Merry C#!%&*m@$!!

Its holiday season! as if you couldn’t already tell by the aisles and aisles of crimson and clover (the colours…not the song) or linen and sapphire, for my friends at Glencairn and Bathurst.

For the last four years I would walk the halls of York U in December not knowing it was Christmas time, save for the candy cane lattes served at Second Cup. A forty-five minute drive up highway 400 however brought you to Barrie: Who-ville, where retailers would EMPHASIZE their salutation of “Merry CHRISTMAS!” when non traditional consumers would bid a neutral “Happy Holidays!” after having their fondue pot gift-wrapped.

I’ve seen both sides. I’ve disagreed with both sides. But I’m taking a stand for Christmas, this time. Not in the anti-immigrant- old people – “those were the days” way, mind you.  (consider that the disclaimer).

Friday night I had the pleasure of sitting in a living room/art gallery with a small group of people whom I had never met. They were the type of people who talk about listening to obscure CBC short stories programs without actually talking about the programs themselves, only that they listen to them (in other words, the type of people who sit in living room/art galleries on a Friday night).  When one girl wearing a red, green and gold jumper entered the room someone chimed “your dress looks so Christmas like!”. It did. But before I could second that thought the room began to scoff. “My work put up a Christmas tree and I was like, okay! you’ve made your point… its so offensive”.

Not being one to let remarks like that slide without explanation (or have any social grace when meeting new people) I began to prod the flippant remark.  I just can’t seem to understand how a) wishing someone a warm salutation is OFFENSIVE and b) how a completely secularized holiday that actually has no biblical foundation from the start is exclusionary to people who don’t subscribe to western christian values. I mean, I might understand why if there weren’t highly noticable fractures in these people’s conviction.

But lets examine the facts.

Christmas: On December 25th in the year 0 Jesus, the Messiah, was born under a Christmas tree in a manger. He was visited by a wasseling drummer boy who brought a mug of whipped egg yolk and a 40 pound brick of fruit cake peppered with mistle toe.  Other visitors included his obese yet generous Turkish neighbor named Santa Clause, three kings who brought luxury goods such as Gold, Frankincense and Myrh (along with socks, underwear and a bounty of unneeded impulse buys), his parents, a donkey, and his entire extended family. When his entire Extended family (after drinking too much of the whipped egg yolk) began hounding the tiny baby about what he is doing with his life and how his cousin is almost finished med school, a majestic turkey flew from the heavens and pecked out the family’s eyes.  Startled by the turkey’s ugliness and obtuse movements the Christmas donkey kicked the turkey, accidently killing him. “Oh no!” exclaimed the donkey. I have killed this noble bird! what shall we do? what shall we do to honour the valour of this turkey”. Mary, mother of Jesus replied: we will cook him. And we will eat him.

So, I hope you know this isn’t the actual story (READ: Luke 2).  I also  hope you know that Christmas was created in the 4th century by the Roman Catholic church; piggy backing an already established festive, yet pagan celebration. Jesus was not born in December, there is no mention of celebrating his birth in the Bible and there is certainly no connection with candy canes, lights, the coniferous or awkward family conversations over dry foul.

I could elaborate on why I think modern day Christmas is perverse. How it is the quintessential celebration of our entitlement to abundance. But I do think holidays are important. Even for secularists or others that don’t buy into the idea of Jesus. I sincerely think it is important that people stop, look around, love, rest and celebrate. Whether that be the birth of a saviour or the end of another year. Encouraging people to have a Merry Christmas to me is a lovely thing. Its reinforcing that we NEED the things that Christmas/Rosh Hoshana/Kwanza/Diwali etc. are supposed to bring: family, reflection, good will, maybe some new stuff that beings smiles and celebration of all the good things in life (we spend every other day thinking about the stuff we don’t have, the things or people that were taken away and how much life generally sucks).  To me, that doesn’t seem exclusionary although I am extremely aware that I am writing from the discourse of my culture and heritage.

I want to come back to the idea that modern day Christmas in a public setting is OFFENSIVE.  I would totally throw my Hanson Christmas C.D in the hearth and accept this idea if there weren’t sharp inconsistencies in how we as Canadians approach other holidays. How can a secularized, consumer holiday in which people exchange gifts and eat dinner with family be any more offensive than…

Thanksgiving: A holiday to celebrate the time that our oppressed fore fathers, escaping the evils of their homelands discovered a NEW land! not only new land, which was flowing with cornucopias of harvested goods, but also NEW FRIENDS! The new friends welcomed the pilgrims with open arms and greeted them hospitably with an abundant feast. There was one awkward problem; God had told the pilgrims  that they needed to take over and claim the land, for the sake of civility, and force their new friends to live in the unwanted corners of their land.  Some times the pilgrims just massacred their friends- it was easier that way. Although sometimes, when they were feeling gracious, they forced their friends to sign treaties that would make the expropriation of their land “legal”. Their new friends happily obliged and every year they got together to eat a harvest meal as a way of saying “hey, we’re still friends, right? great! lets give thanks”

If I haven’t made it clear: I find it highly contentious that we openly and unashamedly celebrate Thanksgiving as a part of our Canadian/North American heritage, with little to no insight of its truly offensive historical context AND  present day realities of oppression and imperialism. THAT is offensive to me.  The fact that we publicly celebrate the oppression, ghettoization and expropriation of a group of people while they continue to live this history, and we continue to ignore them, or perpetuate stereotypes. Then, nine weeks later cast SHAME on (or at the very least, neutralize and privatize) a holiday that has already been secularized and commodified to the point of little significance. It seems a little perplexing. And perhaps offensive, too.

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About Ashley Drake
Don't cha wish your girlfriend could blog like me

7 Responses to Merry C#!7&*m@$!!

  1. jensorlie says:

    By far, your best blog yet. Make sure you publicize it! In fact, I will.

  2. Cara says:

    That left me wanting more (but that may just be the consumer in me) I truly enjoyed your perspective.

  3. ryanhenderson says:

    Interesting and engaging thoughts – I’m glad you wrote them down!:)

  4. NickParro says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this, and love how everytime I read something by you it brings light to a topic in a way I’ve not thought of before. Bravo! Keep it coming!

  5. dontdontoperate says:

    Two things:
    1) Surely you can imagine how wishing someone a warm salutation can be offensive. I mean, if a very happy nazi said “Heil Hitler” to you with the kindest motives, your blood would boil. Or if someone celebrated the deaths of the people in Rwanda, and said to you “Happy Genocide!”.
    Now, I realise these are no where near comparable to “Merry Christmas”, I’m just getting you to see how, indeed, a warm salutation CAN be offensive
    (for the record, I don’t mind people saying Merry Christmas, I like it very much actually)
    2) I don’t see your point about bringing up Thanksgiving. I agree with you, celebrating Thanksgiving is ridiculous. We should stop it (unless we used the holiday in another way, like being thankful, or something). It is offensive. We should stop doing things that are offensive.
    If saying “Merry Christmas” offends some, and we can’t correctly guess if they are going to be offended, might as well respect them and say “Happy Holidays”.
    I guess your argument comes off as follows:
    Billy swore in class. But Gus pulled Sally’s hair. The teacher catches Billy, but not Gus, and says to Billy “Principles office, immediately” but Billy protests “Oh come on, I only swore, Gus pulled Sally’s hair”. If the teacher were to follow your logic, she would send only Gus to the office. Whereas what she should really do is send both.

    • dontdontoperate says:

      Oh, I would, also, like to join in the choir and commend your skills as a blog writer. You’re gifted Miss Ashley, I am happy to know you and your blog 😉

    • Ashley Drake says:

      ALEX! hey! well, I wasn’t really writing prescriptively. I’ve just noticed how people on both the ‘merry christmas’ and ‘happy holidays’ side have made the salutation an issue of social justice which, is fine (I actually don’t know if its fine, maybe its pathetic, or maybe its actually a systemic problem) I really just wanted to point out sharp inconsistencies in how people name what holidays are offensive, and why. I think we tend to pick on christmas because its a religious holiday and lets face it, western religious institutions have without a doubt destroyed and imperialized cultures and countries for centuries, and lets be honest, continue to (try and) imperialize through politics, social mores crappy music etc. there is justified outrage there, the offense is constantly in your face. But I think holidays like thanksgiving and even remembrance day, which are generally irreligious, or nuetral compared to christmas, celebrate agents of subjective violence (class, displacement, racism etc) just as much and if not MORE than christmas because they target specific groups of people (natives, perhaps canadians of afghani origins etc.) religion just offends everyone equally, I suppose. I generally just say happy holidays to keep the peace. Theres no point in making the yule-tide a time of ideological power struggles.

      Since that wasn’t incredibly thought out, basically I agree. Billy and Gus should be suspended or forced to right their wrongs.

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