Manitoba·Opinion

Politically correct holiday greetings dampen writer's Christmas spirit

According to current rules of politically correct behaviour, we should watch holiday specials, go holiday shopping and bake holiday cookies. Then we should write our annual holiday letters, collect items for a holiday hamper and volunteer at the Holiday Cheer Board.
Jo Holness would like to know which season we're referring to here. (CBC)

Pssst. "Winter" is coming. "The holidays?" "Yuletide?" The "festive season?" Sigh. "Starts with C and rhymes with isthmus?" Heck, you get what I mean.

I don't quite know why, but somewhere between 1985's Do They Know It's Christmas? and the present day, "Merry Christmas" has become the salutary equivalent of Hester Prynne's scarlet A.

According to current rules of politically correct behaviour, we should watch holiday specials, go holiday shopping and bake holiday cookies. Then we should sit down to write our annual holiday letters, collect items for a holiday hamper for those less fortunate and volunteer at the Holiday Cheer Board. Maybe attend Holiday Eve church services. Wake up with the kids on Holiday to open presents under the Holiday tree. 

Are you KIDDING me? 

Christmas has become a four-letter word. How is it that the most celebrated day on the Christian calendar has become the Holiday That Dare Not Speak Its Name? Nowadays, "Happy Holidays" is the standard, with a "Season's Greetings" thrown in occasionally for variety. (Sidebar: When you say "Season's Greetings," to which season are you referring? Moose hunting season? Basketball season? Bird watching season?) I just don't get it.

Happy light festival

I'm trying to imagine how my friend Mohammed would feel if I asked him to refer to Ramadan as "Dieting Month," or how my Hindi neighbours would feel if I demanded they change their "Happy Diwali" sign to say "Happy Light Festival." Should I tell my Jewish co-workers to stop saying Hannukah because they're offending my Christian sensibilities? Should I insist they call it Holiday? Of course not, because demanding that they say "Happy Holiday" would a) make me sound like some intolerant redneck; and b) render their greeting meaningless. (See what I did there?)

What bothers me about Christmas shaming is the sheer illogic of it. All mentions of one observance are eliminated while others are celebrated, in the name of political correctness. I've received newsletters from my boys' school announcing "winter concerts" while simultaneously wishing everyone a Blessed Eid/Happy Hannukah/Kwaanza/Diwali. It's like Vladimir Putin's foreign policy: hypocritical, unfair and just plain wrong.

Let's be clear. This is Canada, the land of inclusion, where courtesy is an extreme sport and self-effacing citizens regularly apologize when someone bumps into them. Canadians are seen as kind, tolerant people who currently endorse every tradition except one of Canada's oldest: Christmas. Terrified of being seen as racist or narrow-minded, we bend over backwards to be inclusive. We are the proverbial shoemakers' children, running around barefoot in the snow while handing out Sorels to everyone else. 

A few years ago I ran into my then neighbours, Bini and Abhinoff. Bini asked me what I was doing for Christmas. I told her, then asked if she had ever celebrated Christmas. "Of course!" she said. Bini had attended Catholic school in India, where they not only had a crèche but a fully decorated Christmas tree. She loved Christmas and celebrated it right along with Diwali. I asked them if it would be offensive if I wished them "Merry Christmas" as well as "Happy Diwali." They looked at me like I was a few fries short of a Happy Meal. "Why would we be offended?"

Meaningless 'Season's Greetings'

No one should be offended. Saying "Merry Christmas" is not inherently rude, any more than saying "Happy Hannukah" or "Blessed Eid" is offensive. I saw a particularly wonderful video on Facebook the other day. In it, MP Nina Grewal stands up in Parliament and says, "Political correctness is diluting Christmas in a well-intentioned but unnecessary attempt to be inclusive. How can we as a society join together to celebrate Diwali, the Chinese New Year, Hanukkah or Vaisakhi but, at the same time, rob Christians of the true meaning of Christmas?" 

And there you have it, in a nutshell. Replacing "Merry Christmas" with the horrendously insipid "Happy Holidays" or the equally meaningless "Season's Greetings" does not enhance other traditions, it diminishes them. Because all it is, is another version of intolerance, this time orchestrated by Canadians themselves. 

Don't kid yourselves: this is not about newcomers to this country. Anyone who believes that any recent immigrant is interested in anything other than establishing themselves here as quickly as possible is kidding themselves. The idea that there is some agenda on the part of new Canadians to undermine longstanding Canadian traditions is laughable. And frankly, they don't need to: we do it to ourselves. It's Canadian Christians who have allowed the mention of Christmas to become something of which to be ashamed. And that is what is truly shameful. 

So this year, let's quit with all the "Happy Holidays" baloney and put a stop to "Season's Greetings" silliness. Life is far too short for meaningless platitudes. Christmas is a magical and hopeful time of year for many, many people, and it doesn't deserve to be watered down for any reason, political correctness least of all. 

Merry Christmas, dammit.

Jo Holness is a Winnipeg writer.

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