It’s the longest night of the year and the first day of the winter season. I reflect on the world’s long night as I sit here, contemplating the Christmas celebration that I will partake in with my family just a few days from now.
When I was a kid, everybody said Merry Christmas… or Happy holidays… or Seasons Greetings… those variations in phrasing are not new. They were just never political before. We left politics out of our personal lives as much as we could, especially on holidays. Couldn’t we take a page from 1972 and do that again? Could we just focus on the holidays, the family, the friends and the memories we will be making?
On Thursday evening, I got on an OC Transpo bus. That’s Ottawa’s public transit system, for those who come from away. On my way out the door, I thanked the obviously Muslim driver and he went out of his way to wish me a Merry Christmas. So I smiled and returned the greeting. I could see his earnestness and how important it was to him not to offend me and to acknowledge Christmas by name. I thought about that as I walked the block home.
The night before that, I had a celebration with my friend and took a cab ride home because it was late and the roads were icy. The cab driver, again a foreign man, went out of his way to help me up the steps with my packages. He almost gave me a hug – not lecherously – he was distressed that I was living at the YMCA and felt kindness for me. He knew he couldn’t hug me though and he shook my hand instead and made sure I made it indoors safely.
This has been my experience often. The media goes blah blah blah Muslims or blah blah blah Christians or blah blah blah insert ethnicity, religion or other description here. To be sure, there are some bad examples to blah blah blah about, but so many, once I speak with them, are just people trying to live their lives without unnecessarily colliding with mine. I mean, they aren’t trying to offend or harm me.
Here is my main point. Government institutions, schools and the media are propagating this war on Christmas. They tell us not to say Merry Christmas. They tell us that Muslims or atheists or whatever will be offended if we do that. Meanwhile, I get on a bus and one of those very folks is honouring a holiday that isn’t his while I get told he’s going to be offended. He isn’t offended.
I hate to burst their media bubble, but I see Muslim families in Canada (and also some Jewish and Hindu and other persuasions) going to the Christmas tree stand here at the YMCA and buying Christmas trees for their homes. They’ve told me. They like them. They find the lights and the tinsel pretty.
I see Muslim dads with sweet little grins on their faces combing through the toy store. My heart goes out to them and I want to say, ‘Yes! Enjoy some new traditions with your family. You are welcome to them with no obligation to dishonour your own culture.”
I confess that conflict rages within me. I will vehemently oppose harmful practices by any religion (even my own… women can so be in the pulpit!). I will not support the oppression of women or genital mutilation etc etc.
But what I see around me is a contrast. There are those who are all about rituals and crazy ideologies and then there are those who just want to live a peaceful life, not ticking off their neighbours and they carry on in the midst of all the media hype and craziness. I can relate to that. I’m a little Jesus freak and I hate it when certain Christians shout and scream at others, shaming them in God’s name. I don’t like it. It makes me look like a nutbar. It makes God sound like a crackpot.
So I can understand some of these folks who aren’t interested in jihad, who don’t lock their wives and daughters in the house, who don’t advocate for violence, who aren’t freaking out over Christmas. How awful it must be for them to see looneys ramming cars into pedestrians. They must cringe. They must fear the disapproving glares they get.
I’m trying to learn how to be the little debater that I have always been – pointing out injustices and all that – while not lumping everybody together in one basket. It isn’t fair to do that. In fact, I can tell you that one time, my daughter ran into these people handing out literature at the mall. Being a nice girl, she took the literature and this little piece of jewellery they gave her. I don’t remember if it was a key chain or a bracelet or a button. She took it. She didn’t understand what it said because it was in Arabic.
One of her coworkers – himself an Arab fellow – saw this piece of jewellery and asked her where she got it. She told him. This guy was classy. He did not translate the meaning of the words. He gently said, “You don’t need that.” Then, he took the item away and chucked it in the garbage can. He looked out for her… a kaffar, as it is written of non-Muslims… he always treated her with respect and watched out for her when she was in that job.
So Merry Christmas to you and yours. Happy holy-days. Seasons Greetings. No matter who you are and what your belief system, my heart wishes peace, good will, health and happiness to yours. I’m going to take a little tip from Christmas 1972 and leave the politics out of it for a few days. It’s time to vacation from that.
I’m going to see family and friends. I’m going to spoil me some grandkids. We will eat and drink together and remember just for a while that these moments are the good stuff. The media doesn’t deserve one more second of my attention for now. They’ll be there ranting about something when I get back from Christmasing. Oh yeah. Did I mention? I think Christmas should be a verb. I’m going to go and do some Christmasing. Catch you later.