feast. And so, there were a houseful of commoners who heartily enjoyed the lavish spread in place of those whom the king had earlier considered worthy of being a part of his feast.
Though the above narration is a parable, it reflects well the mannerisms of guests in today’s times. Partying was once a privilege offered by occasions. Material affluence has rendered partying into a regular affair, so much so that we tend to pick and choose which party to attend and which to let go. The importance of the occasion and the regard for the invitation thus go unheeded. This is the invitee-sentiment in most cases today.
Invitors or hosts, on the other hand, leave no stone unturned to showcase a pompous celebration. This is true for festive as well as special day celebrations be it marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, bridal showers or bachelor parties, house warming functions or baby-naming ceremonies. Competition to be a level higher than a friend, neighbour or relative in terms of the decorations, cuisines, innovative planning, return gifts, etc. takes precedence. At times hosts incur huge financial loans to present their exclusive grandeur.
It’s not a hidden fact that many a lavish celebration speaks of the superficiality therein. And, how many celebrity marriages have succumbed to the pressures of time and events! It’s time to look deep within rather than look outwards and estimate the costs of competitive showcasing while sparing a thought for those deprived.
Isn’t it paradoxical that festivals and special occasions which are meant for all human beings (according to respective cultural and religious beliefs) have become the privilege of those who are socially and economically well off? I often wonder on 31st December and 1st January every year, if the poor cycle rickshaw drivers, the autorickshaw drivers, the beggars in the street corners even know and understand what the frenzy in the air all about! Do the child labourers get to feel special on 14th November every year as Indians observe Children’s Day or is it again the luxury enjoyed by the children privileged to have been enrolled in schools? Though the law of the land ensures free and compulsory elementary education for all children, many children in our country are still to be a part of it. Poverty, along with economic deprivation also creates huge social chasms!
What ought to be our response, then?
During Christmas celebrations every year, I remember the following verse from the Bible and try my bit to do my part:
“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.”
It’s not wrong to celebrate. But when we do celebrate, firstly let’s be sure that we enjoy the purpose and sentiments of the occasion with all sincerity and secondly, lets spare a thought to the poor and needy – not giving them leftovers simply to get rid of the surplus, but by deliberately planning to make them a part of our celebrations in some way.
The following teaching in the Bible has always intrigued me, since my childhood days.
“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
I used to think if it is really feasible to do the above, what would people think, would relatives not feel that the host is merely being a miser and cutting costs, etc. Though easier said than done, it is not impossible.
Though one cannot change the whole world, one can definitely impact one’s immediate surroundings. True celebration is in seeing pure joy in the face of those who are often relegated to the recesses and not in merely showcasing one’s grandeur.
When the Creator Himself causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall in equal measures on the rich and the poor, it is our utmost responsibility to lessen the disparities caused by economic barriers.