By Jason Menard
To some the phrase Happy Holidays has turned into an epithet insulting of those who celebrate the “true” meaning of Christmas. Yet, what they’re missing is that this sentiment, expressed in two words, ideally reflects what the Christian ideal actually is – a celebration of love, acceptance, and joy.
We live in a multi-cultural society. And we are increasingly exposed to a wide variety of faiths, belief systems, and religions. To respect their existence and appreciate their lives isn’t succumbing to political correctness, but rather embracing the best of our humanity.
The utterance of Happy Holidays does not diminish the meaning of the season. In fact, by showing respect, love, and appreciation for all the peoples in this world, one could argue that we are finally following those Christian edicts of loving thy neighbour and doing unto others as you would want done to you.
We need to get over the Christian-centric hand-wringing and lamenting about the commercialization of Christmas and the need to be all-inclusive. Despite what the song says, there is ample evidence to suggest that Christ wasn’t born on Christmas Day.
Early Christian leaders were smart and decided to roll a number of existing festivals into one. Roman Saturnalia, Celtic Yule, and pagan solstice celebrations were all smushed together to make Christmas accessible to all! For followers of a religion that adapted existing celebrations to make its own more palatable, there seems to be a bit of irony in how they’re lamenting the change and evolution of the current notion of Christmas.
Each of us celebrates the holidays in our own way, regardless of what faith we have. And not one religion or belief holds more capital than others. Nor can wide-sweeping generalizations be made. Some Church-going Christians are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Jolly St. Nick, while some of the harshest of Atheists lament the commercialization of the season.
Yet, the great thing about life is that no one can force you to believe in something you don’t want to. If you hate the commercialization of the Christmas season and it offends your Christian sensibilities, you are more than welcome to look away. Embrace and celebrate the season as it means to you. The last time I checked, Wal-Mart wasn’t opening up outlets in Churches, so you have refuge from the retail! Conversely, those who don’t ascribe to the Christian beliefs should also be free to enjoy this season free from guilt or preaching.
One can choose to focus on the negative of the season, or one can embrace all the good that the holiday season has to offer. It all depends on the point of view you choose to take. If you are going to only focus on the negative, then your enjoyment and appreciation of the situation will be diminished. And once you start noticing the bad, that’s all you’ll be able to see. Instead, wouldn’t it be nice if we could start noticing the good, regardless of our faith.
No matter what God you choose – or chose not – to pray to, what this holiday season does is bring out the best in people. Families and friends who have spent the year apart come together to celebrate each other. Acquaintances are renewed, gifts of appreciation are given, and the warmth of the soul heats up this rugged Canadian winter. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to us all if we could look past our own individual prejudices and see that, overall, the world is filled with a little more love, a little more happiness, and a little more warmth at this time of year.
If one takes a look at the religions of the world, there are themes that are common to all belief systems. And the biggest may be the idea of love. Whether it’s loving your family or those around you, most people will agree that this world would be a better place if we embraced this concept of love.
So as my Catholic wife and my non-denominational self prepare to celebrate the holidays, we’ll appreciate and answer our son’s questions about the nativity and share in our daughter’s reading of a Hannukah story. The greatest gift we can give to them – and the world – is the gift of tolerance, love, and appreciation of everyone’s beliefs and uniqueness.
Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist, or any other religion – peace, love, happiness, and acceptance are truly things that we can all celebrate at this time of year.
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