Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Persecution?

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver
With all due respect to Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel, “A Christmas Carol,” has the word “Scrooge” become a modern derogatory word? I am not going to list them here, but for a moment, think of all the other derogatory words that you’ve ever heard and the contexts in which they’ve been used. There have been so many words, often politically incorrect words, that we as a society have used to belittle others simply because in some way they are different than us.

Sometimes derogatory words are actually instruments of persecution whereby someone is oppressed or treated badly, again, often simply because they are different. Has the word “Scrooge” along with its cousin “Bah Humbug” become another on that long list of cesspool-worthy words? I wonder. Though some might find those terms funny, I’m sure that not all do. I cannot help but wonder about how the pro-Christmas camp sometimes, perhaps unwittingly, belittles and even oppresses those who think differently about the Christmas/Holiday ruckus. The opposite is also true. How many times hasn’t the anti-Christmas camp belittled those who enjoy the season? I confess that I’ve sometimes been guilty of this. Are we not sometimes acting like schoolyard bullies to those with opinions that differ from our own? The bottom line is, if we’ve offended, then we have not acted in love.

It is one thing to strike back when someone is vehemently opposed to Christmas and fights it on every turn. While that still doesn’t make it right (we are told that two wrongs never make a right), one can almost understand such rebuttals. A case in point is the following post that appeared recently on Facebook:
“I get so tired of people being offended this time of year. It's a freakin HOLIDAY to many people of many religious or NON religious backgrounds! SHEESH. If you don't like it, hide in your cave like you probably do anyway and leave the rest of us alone!
I am going to start a new, generic holiday in the month of August where we give gifts, have BBQ's and decorate cactus. Why cactus? Why not? I don't think anyone is offended by cactus are they? Does anyone have a problem with gifts and BBQ's being done in August? Can I do it on August 25th? Am I allowed to do that? Or will someone have a problem with THAT too? Is August 25th an obscure pagan holiday where they massacred African tribesmen trying to save baby seals? Although I am SURE someone will find SOMETHING evil having been done on August 25th and why I can't celebrate on that day!”
Photo Credit: Mind the Goat
Though perhaps written tongue in cheek, if we read between the lines, we can see the hurt and pain. Clearly someone appears to have offended the author of that post.

However, what about those who are simply indifferent to the whole festive time? Is it right to label them with such disparaging slander? In response to a blog post I wrote outlining the origins of Christmas, the following comments appeared on Facebook:
“Maybe you should have started with "Bah, humbug". Eliminating Christmas won't make all those people who only do good things in December for Santa's sake do good things year round. It will just give them an excuse to never do it. And who cares that Christmas is a fairly new holiday or that the tree has nothing to do with anything? It's FUN! Hardly anyone celebrates Thanksgiving the way it was originally intended, as a thanks to God for Canada's bountiful harvest. The only people who do that are the ones who already thank God for that every day. And on Labour day, does anyone really seek out workers and thank them for their work throughout the year? Again, the only people who do are the ones who do it anyway. So what's wrong with a holiday that promotes goodwill for at least a month? Whether you celebrate Christmas for religious reasons, pagan reasons or no reason, who cares? Merry Christmas!”
Another person then added a rebuttal and said:
“No one here is saying everyone should eliminate Christmas. Nor is it being suggested that if you choose to celebrate, it is wrong for you to do so. But are you saying that it is WRONG for those of us who choose not to celebrate? It is a shame that you've taken what is written here as a "bah humbug". Only facts are being presented about the origins of Christmas . No one is trying to rain on YOUR parade.”
No, I wasn’t offended by those comments. If anything, I was saddened that my blog post got someone that upset. It’s amazing to me how testy we can become when someone thinks differently than we do, or in some way messes with their “holy cows!” The point is, we are all different and we all have different interests and different ideas of what constitutes “Fun” (as the Facebook commentator said).

Photo Credit: Marco Moni
According to Wikipedia, the name “Scrooge” has become synonymous with a “miserly person.” It seems to me that those who use the term “Scrooge” often assume that just because someone else doesn’t celebrate Christmas that they’re being miserable. While that may be true occasionally, I believe that it is far from the norm. There are many, many people who are perfectly cheerful (at least as much so as any other day of the year) and yet have nothing to do with the popular Christmas festivities. Christmas abstinence does not logically equal misery any more than someone who has nothing to do with the Halloween festivities suggests that they’re miserable. Likewise, is a person who doesn’t observe Ramadan miserable? How about the person who doesn’t observe Hanukkah? Does that mean they’re miserable? Of course not! Then why would someone who doesn't observe Christmas be labeled as a Scrooge? It just doesn't make any sense! Point is, there are many special days and seasons that “some” (but not all) people celebrate. It all comes down to personal choice, not societal choice (unless maybe we're talking about a Communist society). Last I checked, "Freedom" was still an important word.

Two things that will always start an argument or fight are politics and religion. Christmas has become like a religion to many. It has become strangely sacred for some Christians and non-Christians alike. Regardless whether we’re talking about a Nativity scene or a Santa and snowmen, many an atheistic person is just as religious as the Christian when it comes to Christmas. Therein is my point: does everyone share the same religious views? Of course not!

Where is it written that we all have to be carbon copies of each other and blindly follow everyone else’s idea of what constitutes a Holiday Season? When did it become law for everyone to equally buy into the capitalistic notion of a consumerism god called Santa Claus? That’s about as logical as a handful of people dictating a universal Vegan holiday, simply because some people choose not to eat meat.

I think we would all do well to ease up a little. There is no need to cut other people down just because they look at Christmas differently than you do. We are all different, so however we choose to celebrate (or not celebrate), if we have peace in our own homes and with each other, that all that matters. Is time to lose the derogatory “Scrooge” and “Bah humbug” labels?  I wonder.

From my (tree-less, light-less, and santa-less) house to yours, Merry Christmas.


A Postscript:

Apparently I ruffled some feathers with this, which resulted in an interesting comment on Facebook.

However, before I offer my rebuttal, I would like to offer a caveat about the way I see social media. I believe that what others post on my Facebook page becomes my property in the sense that I am free to share it elsewhere if I wish (such as this blog). Obviously, the reverse is also true. If I post a comment on your Facebook page, that then becomes your property. If I copy something that I find on a site other than my own, the proper thing is to consult the author and give credit where credit is due. However, the rules change when someone puts their thoughts on my site. That then becomes mine to do with as I choose. Such is the case with this post and with my rebuttal to this Facebook comment:
“I was going to leave this alone, but since you felt it necessary to quote my original post, I'm going to respond. I don't have a problem with people who don't celebrate Christmas. You are welcome to celebrate anything you please, even if it is nothing. What I DO have a problem with are people who feel it necessary to spend December posting things like "We are ruining Christmas with our commercialization!" pictures and "How did Christmas get so greedy?" and "Where is Christ in Christmas" posts. You have basically declared that everyone who loves Christmas for any reason that they are greedy capitalist pigs who hate God. So before you accuse other people of Christmas persecution, maybe you should look up the word “hypocrite."
My Facebook reply was as follows:
“Wow. Obviously someone took this the wrong way! I didn't accuse you of anything. Hypocrite? I fail to see how. Perhaps if you have such a hard time with what I post here, you may want to consider that little "Unfriend" button. I'm sure you can find it. Merry Christmas.”
There is much that I disagree with in that person’s comment, but I will only bother focusing on one point the commentator made. So apparently I’m a “hypocrite” for confessing that, like the commentator, I side with one particular camp on this (albeit a different one). I confessed also that what was needed (including from myself) was a little more “love.” Is that hypocrisy? No, it isn’t. Hypocrisy is simply saying one thing and doing another. Have I done that? No, I haven't. Hypocrisy would be someone speaking against Santa Claus and then sitting on his lap with a Christmas wish list in hand. No, if my anonymous commentator “really” read my heart in this, that person would also have discovered that in most of my blog posts I typically ask more questions than make blanket statements. That person would also have discovered that, if I tar and feathered anyone, I did so to myself as well. "I wonder" is a common expression of mine, which simply denotes curiosity.

Have I offended? Apparently, yes I have. Was it deliberate? No. Then again, perhaps some people are simply argumentative. Perhaps too, that is one of the beauties of social networks; we have a measure of control over what and who posts to our sites. Maybe that “unfriend” button isn’t such a bad thing after all. Unfortunately, real "friendship" seems to be the only hypocrisy I see here. Still, I do apologize to whomever I’ve offended through this medium and ask their forgiveness. 

Merry Christmas.

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