I confess, I’m not that surprised about the current broohaha in some circles over the loss of ‘Merry Christmas’ greetings.
I suspect the majority is starting to feel under siege and they’re tired of political correctness.
When I think of Christmas what is seared into my memory is the first grade teacher who insisted I write a letter to Santa even though I told her I didn’t believe in him.
She told me to write a letter anyway so I did. I listed all kinds of toys that I wished I had but knew we couldn’t afford–it was only imaginary anyway.
Up until that time the bane of my existence was that very few teachers could ever spell my name right. And their pronunciations would make me wince!
Substitute teachers were the worst. They’d come down the attendance list and I knew when they got to my name because they’d hesitate.
What convinced me that Santa existed? I received a reply to my letter from Santa–AND MY NAME WAS SPELLED RIGHT!
Plus I got a little peppermint candy cane and some chocolates, just like everyone else.
I was convinced my parents were wrong, my sister was wrong. They were wrong, wrong, wrong. There really was a Santa and I’d get everything I wanted on my list!
You know it’s really not that hard to deal with deprivation.
I grew up poor. I came to terms with it.
But raising such false hopes in a poor immigrant kid is just CRUEL. What was that grade one teacher thinking???
I’m sure that teacher didn’t mean to be cruel, but she was–with her ignorance.
For so many years I felt ultra bitter about Christmas.
It didn’t help that we had our own celebrations.
We were so poor that we received one gift a year–on Eid ul Fitr–and because wrapping paper cost money my parents wrapped it in newspaper. They said, “What does it matter? You’re going to rip it anyway.” So I never got a pretty gift and I never had anything to brag about. Not like the other kids who came back to school after the Christmas holidays and recited the list of things they got for Christmas.
I’m not saying this to elicit any kind of sympathy.
I survived all of that.
And yes, there was a time when I felt bitter about my experiences, but with maturity those feelings have passed.
And ironically it was the effort I put into my own children’s Eid celebrations that helped me exorcize a lot of these old demons. I made sure they had a FANTASTIC Eid! And they had plenty to brag about when they went back to school. Same with Halloween. I’d give them each $5 to $10 so they could go to the stores and buy the chocolates that the other kids in the neighbourhood would be going door to door for, so they wouldn’t feel left out in any way.
It worked. They grew up happy and secure in their own celebrations.
I think what really changed my mind about Christmas though is that this same society that was at times quite difficult to grow up in, was now supporting my lifelong dreams and ambitions in terms of children’s books.
It’s easy to be magnanimous when your dreams are coming true.
And I’ve gone from the point where I’d cringe if I was wished a “Merry Christmas” to the point where I’ll just shrug.
I’m genuinely happy for you and your Christmas cheer.
I get it. You’re having fun and you want to include me in it.
It doesn’t apply to me, and that’s fine.
It’s your thing, not mine.
Wishing someone like me a Merry Christmas is just silly. You know I don’t celebrate it, or you should know it just by the way I dress!
It would be like wishing me, a proud Canadian, a Happy Fourth of July.
It’s a head-scratching ‘huh?’ moment! Doesn’t apply.
Doesn’t mean I don’t want you to have a Merry Christmas, but why do you want to inflict that on me?
Why do you want to possibly remind me of the feelings of exclusion I grew up with?
The feeling like I’m standing on a cold porch looking inside at a Norman Rockwell Christmas scene that I know will never apply to me?
Oh I won’t hold it against you if you tell me Merry Christmas.
I know you don’t mean anything by it.
But if you were to take a moment and reflect, oh what a difference there could be.
If you were to use the more neutral: Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings–boy would I appreciate that!
And in fact, my current policy is to say “Merry Christmas” to anyone I know who is Christian and celebrates it. And I say Happy Chanukah/Hanukah to any person I know who is Jewish at this time of the year.
I consider it to be an act of consideration.
You know like what Dale Carnegie said about how a person’s name is the sweetest sound to their ears, and learning to pronounce a person’s name correctly is one of the most considerate things you can do for them. And when someone repeatedly mispronounces someone’s name it’s a form of an insult.
Well, greeting someone with the appropriate greeting is kin to that, in my opinion.
If you know that this person is Muslim, or Hindu or Jewish or any other non-Christian denomination, why, oh why would you wish them a Merry Christmas?
If you don’t know, then fine. I doubt they’d take offense.
I’ve learned not to take offense.
It took me a LONG time, but I just shrug it off now.
But if someone takes the trouble to greet me with Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays, you can bet that my face breaks into a big wide smile! Especially if that person’s one of those Christians who’s a real Christmas afficianado.
And I reply back, both heartily and sincerely, “Merry Christmas!”
And I mean it with all my heart!
And when so many people actually wish me a Happy Eid (at the end of Ramadan or the Hajj) it gives me LOADS of joy!
So in that very spirit I say Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, Happy Chanukah to all that celebrate it, and the joy of the season for everyone else!
And may the new year contain the fulfillment of all your hopes and dreams.