As I slipped the receipt into my coat pocket and walked out of the third or fourth store where cheerful clerks had noticeably stopped short of responding to my Christmas wishes, my daughter whispered to me, “Dad, they aren’t allowed to say merry Christmas.”
She had sensed what by now had become basically bewildered disappointment.
For about a week, I had been trying to arrange time to shop for some gifts for my wife with my children. I had found an opening with one daughter and we had grabbed a bite of supper together and we were now wandering through the Village mall, Christmas shopping.
My daughter’s remark caught me off guard and left me wondering how these young people could be instructed to avoid using the simple warm greeting that so many of us take for granted and spout off countless times over the holidays. Are there really people out there that would actually find such a greeting offensive? Political correctness gone awry once again, in my humble opinion, but I would think in the opinion of many others as well.
Just the night before our premier had been on television announcing the sanction of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development. Anyone who was watching will likely recall her proud inspirational statements about our forebears and how we have developed as a people. She spoke of the qualities of the people of this province with such fervour, espousing our will, our determination and our unique culture. I wonder what our forebears would think of our will and determination today in not being able to express our heartfelt wishes during the holiday season. Imagine trying to explain to someone who lost a son on the shores of Gallipoli or in the mud of Beaumont Hamel that we shouldn’t use the term merry Christmas, as we might offend someone.
How can we even contemplate that this is somehow respectful of others’ beliefs as we attempt to mask our own?
At this time I work in a very multicultural setting surrounded by people from all over the world from a wide variety of ethnic groups and religions. As a matter of fact, that is one of the features of my job that I find most interesting and pleasurable.
Speaking with and getting to know these people, their backgrounds, their cultures and their religious beliefs is not just educational, it is most often fascinating. Until very recently, our history in this part of the world had not exposed us to much cultural variation outside of some religious differences within an almost exclusively Christian population.
Are we that unsure of ourselves as we are introduced to a more multi- cultural society that we have to hide our Christian beliefs in the cupboard — something to be ashamed of?
I really do not believe for one minute that people of other faiths are insulted or hurt by the expression of Christmas greetings from store clerks or anyone else. If they are then they certainly misunderstand the intention as it is offered in the most innocent and genuine manner.
As my co-workers and friends of all backgrounds head off home, wherever home is, to celebrate the holiday season or to simply relax and enjoy the time off work while those of the Christian faith celebrate their many customs and traditions that bring us together at this time of year, I would like to genuinely wish one and all a very merry Christmas and hope that everyone else out there has the courage of their convictions and pureness of intentions to do the same.
G. Scott Gillis writes from St. John’s.