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“Bah humbug” – Politically correct holidays

December 13, 2009

I have a seriously high threshhold for silliness.  I tend to let most “offensive” comments and behaviors pass me by. But tonight, I had another one of those moments that made me ask, “how afraid and, consequently, gutless have we become?”

I received an email from someone in my child’s PTSA group announcing we were having  a “winter party” this coming Friday…who wants to participate in this “low key” celebration by sharing “festive” cookies “that represents any holiday they celebrate or family tradition”…and of course, it’s “entirely optional.”

Oh, for kittens’ sake (apologies to dog lovers I may have offended)!

Let me check my calendar.  This coming Friday (the 18th of December) is roughly 3 DAYS short of “winter.”  A “winter party?”  Perhaps “late fall” is more appropriate and accurate?  But, if we’re celebrating the last time before our kids’ go on break maybe we should call it a “pre-break celebration?”  Maybe it’s a “last party of 2009” party?

But to call it a “winter party” because we are too “sensitive” to call it what it is really should be offensive.  Let’s see…what winter holidays could we be talking about, do you s’pose?  I’m thinking Hannukah (day 2 today), Kwanzaa (coming soon), Christmas (only 12 shopping days left we all know), or…perhaps FESTIVUS?

Seriously.  We’re afraid to evoke the ghost of Christmas present becuase we’re worried about being considered “not PC.”  At the same time, we are bombarded with the images in all forms of media about how we are EXPECTED to spend gobs on…CHRISTMAS gifts?  Anyone else pick up the subtle irony here?

Dave Barry wrote a lovely column more than 20 years ago that has proved to be more than prescient.  He talked all about how we had to be careful what seasonal greeting we bestowed on folks this time of year.  “Happy Holidays” naturally was a huge favorite, followed closely by “Seasons Greetings.” Dave went so far to say that before long, we’d resort to greeting one another with a highly cheerful “Appropriate Remark!” to be sure we were fair and balanced, and sensitive enough to ensure we included everyone and offended no one.

And, his point was that our “special” greeting, intended to revere and respect the season, would become meaningless.

In our attempts to be “unoffensive” we’ve also become unremarkable.  I am not offended when I am invited to someone’s home for Hannukah.  I respect and admire the Jewish traditions and their celebration of the magical days of light. (Heck I’ve even kept a “kosher” set of dishes available in my cupboards because a dear friend had her birthday during Passover — she blessedly taught me the rules and I can now prepare a celebratory meal she can enjoy AND keeps within her religious traditions!)  I’d be happy and grateful to be taught other traditions as well because it’s part of what makes us who we are.

There are plenty of things during the holidays that are pointedly addressed toward ruining the tradition of “Christmas” for me, but I try to understand other people’s perspective and offer the spirit of the holidays to them even if they don’t believe or adhere to my beliefs and practices.

Why is “peace on earth and goodwill to men” so difficult? Do you have to stand in a line to be qualified?  Money, after all is the great equalizer, if you watch the ads. Heck, every retailer out there is helping us remember that Christmas is all about buying and giving gifts as a show of our love to each other…it’s about how many packages are under the tree or that every gift needs to be silver and gold or that latest gizmo and gadget.

Why can’t we, as Charles Dickens said, “keep Christmas in our hearts?”  It doesn’t matter your religious leanings: ALL our main “winter” celebrations have the same general core — it’s about optimism, hope, helping others less fortunate, being kind, thinking of others.

Doesn’t matter what paper you wrap it in, the present is love.  Please, this year, let’s remember that when we celebrate out traditions. They’re about being together, sharing and building memories, including one another in our experiences, giving and exchanging gifts that are a token of our love an appreciation for one another.

It’s not the label, folks.  It’s what we DO, not what we call it. And I’d just like to suggest that as we celebrate this season, we keep  “the appropriate sentiment” in our hearts not just for a month or six weeks, but for a whole year.

Happy holidays, one an all, and a prosperous and Happy New Year (a bit early for those of Asian descent or practice! No offense intended.)

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