Thursday, December 18, 2008

Strange Sensitivities

This morning I was at a regular monthly committee meeting with colleagues. At the end of the meeting we enjoyed a Christmas lunch of crusty rolls with cold cuts and a Bouche de Noel and squares for dessert. Oh, and eggnog and hot apple cider of course, kindly provided by the committee Chair!

Then came the moment that is also part of a truly Canadian Christmas in the work world; the moment of saying goodbye to people you won't see until after Christmas in a uniquely Canadian way. And no, it isn't, "Goodbye eh?"

It has become politically incorrect to mention the true name of the celebration. Instead, we all fall over our words in an effort to be inoffensive to anyone who might be offended at the word Christmas, and replace the words that want to pop out of our mouths quite naturally, "Merry Christmas;" with a suitably bland farewell, such as, "Happy holidays."

This is so unnatural, that when someone forgot themselves and shouted out, "Merry Christmas," to us on her way out of the door this morning, it was a great relief to shout the forbidden words back to her.

I was in Birmingham, England, in December a couple of years ago. There is a large multicultural population there, and in a similar effort not to offend anyone, a bureaucratic decision had been made to rename Christmas, a "Winter Festival." There was such a public outcry that the decision was reversed. The Muslim population joined in support of the change back, saying that they were not offended by Christmas at all. Imagine going to live in Israel and being offended at the mention of Hanukkah or Rosh Hashanah!

I wonder how and when this happened, this blending and "blanding" of the culture. I used to think that Canada prided itself on having a colourful cultural mosaic; but now it seem that we are so very frightened of offending; especially when it comes to anything Christian. The bright shades of difference are being blurred and dulled.

And now those schools that tell the children Christmas story are on the subversive edge. I don't even know if they are supposed to do this.

I wonder what will happen when those who think of these things realize that, "Happy holidays," actually means, "Happy holy days."

"Happy Holy Days," and, if you are brave enough, Merry Christmas!

2 Corinthians 3:17 (New International Version)
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.


Dave Hingsburger said...

It's Christmas. Merry Christmas. It's a Christmass tree. See the lights on the Christmas tree. It's Christmas day ... I'm a Christmas guy. I won't even hand 'season's greetings' cards in my house. So, MERRY CHRISTMAS BELINDA IF IT AIN'T OF OF KEEPING WITH THE SITUATION ....

Belinda said...

It aint out of keeping with the situation at all Dave! MERRY CHRISTMAS!! :)

Trenna said...

I do notice how hard everyone tries to be politically correct. I have heard everything from Giftmas to Happy Holidays. Right now in fact I am listening to the radio and every commercial is wishing happy holidays. Why is everyone so afraid of Christmas? Is it because of the Christ in Christmas? All I know is, I say Merry Christmas to everyone- it's never been offensive to me.

Susan said...

Merry Christmas to all!

Joanna Mallory said...

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Belinda, you nailed it with "the blanding of the culture."

And Happy Holy Days indeed -- I love it.

In the words of Dickens' Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one."

Night Owl said...

I was shopping today, and one of the stores I window-shopped at had stickers on the windows which said "Happy Holi Days" - separated like that and "Holi" was in italics. Even in the world of consumerism and commercialism, or as the Grinch puts it: "presents and noise", people recognize the "holiness" of the Christmas season (sometimes)!
I feel weird saying happy holidays - it gets stuck on my tongue. Plus it sounds a bit like Happy Holly-days... Which I'm not too happy about... (Not that I don't like holly).
It's "Merry Christmas" all the way with me. :) (Even if I KNOW someone isn't Christian! ooh, I'm bad... :))
Anyway, thanks for an amazing post Belinda. :)
Night Owl

Shan said...

There is a bit of "season's greetings' hereabouts, but mostly people say Merry Christmas, even shop clerks and people at the video store. It's nice to still have that. Go, Vancouver Island!

Belinda said...

Dear Shan, Yes, "Go Vancouver Island!" :)

Since I wrote this post I have determined to let it all hang out and spread Christmas cheer near and far. I have blurted out "Merry Christmas" with abandon! :)