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'Tis The Season 
(I Think)

by Stephen Lautens


December 20

, 2002

As regularly as December 25th comes around, each year we also get the stories about how someone tries to sanitize Christmas.

This year the Canadian Mint quite properly took it in the teeth for its "Twelve Days of Giving" coin commercials, and then The Gap was forced to flip-flop on its edict that its staff wish their shoppers a happy generic end of the year holiday.

As far as I'm concerned, it's only right that companies be rapped across the snout for trying to cash in on Christmas while at the same time ignoring it. An honest company wouldn't have Christmas-like commercials, Muzak, sales, or make their staff wear Santa hats if they're not willing to acknowledge the "C-word" in public.

In its wisdom, the City of Toronto's communications people tried to foist a "Holiday Tree" on its citizens this year, until they too were driven back to take a defensive position under the tinsel. I doubt they'd ever try to call the Hanukkah menorah on the lawn of City Hall a "Festive Candelabra". I just hope the irony of it requiring a Jewish mayor to restore some sanity at Christmas wasn't lost on anyone.

I also get a bunch of generic "holiday" cards wishing me "joy" or the "best of the season", without acknowledging what season it is. Sensitive invitations invite me to join them in celebrating "this happy time of year".

It's too bad the culturally insecure don't believe we're mature enough to appreciate each other's holidays without feeling threatened. Respect and understanding can only come out of acknowledgement and recognition. I can hope my neighbour had a good Eid, and she can wish me a Merry Christmas, or vice versa, and no one feels insulted. I've enjoyed moving Passover dinners, Sikh festivals and sitting in Mosque without feeling they should accommodate me.

Of course, there is always someone like David Ahenakew, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, with his recent ugly display of raw anti-Semitism to make us realize tolerance and understanding still have a long way to come. (It also always comes as a surprise to the lefties and our sandaled sociologists that ignorant racism is hardly the sole preserve of middle class white males.)

Still, it can't be easy feeling left out at Christmas, and I understand how people from all backgrounds want to share in some small part of it. As a holiday it has a lot going for it. And you don't have to be a Christian to appreciate a desire for "Peace on Earth, goodwill to men", especially in these troubled times. But that doesn't mean we should neuter it, any more than any other religion should change its traditions to make it more inclusive.

To end with a true story, last week I took my son for his first visit to have his picture taken on Santa's lap. After the snap was taken and my son was pulled from his beard, the merry old guy waved to us and said: "Happy Holidays".

"You mean, Merry Christmas, don't you Santa?" I replied.

Imagine Santa being afraid to utter the word "Christmas". 

To his credit, I saw my politically correct Santa's cheeks get just a little bit rosier before he wished us a Merry Christmas. 

I just hope I don't find a lump of coal in my stocking Christmas morning.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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