Cultural exchange is incredibly important, most definitely - but I'd probably postulate that for a lot of people it's important for them to retain their 'self'. For many people in an increasingly globalized world, it's important to stick to their traditions.
Yeah, we have these people in Western cultures too. They're religious fundamentalists, nationalists, and white supremacists. Why do these beliefs suddenly become admirable when it's from another culture?
But for Western culture to take a festival that is still seen as hugely important to a very prominent religious culture and not just 'secularizing' it (that in itself isn't my problem with it) but commercializing it in a fashion where the entire original meaning behind that day and festival is lost is a bit strange to me.
That is secularizing it, though. You're not going to retain the original religious significance of the holiday because secularization is exactly that, removing the religion from it. Generally, as per Christmas and Easter, we replace that with commerce. Travel, feasting, presents, all of these help to fuel the economy. Easter was pretty religiously important before we went all hippitus hoppitus with it.
The events I'm referring to are literally an excuse for college kids to go out and have a rave party, basically. That doesn't seem to me to be a good 'cultural exchange'.
Why not? What's wrong with college kids having a rave party? Why does cultural exchange have to be somber? If I meditate does it have to be to attain religious enlightenment or can I do it to relieve my depression and anxiety?
If you had an event based around Holi that articulated its importance to Hinduism and maybe was even a bit educational?
Who on Earth goes to an educational event? People like parties more than museums. Getting drunk and tossing colored dyes at one another is probably a better introduction to Hinduism for a lot of people than some dull lecture or somber religious ritual.
Japanese Buddhists are allowed to drink alcohol, while Indian Buddhists consider it to be a distraction from the Noble Eightfold Path. Are Japanese Buddhists inappropriately culturally appropriating Buddhism from India because they drink?
Japan's fine with kimonos, sure - would they be so happy if we started a sport that consisted of nose-diving jets while shouting 'Banzai!'? Probably not.
But what you're doing here is comparing the half-assed barely educated borrowing of culture with actively attempting to offend people. We all know exactly why your later example would be offensive, that's why you picked it. It'd be impossible to come up with that scenario without knowing you're playing with a touchy subject.
That's not nearly the same as having a drunk Holi party, or having some white people in an afrobeat band, or enjoying or adopting music, food, or artistic styles from other cultures.
I think the issue here, really, is that our own culture is being seen as banal or even not a culture at all and other cultures are being exoticized.