Have a Very Merry Whatever...

In all the years I have been on this planet I have always tried to make a point of being politically correct. I refer to people who fish as 'fisher persons, metal covers in the road as 'people hole covers' and 'people power' when it comes to that government agency that helps you find a job.

I do draw the line however, with wishing people a happy holiday at this time of year. I was recently in a grocery store and listened as a customer wished the cashier a Merry Christmas (albeit a tad early, as this was still November), to which the polite employee replied, 'Happy Holidays'. Obviously she had been well instructed by the powers that be.

It made me wonder, as it always does at this time of year, why we have taken it to such extremes and avoid saying ‘Merry Christmas’. To make matters worse, it seems everyone I speak to on the topic tends to agree that we should be wishing each other a Merry Christmas. So why don't we? Or if we do, why do we do it secretly, never sending cards that say anything other than Happy Holidays?

So let me dig into this a bit deeper. December 25th is Christmas. It says so on my Walter Campbell calendar, so I know it is correct. It is also the day Christians, around the world celebrate the birth of Christ (hence the name CHRISTmas, in case you didn't get it). It's not Ramadan, or Yom Kippur, or Diwali, or St. Nicholas day. It's Christmas, so why can't I wish anyone a Merry Christmas!

I have travelled the world and am in great respect of other religions and traditions and I will be the first to wish my Hindu friends a happy Diwali, my Muslim buddies a sacred Ramadan and my Jewish friends a Happy Chanukah. I even have a few Buddhist acquaintances that I wish a happy feast day with each new moon. So why can't I wish my Christian friends a Happy Christmas?

Recently I heard the argument that this is Canada and we celebrate Christmas, so anyone who lives here must do so. That is one argument I don't buy. Yes this is Canada, yes we celebrate Christmas, but we are also a melting pot of dozens of cultures and we offer freedom of religion, freedom from suppression and the ability to live in a way that protects individual culture and traditions. That is what Canada is! Sure, 40 years ago we were predominantly Christian, but the world has changed. We are a mixture of many different cultures, and as Canadians we should respect that. This of course, does not give us the right to break laws, instill hatred, create fear, etc., but it does give us the right to wish people a happy whatever, when we want.

The question of setting up Christmas trees in public places has been in the news in the past few years. My opinion is that we should do it, but should also acknowledge other cultures. If I, as a Dutch immigrant choose to wear wooden shoes, so be it (although they hurt my feet immensely). Why do we always choose to criticize what we don't understand?

Back to the Happy Christmas wishing, I do not know why or where the custom of ‘happy holidays’ started, but suspect it was with corporations who did not want to offend people of other ethnicities, as it could potentially (in the minds of execs) cost them business. This evolved into holiday cards instead of Christmas cards, television commercials dropping the ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting and print advertising following suit, as well. My question is, how many of you worked for companies, where happy holidays, became politically correct and how many of you lived with it, because no one wanted to go up against HR (the mere thought scares me).

Another quite humorous attribute is that many of my non-Christian friends celebrate Christmas. Sure, they use the excuse that 'it is for the kids', but deep down I know they love the feast. I was in Sri Lanka last week and met a person, who is a very devout Buddhist. I asked him about Christmas and he said of course they celebrate it. They get a tree and the kids get presents. It seemed strange to him that I would ask. So why is it that we are trying to hide Christmas here?

In short, we are all to blame for traditions falling by the wayside, no matter what it is. On December 6th I will wish people a happy St. Nicholas Day and on December 25th I will simply say, Merry Christmas to all and to all... A Goodnight.

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