Just Merry Christmas

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The Christmas season is upon us! We are now only a week and a half away from what is undoubtedly most people’s favourite holiday. Christmas isn’t just a day – it’s a season, an attitude, and a spirit. It’s a distinct time of year that essentially lasts an entire month (8% of our entire lives!). Christmas is about family, generosity, peace, love, and celebration.

One question that gets asked every year is: “Should we say Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays?” I hate this question, because it relates to a non-existing and highly contrived problem. It’s one of those debates that has been fuelled by misinformation and pure drama, probably in the name of creating social media hype for the sake of likes and views. The truth is, “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” are two distinct terms that each serve a purpose.

“Merry Christmas” is a pleasant greeting meant to spread good cheer in the name of a beloved, peaceful and family-oriented holiday. In my many experiences with those who do not celebrate Christmas for religious or other reasons, I have noticed that in almost all cases, a person who is wished a “Merry Christmas” when they don’t celebrate, doesn’t care. They may return the simple gesture with a greeting of their own, such as “Happy Hanukkah”, or if wanting to be more neutral, they may answer with “Happy Holidays”.

Notions that immigrants come to Canada and attempt to “impose” their values on Canadians are completely made up. Has anyone actually ever had an immigrant speak these words to them? Has anyone ever experienced being told off by an immigrant for saying “Merry Christmas”? No… because it doesn’t happen. Scam stories have been circulating on the internet since the internet rose to prominence, purporting to share tales of immigrants demanding that Canadians stop celebrating Christmas because it violates their religion. These stories are fiction, have always been fiction, and they were written, popularized and distributed by racists to turn Canadians against immigrants. The same thing happens in America and other Western countries. The sad part is that in many cases, the scam has worked, and ordinary people become the vehicle of the false information, claiming that immigrants are insisting that we stop celebrating Christmas when that has never been the case.

“Happy Holidays” is a term I use quite frequently. No one has ever told me I needed to say it, but I say it because I think it adequately captures the fact that this time of year is about more than just one day. Outside the Times office window, I see a true winter wonderland. I know that many kids and adults alike enjoyed the annual parade a couple of weeks ago. I can turn on the radio and easily tune into a station broadcasting festive music. Kids at my place of work are eagerly anticipating caroling, parties, gift exchanges, and a movie day. I myself am looking forward to hosting a New Year’s Eve party, where I will see family members I haven’t seen in a very long time.

All of the above is about more than just December 25. Christmas may be the central focus of this merry season, but for countless people, this time of year is simply “the holidays”. Many people take vacation, there are three statutory holidays all within the span of a week, beautiful white Canadian snow decorates the ground and the trees, and generosity oozes from every orifice. “Happy Holidays” simply means “Isn’t it great to be enjoying the most wonderful time of year?” I use the term interchangeably with “Merry Christmas”, though I do admit that I prefer the sound of “Happy Holidays” in late November or early December, and often in the days following Christmas or New Years. It’s more all-encompassing, and it’s an expression of general celebration. There is no need to muddy the term with politics, or false notions of the evil nature of those who don’t celebrate Christmas.

I personally use the term “Merry Christmas” when Christmas itself is drawing very near, or earlier in the season if I am speaking to someone I likely won’t see again before Christmas. We absolutely have a right to say “Merry Christmas” in this country, and no one will ever take that away from us, nor is anyone trying – stop spreading hate!

As this will be the last edition of the North Dundas Times in 2023, it seemed only natural that I should bid my Christmas well wishes to our readers.

I struggled with what to name this editorial. I typically use a mysterious phrase or analogy to title my editorials. Why? It’s so people actually read them! When the title betrays nothing of the editorial’s subject matter, it forces the curious reader to read through and find the connection between the idiom or play on words, and the topic being discussed. When I first started writing editorials, I used mysterious titles to get people to read them, thinking I was far too boring for people to read my work when labelled with candid titles. It was a habit that stuck!

This edition, I vowed not to sully the meaning of Christmas with a joke or play on words. This editorial’s title is therefore just “Merry Christmas”. “The title should be just Merry Christmas”, I said to the production team. What could possibly go wrong? (Okay, so I snuck in one little joke).

Have the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Year’s, everyone! Much love from all of us here at the Times.

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