Author: mac brock – contributor
The end of the holidays brings with it many changes: New Year’s resolutions, immediate conclusions of New Years resolutions, and packing away our various holiday greetings for another eleven months. Now that 2016 is in full swing, which means it’s time to curl up by the fire and reflect on the way we perceive and execute the joyful spirit of the winter holidays.
On paper, the season is about love, celebration, and overwhelming plates of food. However, this winter in particular, I’ve noticed more instinctual self-censorship in my holiday greetings to those around me. It seems as though now, more than ever, the most important Christmas story is the ‘War on Christmas’. Stories flood in during December of parents rallying against schools for replacing ‘Christmas’ with ‘Holidays’, billboards of “Keep Christ in Christmas” bombard the city and the question arises: Who can decide the true name of the season?
The next big holiday, Valentine’s Day, celebrates the martyrdom of decapitated religious figures including Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome. Today, both secular and religious lovers alike ask each other to be their (again, decapitated) Valentines. Both Valentine’s Day and Christmas are holidays with religious foundations that have grown into nonreligious successes, yet you would be hard pressed to find billboards of a headless martyr shouting “Keep St. Valentine in Valentine’s Day!” Between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15, seven of the world’s major religions celebrate nearly thirty different holidays. So while Valentine’s Day stands alone as the February day of love, December is a labyrinth of religious celebration.
Personally, I’ve always been confused about the commotion over political correctness in a “Merry Christmas,” but still today at the end of a conversation, I find myself stepping around the dreaded “M-C” words and replacing them with a family-friendly version instead, out of fear that the grocery store clerk, acquaintance, or professor may be a religious zealot who will persecute me until I meet a similar fate to our friend, St. Valentine.
I struggled with that magic question for days before sitting down to write this. Why do we as a country protect the wording of our holiday so dearly? As I thought this over, a memory crossed my mind. I had been working at a coffee shop one evening in mid-December, when a man came in, ordered his drink from my till, and wished me a happy first night of Hanukkah with a soft smile as he left. When he said this, I wasn’t offended, I was honoured that this man was sufficiently excited and comfortable about his culture to share it with the awkward barista across the counter from him.
It is from that sentiment that I offer you my simple answer to a complex question. Today, more than ever, Canadians must take pride in our multicultural menagerie, and in the holidays, we have a chance to take action in a small and deceivingly meaningful way. Whether it’s a stranger wishing a Happy Hanukkah, or a nonreligious friend wishing a Merry Christmas, be grateful. Not just for the well-wish, but rather that they have freely, safely, and generously shared their culture with you, if only for a brief moment. So let us leave 2015 behind and enter 2016 open and proud of the many different ways people can celebrate throughout a year – without losing our heads over it.