Thursday, November 25, 2010

It’s the most wonderful (nondescript) time of the year!

Well, it’s that time of year again. Just when you thought you had 364 shopping days left before you had to worry again, out of nowhere creeps the season that lulls you back into the quiet comforts of family, friends and unabashed consumerism. You know what I’m talking about. The season of joy and mercy and giving and getting. That one day of the year where we all get the day off work and sit at home so we can open presents, eat turkey and get ripped off the eggnog with our estranged relatives. The fact that you know what I mean is probably a good thing, since I’m not really allowed to name it.

I can call it the “holidays;” I can call it the “festive season;” I can wish you good tidings, greetings and cheer. What I can’t do, in the name of all that is politically correct and culturally inclusive and holy (or, technically, unholy) is call it by its name. But, you already knew that. You’ve already attended many a “holiday” party, or received a card in the mail that read, “Season’s Greetings,” from your second cousin you hate or been ambushed by a sweet smile from a sales clerk who wrapped your purchases and exclaimed, “happy holidays!”

Maybe you liked it; maybe you grumbled under your breath; maybe you didn’t even notice or better yet, maybe you didn’t care. After all, regardless of whether you celebrate it, does giving it a new name change what the day means to you? You will continue to celebrate it (or not celebrate it) the way you always have, and everyone around you will do the same. A day by any other name still smells as sweet, right?

Yeah. I guess that’s all there is to it.

I mean, when it comes to taking the higher road and choosing to include everyone so as not to offend anyone, it’s only natural and mature of all of us to go ahead and agree that the emperor is indeed wearing clothes and the sight of him is certainly pleasing.

Except, there’s just one thing that doesn’t make sense to me, and maybe I’m being childish, but, it’s that calling this day by its generic equivalent does offend. It offends me as someone who celebrates it. And I (like a lot of card-carrying Dec. 25 observers) don’t even go to church.

See, I don’t want to get into a religious debate. I don’t want to start something over whether Canada is a Christian country and that’s why this day is a national holiday or whether the multicultural mosaic we’ve become should be reflected in the methods we choose to celebrate.

Frankly, is this even about religion anymore? As far as I can tell, Baby Jesus (can I even say that?) was removed from this holiday a long time ago. With him went the little drummer boy, King Wenceslas, the three kings (was one of them Wenceslas?), harking herald angels and all references to stars, mangers and holy nights. Growing up, I knew that nativity scenes had a place in the privacy of our own home. Public displays of celebration were about Santa Claus.

But then something weird happened. Somebody somewhere decided to up the ante and declare that even Santa Claus was taboo. Good old Saint Nicholas had become an iconic image representing the same holiday that the birth of Christ represented, and therefore an extension of all the religious connotations we were trying so hard to avoid.

Wait, what?

This year, as planner of my company’s work “holiday” party, one of my tasks was downloading songs to play as background music. Only, the songs had to be “non-denominational.” Meaning, they couldn’t reference the day of which I can not speak. This was fairly challenging. Do you realize how many songs reference this day? Pretty much all of them. There I was, contemplating whether Ella Fitzgerald’s timeless rendition of “Sleigh Ride” fits the bill as non-denominational when it’s really just about a sleigh ride in the snow, or if there’s a subtext to this song linking it to the birth of Christ. The lyrics actually don’t reference any holiday, other than this dude Farmer Grey’s birthday, and other than, perhaps, Jehovah’s Witnesses, celebrating birthdays is welcomed by all religious and cultural sects... right? But then as soon as I hear this song, I think of presents and turkey and egg nog-induced warm and fuzzy feelings, so, is this appropriate or not?

Does anyone else have a headache?

So we’re calling this day by another name. But as we’re busy gazing at our Holiday Tree and patting ourselves on the back for slipping one past everybody, are we missing the giant pink elephant in the room? Where do we draw the line?

I mean really, no Santa Claus at the holiday party? When did secularism become the new religion? Is nothing sacred? Will we soon subscribe to a giant pool of nihilistic realism where nothing means anything to anyone, and we don’t even know why we get the day off work?

Or will we go the route the retail underworld is headed, and never close our doors, but stay open and keep working 365 days a year? After all, if we don’t know what we’re celebrating, why celebrate at all? Does anyone even know why we exchange gifts?

So yeah, I’m offended. “Holiday” tree at a “holiday” party? Isn’t everyone offended?

Just so you know, I’ll be blasting “Santa, Baby” every day for the next 30 days, in protest, while I ponder all the items I’ll be putting on my “holiday” wish list. After all, if we’re not a Christian country, then by golly, we’re a capitalist one, and no one can take that from us.

Merry (four-letter word) to all, and to all a good night.


WestJet Vaca (NOT OFFICIAL REP) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E.ScottPR said...

While I too do not wish to get into a debate about religion I can't help but feel that much like CHRISTMAS, many innocent and traditional events/celebrations/holidays/etc are being painted over with the big brush of "political correctness". Fuck that. If Boston Pizza now serves Halal meat to accommodate it's patrons (which I take no issue with) then I can have my baby Jesus and fucking Santa, too. Every "other" gets their chosen holiday method or icon, so why do I get mine taken away from me?
If someone were to wish me Happy Kwanzaa I wouldn't be offended that they thought I was of a different "denomination" or race, religion or creed. I tell the tables I serve, "Merry Christmas" and if someone wants to get upset about it they can fuck off. It's not like by saying it I'm "wishing" they were Christian. Did you get that? I said Christmas, not "xmas" - which by the way, I DO find offensive.
I would say, watch out Easter Bunny, but Cadbury has the market cornered on chocolate eggs and I don't think they would let Canada build a mosaic jail around that one.
Have a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Christmas. Or, enjoy hating everyone who runs around giving out gifts, singing songs, reconnecting with family and taking time to reach out to those they love. Or maybe even play the role of Scrooge and blab on about how this "season" is all about consumerism and how you're disgusted with how malls turn into zoos come boxing day. Either way, I don't care. But if you think i'm going to one day read my babies, "T'was the night before nondenominational holiday and all through the house..." you're cranked

Jenny said...

Thanks for the comment! Yeah, exactly. For example, I've heard some Muslims say, "it's okay, you can call it Christmas. We know that's what it is - celebrate it!"

The whole point of diversity is celebrating what makes us different, not what makes us uniformly the same. And the little things people try to do to be politically correct is really just an embarrassment to everybody, in my humble opinion!

So Merry Christmas Erin! :)

Graeme C. said...

Totally agree. It's unfortunate that this issue has been hijacked by the right, especially in the US (Bill O'Reilly tends to get apoplectic with rage around this time of year at the mythical "War on Christmas"). Muslims respect and revere Jesus, as far as that goes (though they don't consider him divine), but that's not really the point. Multiculturalism means embracing everyone's traditions (I was at a combination Thanksgiving/ Eid party once, and it was fun), not pretending they don't exist.

The celebration of Christmas has been remarkably politicized over the years - the Puritans tried to suppress it entirely (they found it suffused with too many pagan elements), and by the mid-19th century it has become a minor holiday in much of the world. This changed when Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol," Clement Clarke Moore released "A Visit from St. Nicholas," and Englishmen started sending Christmas cards en masse. This revival was then commercialized in the 20th century by Coca-Cola and others, of course. But it is ironic that such an essentially secular holiday (flying reindeer and all the rest) has become remythologized as so deeply religious in character that it might cause offense, and thus has to be suppressed once again, lol.

One other note about "X-mas;" the X is short for "Χριστός," "Christ" in Greek, and has been in use since at least 1753; it isn't a profane substitution for "Christ," as many assume.