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In less than a week, the holiday season will be upon us again.
Across this region, people will be gathering with loved ones to celebrate the festive season and it is hoped that there will be a spirit of peace and goodwill infusing our interactions with the people that we meet during this season. Considering the often-difficult times we have faced over the past year, and the increasing tendency of people to attack those who have different beliefs or opinions, having a time when friendliness and acceptance is present is sorely needed. Sadly, many people can find reasons to find divisions even in a simple greeting for the season.
Over the past few years on social media, I've noticed an increasing number of memes and comments by people proclaiming their intention to say "Merry Christmas" and asking others to share if they agree. I get the impression from this that someone has become offended when they wished them a Merry Christmas and it makes me wonder where in this country they are living. I always greet people with a "Merry Christmas" and I have never had anyone react negatively, regardless of their background, ethnicity or religion. It has been universally met with a smile and a return greeting and I suspect that this has been the experience of most of us across Atlantic Canada.
We live in a society that was founded by Christians and in which Christianity continues to be the dominant religion of most Canadians. It is only natural that our holidays would be founded on this belief and, thus, we have Christmas as one of our major holidays. I am convinced that the vast majority of people who have come to this country understand and accept this, whether they are Christian or celebrate Christmas personally, and take no offense over the celebration of this holiday or in being wished a Merry Christmas. They understand that being wished a Merry Christmas is not in any way intended to force Christian beliefs on them and accept it in the spirit in which it is offered.
Likewise, there are many Canadians who do not identify as Christian and would choose a different greeting to share with others, including "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings," which are more inclusive and allows people to participate in the season while respecting their own religious beliefs. Some Christians themselves choose these greetings in order to be more inclusive and there is no reason for anyone who holds strong Christian beliefs to be offended if someone uses these greetings; it's not meant to be dismissive or disrespectful to their Christian beliefs.
The rare non-Christian who is offended by Merry Christmas or the Christian who is offended by Happy Holidays needs to take a step back and examine what is going on in their own heart. If you are offended by the words of a simple greeting, you have missed the spirit of the season and the reason why we celebrate in the first place.
We live in a time when people are losing sight of the fact that we can have different views and beliefs and still get along with one another instead of automatically attacking anyone who doesn't share our own. It would be nice if we could be more tolerant of opposing views throughout the entire year, but if we can't, surely we can set this aside during the Christmas season and focus more of the values that unite us as a society.
Canadians believe in the ideas of family, helping those who are less fortunate and goodwill and support for our neighbours and friends, whether they identify as Christian or not. There are enough real issues in this world for us to be upset over without making an issue over the words someone uses to wish us well during this wonderful season.
To all of the readers throughout the SaltWire Network, a Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.
Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.