“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” Andy Williams sang in 1962, describing the celebration of Christmas and all the good cheer, joys and fellowship it brings.
But there are people, admittedly a minority, who today take offence to those lyrics because they rub their own traditions and religious beliefs the wrong way.
So does that mean that we must bury traditions to accommodate those with differing views?
Human rights commissions regularly field complaints from minority groups that feel offended and isolated because Christmas runs counter to their beliefs. Some have even suggested that those celebrating Christmas (a tradition deeply entrenched in Canadian culture) are guilty of intolerance and racism.
That simply defies common sense. If a family strings up Christmas lights, but a neighbour of differing beliefs finds them offensive and requests the lights be taken down, is that family racist and intolerant if it refuses?
Canada is a country of tolerance and respect for all cultures and beliefs. That means the majority extends tolerance to the minority, and the minority extends the same courtesy to the majority.
But what happens when minority groups insists that the majority changes its traditions to suit their beliefs?
In our never-ending struggle to prove our tolerance, some majority traditions are eroding at the hands of the politically correct — especially during the Christmas season.
Recently, Ashu Solo filed a complaint to the City of Saskatoon because he found the “Merry Christmas” messages posted on city buses to be offensive. Solo said the messages made him feel unwelcome and that they excluded minorities and atheists who don’t celebrate Christmas.
The city refused to remove the messages.
Solo is now taking the matter to the human rights commission, alleging intolerance, discrimination and racism.
Among the recent Christmas snubs, two others stand out in Canada. The Town of Mount Royal banned all religious symbols last year from city property, including a nativity scene that was a staple for years. And at the high school in Embrun, Ont., the principal cancelled the Christmas concert because a few non-Christian student refused to participate.
Not all of the news, however, is focused on minimizing Christmas. Federal government employees are now allowed to decorate their desks as they see fit, one year after a Christmas flap banned such practices.
Treasury Board president Tony Clement said the Christmas spirit will not be “grinched” this year.
“Christmas and Hanukkah are special times of the year that Canadians look forward to,” said Clement. “The lights and decorations lift the spirit and instil the season with a sense of wonder and celebration.”
He added, “There are those who would like to snuff out the holiday spirit in the name of political correctness or expediency. Our government will not allow the Christmas spirited to be grinched.”
The federal NDP party is following the politically correct line, opting to replace the word Christmas with “holiday.” The Liberals, on the other hand, are embracing the traditions of the holidays.
We should always be mindful and tolerant of dissenting views. But we all should be aware that tolerance is a two-way street.
If you do not celebrate Christmas, may you still be blessed with peace and happiness during the holiday season, and beyond.
And may you exercise the same kind of respect that you expect from everyone else.
And if you do celebrate Christmas, be mindful that the message of the season should be applied every day of the year. And that love, peace and tolerance have always been, and should always remain, the cornerstones of this great nation.
Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.