Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Watering down Christmas

It's that time of year again here in America: the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Unofficially, Thanksgiving is considered the start of the Christmas season here, a time of year when stores start offering pre-Christmas sales and people start shopping for Christmas presents. It's also the time of year I start getting invitations for corporate Christmas parties.

Or in New York's politically correct mentality, corporate "holiday parties", or for those wanting to be even more sterile, "year-end parties." Ugh.....

Around Christmas time it seems it's not even politically correct to wish people "Merry Christmas" anymore. Everyone seems to just say "Happy Holidays" in a politically correct type of way. If only they knew how much the words "happy holidays" grate on me and send shivers up my back like fingernails on a chalkboard. It irritates me that we need to be so bloody politically correct in this place, and that people get so touchy over things like that.

In the movie theaters, there is an ad going on right now for Virgin Mobile that seems to be the epitome of PC. It reads, "Happy Chrismahanukwanzah". OH MY GOD, what kind of abomination of a word is that?

Earlier this week, I heard on the news about a school in New Jersey that has banned Christmas carols. I wonder if Ebenezer Scrooge himself is the principal of that school.

I think multiculturalism is a lesson that the United States could really learn from Canada. I lived in Toronto (one of the most diverse cities in the world) for a number of years, and lived around people from a variety of backgrounds: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, etc. One thing I really liked about Toronto is that each culture would keep most of its traditions, but would be very willing to share those traditions with others. Christmas is a very popular holiday in Toronto, because most people there (not just the Christians) like the tradition behind it. I remember asking a Sikh colleague of mine in Canada about what he did growing up, and I was surprised to learn his family put up a Christmas tree every year and exchanged gifts, even though that was not their custom. And, they don't mince words up there: if you meet up with someone on Christmas day, he/she will wish you a merry Christmas!

It boggles my imagination how someone can get offended by a holiday. I mean, personally, I'm a Christian, but if someone wishes me a happy Eid, or happy Hannukkah, I'm not going to get offended. In fact, I am quite happy to learn about and partake in holiday traditions from other cultures: in my lifetime, I have spun a dredil with a Jewish couple for Hannukah, danced on a beach in Rio de Janeiro for Carnaval, attended afternoon prayer with some Muslim friends, and joined a parade behind a dragon for Chinese New Year. As I grow older and travel more, I hope to add more experiences to that list. But, if I spin a dredil with someone for Hannukah I'm going to call it Hannukah out of respect for them, and if I give someone a present at Christmas time, I'm going to call it a "Christmas Present", not a "Holiday Present". I embrace diversity, and I like different traditions, but I think to be fully appreciated, these traditions should not be watered down.

I really do not like what they do here in America (or at least here in New York), where people have allowed political correctness to eviscerate such an enjoyable holiday as Christmas: sanitizing Christmas greetings, relegating Christmas carols to churches, and robbing our children of the fond traditions we grew up with. I only hope this trend can be stopped before it is too late.