Please help me re-establish Christmas as a core Canadian tradition
This might seem like an odd statement coming from a non-Christian fellow, but indulge me for a while and join my crusade to reinforce Christmas as one of our pre-eminent Canadian traditions.
I left the UK many years ago and after living in various corners of the globe, Canada was kind enough to allow me to emigrate and become part of this country. Growing up in the UK, there was an enduring focus to preserve a number of secular and religious traditions, all of which contributed towards establishing a cohesive society. Reflect if you will on any well established society and you will soon detect an undercurrent of traditions, beliefs and values, each contributing towards making it a strong and cohesive community.
The UK is predominantly a centralized state with a tradition of strong central government and many powerful national institutions, so it was natural that any core tradition, be it religious or secular would be adopted throughout the land. With this as background I found it particularly interesting that many non-Christian immigrant communities signed onto Christmas, embracing and enjoying its universal celebratory value, while the more entrepreneurial immigrant communities realized the benefit of Christmas as an economic driver – which they embraced for the benefit of their enterprises.
The school system in the UK in particular embraced Christmas and I can see the faces of my primary school mates, their eager eyes glowing in the candles as we sang our hearts out at the annual Christmas concert and then competed to build Christmas decorations to dress up our classrooms and the school. The young are so impressionable and I remember how much Christmas meant to us all, as a time for mutual celebration and affection.
Not every immigrant community in the UK celebrated the “Christ” part of Christmas and only the Catholics signed on for the “Mass” part of Christmas, while the Jews, Muslims and Sikhs pursued by their own beliefs, praying to essentially the same deity but under a different brand-name and badge. I think it might be safe to comment that zealots apart – by mid November most of these non Christian immigrants were well into the Christmas spirit, humming the popular seasonal songs of the day as they went about their daily lives and wishing their Christian friends a “Merry Christmas”. In my family of lapsed Jews (well…some of us) we eagerly awaited Christmas for entirely materialistic reasons and the family tradition of Christmas stockings on the mantle with coal (predictably) and tangerines(frequently) still lives on to this day.
From time to time there have been campaigns to try and detach the materialistic side of Christmas from the spiritual side and to encourage believers (I guess) to be slightly less commercial and a tad more cerebral. By and large these efforts have failed, largely due to the adroit and well funded retail onslaught that simply, but not so simply, drives people to spend themselves into debt. Despite this sophisticated attempt at retail brainwashing, I have recently detected a lessening of this commercial imperative, which may be as much to do with a tight economy, or the fact that my confreres have most of what they need and a simple book becomes a treasured gift.
In Canada I have been saddened to notice a trend by some public entities, to de-emphasize Christmas in an effort to make it more palatable to our non Christian immigrants. “Happy Christmas” is being replaced with “Happy Holidays”, the “Christmas spirit” is being replaced by the “holiday spirit” and what especially offends me is that some school boards are making a concerted effort to lower the profile of Christmas to make the holidays more inclusive and less “offensive” to our non-Christian immigrants.
Being more inclusive to our non Christian immigrants is a superb idea and should be encouraged by everyone in Canada as a way to help newcomers become full Canadians on par with the rest of us characters. Understanding the religions and customs of these newcomers should be part of the immigration plan and would help bridge the appalling ignorance gap which prevents mainstream Canadians from knowing who these newcomers really are.
However welcoming non Christian newcomers, by lowering the profile of a powerful core Canadian religious and secular tradition which Christmas represents – because of some misplaced politically correct belief – is not the way to conduct ourselves and will only cause resentment amongst the mainstream population who are beginning to wonder why Christmas is being de-emphasized by public servants.
Please join me in raising your voice on behalf of Christmas, by contacting your local school board, your members of civic council and your members of provincial and federal houses, to demand they support this most important date on our calendar.