“There never were in the world two opinions alike, no more than two hairs or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity. “
~ Michel de Montaigne
I love the diverse ways people celebrate Christmas. In our home growing up, the sheet music to the two songs mentioned in this title resided side by side on the piano without conflict. Now that’s diversity! Jesus delivers people and Santa delivers gifts. I like to think of myself as someone who is open to many expressions of Christmas but there is one position that I just don’t really get and that’s the “politically correct” one.
When I was in India in 2005, even though I don’t practice or know a lot about Hinduism I certainly enjoyed witnessing all the preparations for the religious feast of Diwali. Many homes, from the lowly hut of the poor to the mansion of the rich and mighty, were festive looking with the glow of small earthen lamps or little twinkling orange light bulbs set out to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity. It was so beautiful to see. Hindus worship 330,000 deities, all of them aspects of the Supreme Being. Certainly this was different from what I was taught by the Catholic Church but I wasn’t offended by their religious beliefs; I was fascinated! I felt so blessed and privileged to be there in the days leading up to their very holy celebration. I would have been just a little annoyed had I arrived in India to find that Diwali had been renamed and that all reference to Lakshmi had been removed in order to make sure no one who had moved to India would be offended.
Traditional Canadian Christmas rituals and festivities—both religious and non-religious—have been diluted to a weird homogenous “Winter Fest” in the public domain in order not to offend anyone. Some people don’t even know what to say anymore when they greet another on the street. They quickly take in all kinds of factors and then in a moment decide if they’ll say Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, or feel safe saying Merry Christmas. I have decided to say what is true for me, not what is politically correct.
My buttons certainly got pushed one particular time when I was still working as an RN. In the hospital cafeteria, management was hosting a window-painting contest in order to beautify the eating space. A flyer was sent around to all the nursing units letting the employees know the particulars of the contest. At the bottom it said: In order to honour the diverse backgrounds of our patient population we ask that no religious Christmas designs be submitted. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. I made a few calls and finally reached the manager who had made the decision (you guessed it!) in the name of political correctness. Bah! Humbug!
Being open-minded to the diversity of experiences, traditions and rituals, both religious and non-religious, at Christmas shows a willingness to allow others their choices and this is the path to Sacred Living. Being afraid to wish someone Merry Christmas for reasons of political correctness is, in my opinion, Living Scared. Being closed to anyone else’s beliefs at Christmas and thinking only yours are right is also based in fear. There are as many ways to experience Christmas or not experience Christmas as there are pine needles on the Christmas tree. May those diverse experiences live in harmony.
(Originally written in 2007 for my newsletter Sacred Living vs. Living Scared; now part of the book by the same name)