Now yes I know that in our 2017 politically correct, full multi-cultural societies where we have people from all manner of faiths and religions; where tolerance and growing sensitivity to the needs of all those around us would have us drop the Christmas from Merry Christmas and have it replaced with, “Happy Holidays”, I say nonetheless, “Merry Christmas” to you just the same.
I am not insensitive or blissfully unaware that not everyone celebrates Christmas. I am not ignorant that some who acknowledge Christmas and believe in the child of Christ are in a financial or emotional state to find it hard to be merry for that matter. Some find the Christmas season decidedly isolating; a poignant reminder of whatever state they find themselves in which may not be what they’d want or have imagined for themselves. I get that.
Yes some would have the world drop the word, ‘Merry’ from our greetings as well as the ‘Christmas’. While we’re at it there are those who don’t like Christmas lights – a blatant waste of both energy and money they say. I light up the dark nights of winter with my Christmas lights all the same.
You can understand I think why some find this time of year particularly challenging to deal with. They may be unemployed, underemployed, homeless or living just above the poverty line. For people who have been disinherited from families, perhaps cut out of family gatherings and estranged from those they once called brother, sister, mom or dad, yes it can be a constant source of pain to see everyone around them going about with a ‘Merry Christmas’ on their lips.
Me? I go about with a jolly ‘Merry Christmas’ just the same. In fact, I went for a walk at noon just yesterday and made a conscious decision to say just that – “Merry Christmas!” to several people on that walk. There was the guy walking towards me with his head down, hoodie on and hands in his pockets. There was the fellow who had a cigarette in one hand and just walked across the street on a full red light when the traffic gave him an opening. There was the woman who was rushing to go somewhere and had a furrowed brow and look of concentration as she navigated the clearest path to accelerate her walk. And the reaction I got?
Each and every person I said, “Merry Christmas” to said exactly the same thing; “Merry Christmas to you.” Each person also did something else; they made eye contact for about 2 seconds and smiled as they said it. 2 seconds….and a smile. Hmm…. Big deal you say?
Well, if everyone I met felt visible and smiled while saying, “Merry”, perhaps – just perhaps I say – wishing others a “Merry Christmas” isn’t so bad. Now yes, I could have been more thoughtful and stopped these people in their tracks and first asked them, “Excuse me, might I know your religious beliefs and if in particular you believe in the Christ child? You see, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas but I also don’t want to impose any kind of religious doctrine on you in doing so should you practice another religion, believe but not practice or perhaps be an atheist. And also good sir/madam, I do hope its not delaying you in any way or causing you to feel singled out and vulnerable to have a stranger talk to you in this public space and use the words, ‘Merry’ and ‘Christmas’ in the same sentence? You see you might not wish to feel merry – for that of course is your right, and it would be terribly presumptuous of me to wish you to be merry when that may not be what you’d wish for yourself.”
Yes, I suppose I could have said something like that in order not to cause any offence to anyone. However, the good people I wished a ‘Merry Christmas’ to on the streets of downtown Oshawa Ontario didn’t seem to mind. Now I don’t imagine these folks are very different from others who might wander the streets of your city or town. For I’ve no reason to believe Oshawa residents are somehow singularly patrons of Christmas or unifyingly merry for that matter.
How nice then I think to have a stranger wish them a merry Christmas. I wish someone had first said that to me on my walk. I’ve noticed though that people generally walk and avoid eye contact period, let alone say a word of greeting. Yes, it’s eyes averted, down on the ground, straight ahead – anywhere other than meeting the eyes of people they meet. But me? I’m different. I walk and make a point of looking at the faces I pass. I note that people generally see me coming (they aren’t blind after all), and then they purposely avert their eyes. Oh and it’s not that they reserve this behaviour for me alone. I see them do it with everyone they pass.
And I’m open to a Happy Chinese New year, Happy Chanukah, etc. too. Feel free to give one to me when the time is right. I’d like that. So I will continue to go about on my daily walks, look for people who could use a little, ‘Merry Christmas’ and give it to them. Oh, and you out there? A very merry Christmas to you!