It's Christmas time here in Mazatlan, Mexico. I can tell by the Coca-Cola Christmas tree in the plaza facing the cathedral.
In fact, last Friday must have been St. Coca-Cola Day or something. At sunset, we heard a commotion. Nothing too unusual about that-- there's always some sort of celebration going on. I figured it was part of the presentation of the Carnaval princesses going on in the other local plaza.
We went to the roof to look down the street and saw a procession of red vehicles of various sizes emblazoned with the Coca-Cola custom logo. From convertibles and the backs of pick-ups, lovely misses dressed as Santa's helpers waved to passersby. The thumping bass reverberated off store windows along the street. A blaring loudspeaker invited everyone to follow the parade to the Coca-Cola Christmas celebration.
The final fire-engine red vehicle carried Santa himself, who was perched merrily on several cases of--what else?--Coca-Cola.
A visit to the plaza later revealed a 30-foot artificial tree all dressed up for a Coca-Cola Christmas. The ornaments consisted of glittery round disks with the familiar custom logo. A few six-foot-tall inflatable Coca-Cola cans flanked a red-bannered stage where ten-year-olds took turns singing pop favorites.
Everyone was bopping and enjoying the festivities which concluded with the Coca-Cola Christmas fireworks display.
Now, back in the States, this type of blatant commercialism of Christmas would bring jeers and eye-rolling and perhaps even a few demonstrators. After all, we parents formed groups protesting the availability and promotion of Coke products in our kids' school lunch rooms. We railed against the corporate irresponsibility of a company so clearly contributing to the increased rates of diabetes and obesity in children.
But here, it's just another reason to celebrate. If Coke wants to sponsor a parade and a fireworks display, that seems perfectly fine with people here. They'll dance to whatever's playing and enjoy it without getting too hung up on the politics.
I had to check my cynicism at the door. That's mindfulness in action--recognizing our knee-jerk reactions as simply choices we make about responding in a certain way. We can choose to respond differently, but first we need to SEE our conditioned response.
Hmmm. Fire up my outrage or ooh and aah at the fireworks? I get to choose.
I can be offended. Or, I can just take it as another absurdity in my day and smile at the kids belting out ballads on the stage and the parents dancing with toddlers in the plaza.
It might be "wrong" to enjoy a Coca-Cola parade or celebrate singing children on a Coca-Cola stage, but from where I sit, it doesn't feel like blatant commercialism as much as it feels like a spontaneous party.
Sure, it's tacky. But it's also surprisingly joyful. Those smiles were not the result of Coca-Cola-- they were just an expression of happiness prompted by an unexpected celebration.
And that's the real thing.