25th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) Christmas in Hong Kong nowadays seems less about celebrating family and faith than frenzied shopping and garish displays. A cherished season of meaning is increasingly reduced to a marketing bonanza for shops and restaurants. For many, crass commercialism has become Christmas in Hong Kong.

Walk through any mall and the onslaught is relentless. Holiday tunes blare endlessly amid gaudy decorations draped weeks early. Christmas trees tower incongruously over promotions hawking the latest trends. An aura of manufactured festivity dulls the season’s special glow.

The clamouring consumption long began intruding on Christmas in Hong Kong. But its dominance seems total lately, with the holiday’s religious and cultural essence hollowed out. Many now associate Christmas more with crowded malls than church services, holiday meals or quality family time.

The commercial extravaganza now stretches months, not weeks. Xmas sales and music seem to start earlier every year, extinguishing any remnants of Thanksgiving’s spirit. The endless shopping drums up desire for pricey gifts — and debt to finance the spree. This marketing machinery turns Christmas into another profit play, not a season of deeper meaning. Yet many businesses now avoid even referencing the holiday’s religious roots. “Happy Holidays” displaces “Merry Christmas” in advertisements devoid of spiritual meaning.

Santa and reindeer usurp nativity scenes in displays crafted for merchandising, not observing Christ’s birth. The holiday provides branding, not solemn commemoration; a sales hook, not an occasion for reverence.

Church leaders understandably decry this dilution of Christmas into secular consumerism. But some Christians also partake in the commercial revelry, contributing to the problem. Lavish gift-giving seems a bigger Xmas priority nowadays than prayer or charity. This is not a call to abolish all gift exchanges or decorations. Bringing joy to others through presents maintains some holiday spirit. And many decorations are beautiful if tasteful and in moderation. However, Hong Kong’s Xmas obsession with material excess undermines its essence. The original holiday sought to uplift the human spirit, not rabid material appetites. Its lessons of charity and kindness fade behind ribbons of consumer pursuit.

Unchecked greed now overshadows the Nativity narrative. Christmas in Hong Kong risks becoming a time defined by who received the most extravagant gifts or threw the swankiest party. Knives seem to come out over whose Xmas was more “successful.” And nowhere does this grasping greed manifest more than the orgy of holiday shopping. For retailers, Christmas marks the year’s profit apotheosis, their very reason for being. Billowing consumption is all that matters; spiritual commemoration an afterthought.

So shops ply customers with relentless cheer and false bargains as if buying more trinkets held an existential purpose. Their mercantile ministrations aim to maximise sales, not celebrate holiness or humanity. This insatiable materialism seems precisely what Jesus preached against, making its dominance over his birthday a bitter irony. One imagines him overturning the tables of mall gift shops, not blessing their worldly enticements. Yet Hong Kong has long embraced material drives, so no surprise Christmas serves Mammon, not God. Even many non-Christians join the consumption spree, showing how fully commercialized the holiday has become here.

Santa and Tinsel now submerge Hong Kong each December, with malls resembling North Pole bazaars. Streets sparkle under lavish lighting displays choreographed to holiday music. A cosmetic sheen of Xmas spirit covers the usual commotions of commerce.

But this empty commercial spectacle only alienates people further from holiday’s purpose, now smothered by manufactured desires. Restoring Christmas in Hong Kong to something beyond a peak spending surge will require reviving its essence. For starters, people could spend less on extravagant parties and over-the-top gifts. Donating to charity and volunteering time to aid those in need channels truer holiday spirit. Focus should shift from material excess to uplifting the human soul.

Families might also minimise time at mobbed malls to reflect on life’s blessings over candle-lit holiday meals. Attending church services reminds that Christmas honours virtue and faith, not vanity and consumption. Schools could also educate students on the holiday’s religious foundations and ethical meaning. Xmas should inspire selflessness in children, not greedy gift expectations. Pageants that reenact the Nativity’s humble beginnings provide ideal lessons.

Some may argue reversing commercialization is naive given Christmas spending now drives Hong Kong’s economy. But preserving cultural heritage and virtue merits resisting profit’s corrupting force. If left unchecked, commercialisation strips all meaning until none remains. Cynics will also contend crass consumption is unavoidable in our market-crazed city obsessed with prestige and status chasing. But Hong Kong still holds room for heritage beyond the transactional, if people value spiritual nourishment over indulging carnal desires.

The clamour of cash registers need not drown out choirs singing solemn carols. Shimmering decor can still inspire awe at creation’s majesty, not just desires for possessions. Even in crowded malls, the holiday’s essence persists for those who seek. Jesus expelled merchants from the temple to refocus faith on exalting the human spirit. Likewise, Hong Kong must purge Christmas of its gravest commercial abuses to restore its higher purpose. This season commemorates generosity and hope transcending earthly conditions. Its lessons of grace and redemption hold eternal beauty beyond any gaudy merchandise. Cherishing these truths in our hearts points the way to Christmas’ rebirth in Hong Kong.

The holiday remains endangered by commercial corruption, with its soul smothered under tinsel and shopping. But resistance remains possible against these profane forces. Christmas in Hong Kong still can rise again if people prize its immemorial significance over shallow seasonality.

When you perceive shoppers not as consumers but fellow children of God, connections emerge beyond the material. Though obscured by garish distractions, the divine yet waits to be found within every human heart. Let this be our Hong Kong Christmas revelation: cherishing those gifts with loving-kindness, not material greed. In that spirit’s renewal amidst commercial din, we will rediscover Christmas.