Merry Holidays… uhhh… Christmas!

ChristmasFor as long as I can remember, I’ve celebrated Christmas. I’ve said “Merry Christmas” numerous times. Lately I’ve been wondering, with all the fallout from Starbuck’s Christmas cup drama, when did political correctness step in to correct Christmas. More importantly, why exactly did we ever need political correctness for this in the first place? It seems to me, there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the Christmas holiday. So what happened?

You might say, “Well Lynn, we live in a multicultural society and we need to have respect for other religions. Besides, we can’t go around imposing our religion on other people.”

Wishing people a “Merry Christmas” and decorating a tree is not meant to be an imposition. True, we live in a country that is rife with the spirit of Christmas. It is a huge reason that during this time of year, Christmas really cannot be avoided. It is all around us. Despite that, Christmas is far from being an imposition on anyone. You just need to go back to one of the religious inquisitions our world has seen to really understand what it means to impose religious will on someone.

The bombardment of Christmas scenes, colours, and music at this time of year is also why people should not be worried that the use of pleasantries like “Happy Holidays,” “Joy for the New Year,”or even “Season’s Greetings” could somehow eventually eliminate Christmas. The perception is, under the guise of political correctness, Christmas is slowly being eradicated from the public landscape. I don’t think we have anything to worry about. “Season’s Greetings,” however, could be problematic; it is my least favourite greeting.

I also understand the position of companies like Starbucks choosing not to put Christmas images on their cups. They serve all religious denominations, including those people who do not believe in any religion. A non-descript cup may be the best solution for them. Their solution does not offend me. I also believe, however, that putting images of Christmas on coffee cups offends no one. It is simply an act of sympathizing with the spirit of Christmas—a tradition that is not only respected by over 160 countries worldwide, but has also been celebrated in Canada since its inception. But, what Starbucks chooses to do is their choice and I respect that.

The real issue is not that Christmas exists in a multicultural society. It is how to manage all religious celebrations that are a beautiful part of a multicultural society. If we respect one religion, we must respect all religions. By not doing so, we risk “offending” other cultures. Although, I highly doubt anyone is really offended by Christmas. We know that governments of multicultural societies must not show favouritism towards any one religion—this is a really good thing. Starbucks and many other corporate entities have followed suit to adopt a holiday neutral ideal to become all-inclusive—this is not a bad thing.

However, it is just sad to me that the fix for all this necessitates doing away with Christmas symbols altogether. I don’t think it is necessary, because I don’t think anyone was offended to begin with. Adopting this method of Christmas cover up; hiding Christmas like it was some embarrassing relative hidden in the back room where, hopefully no one notices, to me does not seem like the right thing to do.

The perception that “they” wanted to do away with anything to do with Christmas is wrong. No one of any religion has ever asked anyone to do away with Christmas. People of other religious groups have only wanted the same allowances Christians receive at Christmas time, especially when it comes to respecting holidays and time off. Their customs and celebrations are every bit as important to “them” as Christmas is to “us.”

I do think this a non-issue, because we do have a choice. If you are angry because someone chooses to say “Happy Holidays,” or Starbucks no longer uses symbols of Christmas on their cups, you are sadly missing the point of the spirit of Christmas. You still have the right to say, “Merry Christmas,” and to celebrate it with friends and family. Alternatively, if someone came up to me and said, “Happy Hanukkah,”  “Happy Kwanza,” “Eid Mubarak” or any other religious celebration pleasantry, I certainly would not be offended. I would say, “Thank you” and hope for the same for them, because they are not insulting me. They are not forcing their religious holiday on me. They are only wishing me well in the spirit of their holiday. If I choose to say “Merry Christmas,” because that is what I celebrate, I would hope you have no problem with that either.

Everyone should feel free to express whatever he or she is celebrating. A celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year; or Eid, the passing of Ramadan should be celebrated and expressed just as easily and openly as a Christian person would celebrate Christmas. Whether you are Jewish, Ukrainian, Cree, Chinese, or whatever your cultural background, you have the right celebrate and express your holidays freely.

Our Charter dictates that “freedom of conscience and religion.” is a constitutionally protected right in Canada. In a 1985 Supreme Court case, R. v Big M Drug Mart, Chief Justice Brian Dickson wrote regarding the inclusivity of this freedom, “the right to entertain such religious beliefs as a person chooses, the right to declare religious beliefs openly and without fear of hindrance or reprisal, and the right to manifest religious belief by worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination.” ~R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 SCR 295, 1985 CanLII 69 (SCC), <http://canlii.ca/t/1fv2b&gt; retrieved on 2015-12-16

Regardless of whether you believe Christmas is a holiday of worship to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, or if you believe it is a purely secular act, where family and friends exchange gifts, or even if you do not celebrate Christmas at all, the spirit of the season should not be wrapped up in divisiveness, full of anger and ill will. It is certainly not celebrated to pit “us” against “them.” The spirit of Christmas is to hope for peace and goodwill for all people. The bottom line is my wishing you a “Merry Christmas” is all-inclusive and certainly does not stop anyone else from celebrating his or her holiday. We all have the same right to celebrate any religion we want, which makes us all, no matter what our religious belief, lucky to live in Canada.

I know Christmas is not yet here, but just the same, Merry Christmas to everyone!

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