Tag Archives: understanding

Happy Holidays the Perfect Way to Say Merry Christmas

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.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

You’ve Got to Have Faith

By Jason Menard

In a world increasingly divided by religion, perhaps we should be focusing on the spirit behind religion that has the power to unite us all.

We’ve seen our current global landscape rife with turmoil that’s, in large part, founded on religious differences. And we can’t even make the claim that this is an unprecedented event, because our world has been shaped over thousands of years by religious conflict.

At the same time as many of today’s North American youth have turned away from organized religion, religious fervour exists as a driving force in our world. Whether it’s recent reports of a Jewish soldier killing Arabs due to his opposition to the Gaza Strip pullout, or Al Qaeda leadership brandishing Islam as a weapon, or fears of the religious right dominating U.S. policy, our secular world is impacted greatly by the intervention of religious influence.

On a macroscopic scale, we find ourselves wondering if religions can truly co-exist on this planet. The challenges and the history seem so daunting that there often doesn’t seem to be a way to find a peaceful, harmonious co-existence. But hope for a better future is there when you look on a microscopic level. Despite our difference, we’re able to peacefully and happily co-exist amongst our friends of different faiths, so why does that grass-roots tolerance not trickle up?

I can’t ascribe to any more religion any more than I can sign up for a political party – I just don’t believe strongly in any one perspective that I would be willing to drink the Kool-Aid. However, while I can’t hold hard and fast to one God and one religion, the basic undertones and themes present in a majority of these religions speak to me not only on a spiritual level, but on an intellectual level.

Raised in a relatively Christian family, I turned my back on organized religion during high school and never looked back. While I respected others’ need to find solace in a God, I was unable to believe – or feel – that sort of presence in my life. But far from reject religion outright and entering into a hedonistic lifestyle without remorse, I chose to appreciate the underlying themes and messages that the Bible was trying to teach.

And, as I’ve aged, I’ve had the pleasure to learn more about other religions. I can proudly boast friends from across the religious spectrum: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu – and I’ve tried to learn more about their lifestyle and appreciate their devotion. What I’ve learned is that while many of the religions of the world differ in their icons and dogma, they hold a basic common set of principles dear.

Essentially, what most of our world’s religions preach is the idea of being good people. Whether it’s doing good deeds to promote the glory of God or engaging in Shabbat or Ramadan observances to cleanse our souls, these actions are, at their very base, designed to improve us all as people. The Ten Commandments aren’t a revelation, they’re simply common sense.

As I age, I appreciate the words that the noted religious prophet, George Michael, once sang: “You’ve Got to Have Faith.” I find myself embracing the spiritual nature of humanity – one that is often defined by religion, but is not exclusive to religion. There is a spirit that moves us, and whether you believe it’s the Tao, Karma, or the will of a Creator, we’ve all been given this gift of life and we should be celebrating it, not squandering it.

Unfortunately, religious understanding seems to be a limited proposition. There are reasons that politics and religion are topics to be avoided in casual conversation. I have been told I’m going to Hell because of my lack of belief in a higher power, but – to be honest – if God’s going to punish me for not believing in him (or her) then that’s not a God I want to party with in the afterlife.

If I’m wrong, then I hope that whichever god greets me once I shuffle off this mortal coil will look at the life I’ve led. By no means have I been perfect, but I’ve tried – and continue to try – to be a good person, do right by my family, and appreciate others for who they are and what they bring to this global potluck.

On the other side, some of the so-called saved or chosen ones are the same that are killing in the name of their god, or discriminate against other members of the human race based on colour, race, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. Essentially it comes down to the company you want to keep when (or if) we reach the afterlife. If I’ve got to spend the ever after with the same type of people I try to avoid on Earth, then I’ll choose to hang out in purgatory, thank you very much.

Yet, for the majority of us, we’re able to appreciate each other’s differences in beliefs. Other people’s beliefs are not something to fear, but rather something to learn from and appreciate.

Although I can be accused of over-simplifying deep-rooted issues, the fact of the matter is that we need to rebuild our relationships from the ground up. And there’s no better way of doing so than building upon the essential foundations that religion, spirituality, and belief offer – that of tolerance, compassion, and respect for humanity.

We have to start somewhere. And instead of destroying the world in the name of religion, we can choose to honour whatever god you believe in by making the world a better place to live through love, understanding, and appreciation for one another.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved