- Vancouver, British Columbia - A couple of weeks ago, there was a bit of a kafuffle in Québéc, when it was leaked that Services Canada had sent out a memo to its offices to refrain from putting up Christmas decorations. Apparently, the memo stated that they should be avoided so as to limit the number of complaints, since in the past, the government has received some since Christmas is deemed a religious holiday by many. As I wrote last year, there is a growing trend for corporations, and now people as well, to simply say "Happy Holidays" in place of any specific December holiday. When I was younger, I had always assumed that people had said "Happy Holidays" to save a few words in place of "Merry Christmas" followed by "Happy New Year," but this clearly isn't the case today, if it ever was. For some businesses, the threat of boycotts or potentially lost business is real enough that they do not want to risk offending any definable group's sensibilities.
In the opinion of yours truly, there is something truly sad about a business feeling threatened by simply celebrating a national holiday. In a society that likes to define itself as among the most tolerant and open-minded, it boggles my mind that some could be so close-minded towards the merry celebrations of the vast majority of people simply because the holiday has religious roots. What is more baffling is that many of the other holidays, whether celebrated as a national holiday or not, have religious roots, but for some strange reason, Christmas is one that some people simply cannot tolerate when in relation to businesses. Especially since so much of the profits of many businesses are dependent on increased spending during the Christmas gift-giving season.
Christmas is a holiday that finds itself around the coming of winter solstice, in large part historically, to replace the pagan holidays that were previously associated with the date. I'm not aware of anyone, besides maybe children or the ignorant, who actually believe that December 25th was the day of baby Jesus' birth, but instead is merely the day that our forefathers decided to celebrate it. Christmas Day is for many people a day to gather together with their family, exchange gifts, and eat a special dinner together. Some attend Christmas services, but not everyone. For Christians, it has more significance, such as celebrating the giving of God's son to be the Saviour of humanity. However, for many who are not religious beyond simply attending Sunday School as a child, Christmas is not a religious holiday, rather a family holiday. And if we're honest, for those who rarely enter a church (and even those who do), Santa Claus is a more prominent figure during Christmas than Jesus Christ. Thus in twenty-first century Canadian society, Christmas is more of a secular family holiday than it is a strictly religious holiday, regardless of any disappointment that this might cause the church. It isn't much different with Easter, which has been overtaken by the Easter Bunny and his chocolate eggs. Little reverence is given to Jesus Christ dying on a cross by those who aren't forced to go to church. Easter is seen by many children as yet another day to get candy, though not as wonderful as Halloween in terms of the quantity or variety of candy. In fact, if you ask most kids what Easter is about, I strongly doubt that in today's society that many kids would even mention Jesus on the cross.
Which is why it is so mind-boggling that the idea of thinking it inappropriate to celebrate Christmas in Canada as a business, but Easter is? As a society, we pride ourselves on being on that has a clear division between the state and the church (or any other religion), so I understand how some might think it is a legitimate argument that we must not allow government offices to celebrate Christmas, but ultimately, this argument doesn't hold much water as Christmas is hardly a religious holiday any more except for those who wish to celebrate it as such. If a government office put up a nativity scene, then there might be room for questioning this decision, but having a secular symbol like Santa Claus, wreaths, or Christmas tress does not provide such room for complaint. These are all things that have absolutely nothing to do with the religious event that is being celebrated on December 25th.
But the question still remains: If Christmas is an event that the government should make no physical sign of celebrating it, does it not follow that we should not have Christmas, or any other religiously-based holiday like Easter, be celebrated as a national holiday? The fact that we as a country take the day off to celebrate with family and friends would seem to suggest that it is something as a country we have decided is appropriate to celebrate, so why then should those Scrooges who level complaints and threaten businesses be given the time of day?
In the opinions of yours truly, if we want to pretend that we are a tolerant, open-minded society, we need lose the sense of self-shame towards our own cultural values and practices. Some suggest that we shouldn't plaster Merry Christmas on storefront windows in case someone who doesn't celebrate it will find it offensive. Why is it that so often as a society we cower by trying to be tolerant of the intolerant? Why must those who are most intolerant be accommodated by those who blink first? If I had my way, I would prefer to see Jewish businesses with "Happy Hanukah" on their storefronts, just as I would appreciate seeing Indo-Canadian businesses showing their celebration of Diwali annually. I also have great respect for my Muslim friends who celebrate Ramadan each year, because I know it is such a difficult religious task. And while I'm not Muslim and hold my own religious views, I find joy in hearing about the celebrations of others, even if they are not celebrations that I take part of. When did it become culturally acceptable to get your britches in such a knot over other people celebrating something that you do not celebrate?
My ending question would be this: when as a society did we become so insecure about what is and isn't acceptable to celebrate? How is it that we've sunk to the level of embracing a cautious tolerance that cowers to those who are the most intolerant? Why do we fear offending those who could use a lesson in tolerance, as a result of their close-minded thinking? If we expect to impart a Canadian value of tolerance upon new Canadians who come here, we had better be good role models of tolerance to begin with, rather than simply showing new Canadians that we're too afraid to stick up for what is important to us as a society. Otherwise, we have no one else but ourselves to blame if we feel like our own cultural values are disappearing with increased immigration. If we don't proudly hold to our values, why should we expect new Canadians to embrace them? It were as if we're embarrassed about what originally made our country so attractive to new Canadians. Christmas is still a national holiday and as long as it is, we should have no shame in wishing others Merry Christmas, or sharing in the celebrations of others.