A fatal collision following a holiday party; A teen starts the new year in a wheelchair because of an alcohol-related crash; A repeat drunk driver kills three on Christmas day – doesn’t sound like happy holiday, does it? There are innumerable such stories both reported and unreported and majority of these are news from the west. For many people the tradition of celebrating holidays with alcohol has converted their joyous holidays into life’s most tragic days. Browsing the internet for statistics I found a slew of reports underlining the period starting from Thanksgiving day through Christmas till New year’s as the most dangerous time of the year for binge drinking, drunk driving and alcohol-related fatalities.
In the Americas and Europe this time of the year meant for celebrations, joy and time with family but is also marked by a dramatic increase in ‘Driving Under Influence’ (of alcohol), technically termed ‘DUI’ offences. As a result, alcohol-related highway deaths have also become a tradition of the season.
A study conducted by The University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety reported alcohol/drug DUI crashes are more than 25 percent higher during the holidays. It begins the day before Thanksgiving, also known as Blackout Wednesday. Blackout Wednesday has nothing to do with shopping and everything to do with dangerous amounts of alcohol consumption.
According to traffic safety facts released by US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during Christmas and New Year’s, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes than during comparable periods the rest of the year. 40 percent of traffic fatalities during these holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired.
Such holiday celebrations can have terrible consequences. You might harm yourself or someone else in an accident, lose your license, might be forced to spend time in jail, financial cost can be tremendous – fines, insurance costs, lawyer fees, court costs, car towing and repairs, a conviction will show up on a background check making finding a new career early impossible and also the embarrassment and consequences of telling your family, friends and employers of your arrest.
According to MADD, NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, percentage of highway deaths related to alcohol during Thanksgiving holiday is nearly 35%, Christmas holidays is 41% and New Year’s Holidays is 58%!! According to the NHTSA, in U.S 29% of those who were killed in traffic crashes in 2015, involved a driver who was alcohol impaired. 840 people lost their lives in drunk-driving-related crashes in the month of December alone. From 2011-2015, 14,034 people lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic crashes during December, and 28% involved a driver who was alcohol impaired.
The trend of heavy drinking during holidays has also picked up in our country with more youngsters going in for binge drinking. The findings of the survey conducted by ASSOCHAM Social Development Foundation (ASDF) reveal that in big cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, youngsters start drinking as early as at the age of 14. While majority of the juvenile drinking is found among boys, girls too are taking to it in big numbers thanks largely to peer pressures. More than 400 respondents said that they spend anywhere between Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 10,000 on alcohol during Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
If this continues, the day is not far away when aping these western celebration traditions would bring the same tragic consequences for us. But there is a glimpse of a constructive trend. Many have also started finding their own way of celebrating Christmas and New year’s keeping them away from the ill-effects of western way of celebrations. For eg., a section of society celebrates ‘Pancha Ganapati’ which is a modern five-day Hindu festival celebrated from December 21 through 25 in honor of Lord Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture. The festival was created in 1985 as a Hindu alternative to December holidays like Christmas by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (born Robert Hansen), a Western convert to Hinduism who founded the magazine Hinduism Today and the Saiva Siddhanta Church, headquartered in Hawaii.
Also, browsing the internet we can find graphics saying ‘Let’s celebrate Tulsi Poojan Diwas this 25th Dec’ under the banner of Vishwaguru Bharat Karyakram started 2 yrs back, inspired by none other than Asaram Bapu. Presently, he has been kept in jail since last 3 years for unproven and, as Dr. Subramaniam Swamy suggests, baseless allegations with an endless trial which continues till today. Enthusiastic followers of the spiritual guru (of whom surprisingly large numbers are youth) are seen sharing the large scale celebration reports, photos from throughout the country in various blogs as well as social media platforms. Even though media houses have left no stone unturned in maligning Hindu saints, it is only for them who are standing to protect Indians from the evils of aping western traditions and at the same time making us aware of our glorious traditions which bring peace, prosperity, good health and joy in our lives.
The official circular from Bapu’s Ashram states that ‘The period between 25th December and 1st January sees a steep rise in all sorts of undesirable acts such as use of excess alcohol, suicide, promiscuity and so on. Therefore, for the welfare of the entire humanity Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu has appealed that: “Let there be programmes like ‘Worship of Tulsi’, ‘Worship of Japa-Maalaa’, ‘Worship of Cow’, Hawan, ‘Sahaj Swasthya and Yog prashikshan workshops’, ‘Gau-Gita-Ganga Awareness Yatra’, ‘Satsang’, ‘kirtan yatra’ etc. from 25th December to 1st January, so that everyone’s wellbeing is ensured, they enjoy physical health, mental peace and revelation of divine grace in their intellect. May they become brilliant and vigorous by reaping benefits of the holy cow, river Ganga and Tulsi; and realize the greatness of their Mukta (free from the bondage) Self through the wisdom of the Gita.”
Of all programmes Tulsi Worship Day on 25th Dec has garnered great popularity. Also attached was a very informative writeup on spiritual and health benefits of Tulsi with both scientific and scriptual refrences.
With the great benefits of these new ways of celebrations it can help protect peace and prosperity in our society. So from now on, every holiday season Hindus have better and safer festive alternatives.
– A. M. Kanugo