Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

I think the debate over Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays is an interesting one.

On one side, you have the major corporations that insist that their employees do not wish customers a Merry Christmas and stick instead to Happy Holidays. As someone working in a small low key cafe, and having never been forced by my boss to say anything about the holidays at all to anyone, I have never once been told off by a customer for wishing someone a Merry Christmas. Most people smile and say it in return. Granted, I’ve never served someone visibly of another faith at the cafe. But if I did, I’d like to think they would understand that I wasn’t trying to offend them or force my religion on them. Heck, if a Jewish person wished me a Happy Hanukkah, I’d be thrilled. Now, that might just be because it’s never happened to me before. Who knows, maybe being wished a Merry Christmas a million times gets old after a while. But to me, it feels like wishing a Merry Christmas to someone whodoesn’t celebrate Christmas is basically wishing them a very pleasant 25th of December. (This opinion is not based on experience, so please, correct me if I’m wrong).

The other side is one I basically didn’t know existed until I read this flow chart by Rachel Held Evans, and then made the mistake of diving into the comments. I was really surprised to read that some American Christians genuinely think that being forced to say or hear the words “Happy Holidays” is a form of attack or persecution. I mean, isn’t that a bit extreme, considering the forms of persecution other people are facing around the world? Is a person failing to verbally acknowledge your holiday really a form of attack? When you think about it, doesn’t it sound a bit silly?

But that isn’t my biggest qualm with the “persecuted” Christians. No, I think that if you want to claim that a holiday dedicated to Christ is being attacked, then you need to go past the greetings and acknowledge that Christians lost control of Christmas long before it turned into the Holidays. Christmas has become consumerism central. The marketers are still tugging at our heart strings with their warm and fuzzy commercials, but the holiday has lost the war with capitalism and has turned into a bit of a greed fest. Going to the mall between December 21 and 24th is a exercise in patience as we wade through crowds of people all rushing to purchase last minute gifts for their  loved ones. Putting the Christ back in Christmas has less to do with what your cashier says to you as you check out, and more to do with what she’s checking out for you.

This may seem a bit harsh. After all, Christmas is all about giving, right? But we’ve stopped thinking of giving in the right way. I don’t know where the tradition of giving gifts originated but it’s a nice thought that Christians give gifts just as God gave us his Son. But where God gave his Son while asking for nothing but faith in return (and knowing we would fail at even that), we rarely give out gifts without (secretly) anticipating something back. Imagine putting gifts under the tree for everyone in your family, and waking up Christmas morning to find that no one had bought you anything in return. You would be outraged. We all would be. The expectation at Christmas is both to give and receive gifts. It’s all part of the “spirit of Christmas”. But it’s evident that our giving spirit extends less to those who can’t give in return. Sure the Salvation Army bells guilt us into dropping our money into their pots. But that giving is often limited and reluctant. We would never give as much to people we don’t know who will never repay us as we would to our own flesh and blood, who both love us and present us with gifts in return.

I’m not pointing fingers here. I’m not even saying that we shouldn’t give and receive gifts (I’ve got to be careful with this post or I’ll wake up tomorrow with no presents and a family of people pointing to this post as proof that they shouldn’t get me anything). I get into the giving and receiving as much as the next person. But I would also never become outraged by someone wishing me a Happy Holidays. I can acknowledge that while Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Christ (my family lights candles, reads the Bible, sings carols, and goes to Church five times in two weeks over the holidays), there is also an elements of consumerism and selfishness involved in the holidays, as we exchange gifts and fill the pockets of the retail industry. And there are millions of people who only exchange gifts without the religious aspects. Christmas is originally a Christian holiday, but everyone gets two days off work (or statutory pay) because of this “religious” holiday and I think it’s safe to say that Christians can’t jealously claim that the holidays are only for them any more.

Christmas isn’t under attack in America. It’s already been beaten. The retailers have successfully imbued the Christmas season with a sense of buying urgency, and turned the holiday into a consumerist frenzy. And the poor Christians are right in the thick of it, complaining not about the consumerism, but about the greeting they are being given as they pile their purchases up at the register. Wishing people a Happy Holidays is not the retail industry attacking Christmas, but acknowledging that the holiday has come to mean something it didn’t used to. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s time to separate the celebration of the birth of a Saviour from the celebration of the ability for the wealthy to buy and distribute gifts.

I’m aware that a lot of people are going to disagree with me on this post. And that’s OK. This post is just an exploration on my part of what I find to be a bizarre outrage on the part of American Christians. What do you think? Are you a Christian who wants to go back to Merry Christmas? Are you a non Christian who hates being wished a Merry Christmas? Or do you think the whole debate is nonsense? Let me know.

And Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!


Wheat Allergy Part 1

Today, a woman asked me if she could order the only wrap we had left. As I took it out of the display case and went to cut it, she pointed to all the paninis and said ‘I can’t eat those because they have wheat in them.’ Confused, I told her the wrap was also made of wheat.
She said ‘but not too much wheat, right?’
I don’t know very much about how wraps are made, and I didn’t want to be responsible for this woman’s sickness (or death) because she’d eaten a wrap, so I said helplessly ‘it’s made with wheat.’
Finally, she decided to get the soup instead. While she was deciding, Oliver grabbed the wrap and put it back in the display case.
‘Ok, so you’ll have the soup?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ she said, and then turned and pointed at the wrap that Oliver had just put back and said, ‘but what about that wrap there, does that wrap have wheat?’

An Open Letter to LOUD Drunk Students

Dear students,

Sometimes you consume one or many alcoholic beverages and then you have some fun. It’s a Friday night, so you’re probably going to drink tonight. In fact, I know you’re drinking. Right now! How do I know? Because I can hear you from a block away. That screaming you’re doing? Even though it’s the dead of winter and all our doors and windows are shut, we can still hear you.

Being drunk can be fun, and if you’re responsible about it, a little alcohol can make an awkward social situation more relaxed. But while you’re drinking, try to be considerate of others. Being drunk is not an excuse to be disrespectful to other people. You shouldn’t hold your need to have a good time above other’s need for sleep. It’s possible to enjoy yourself without disturbing others, so try not yelling. You might be surprised. It’s actually possible to have fun without it!

And, just so I don’t sound like a nagging old fart, your screaming late at night poses a whole other, more serious problem. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and the more often I hear drunk people yelling randomly late at night, the more I’m convinced it’s true. We don’t live in the safest neighbourhood. Student ghettos aren’t known for being super classy, and when you live this close to the downtown, there are bound to be sketchy characters about. I know, I was solicited by one a while back (when you think he’s going to ask for money and he asks for sex instead *shudder*). So while you’re busy making sure everyone knows that you are fully liquored and having a good time, try to move past that fuzzy nice feeling you’re having and consider the graver consequences of what you’re doing.

Have you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf? He lied about a wolf attacking him so many times that eventually people stopped believing him, and when a real wolf came around, no one answered his cries for help (and he got eaten, in the traditional-before-Disney fairy tale style). When I used to hear screaming on the street late at night, I wondered if someone was being attacked. I’d rush to my window, peer outside, and try to assess if I should call the police. But over the past few years, living in the student ghetto, the sheer number of screaming drunk people have diminished my concern. Now,whenever I hear yelling late at night, rather than rushing to a window, I shake my head and share a knowing smile with the other people in the room: “Oh, those crazy drunk people!”. When I actually stop and consider it, this is actually pretty alarming. If I was to be attacked late at night, and I was calling for help, the last thing I would want is for the people who hear me to shrug off my cries as some frivolous students. I’d want people rushing to their windows and calling the police, and I’m sure you would too!

Of course, it might be a little unfair of me to blame all this noise on drunk people. Possibly, some of the yelling is coming from sober people who just don’t care about what others think. But because drinking lowers our inhibitions, loosens us up, and clouds our thinking and judgement, I’m inclined to feel that drunk people are more likely than sober people to scream. That being said, it shouldn’t matter whether you’re stone cold sober or completely wasted: the facts remain. Yelling at night is inconsiderate, and disruptive to people who don’t deserve to have you bothering them. More importantly, screaming is a form of crying wolf, and could have important negative consequences for someone genuinely being assaulted. And finally, itis possible to have fun without screaming your head off. Nobody is preventing you from having a good time. We’re just asking you to have a good time quietly.

So don’t drink and yell.

This message brought to you by a concerned (and slightly grouchy) Anna.

Live Rap Video

Yesterday, a man carrying a beatbox boarded the bus I was on and made his way to the back. He laid his beatbox across two seats and turned it on. Then he kicked the air a couple times, and sat down. The beatbox played a gentle beat, and nothing else. And then the guy started talking (or freestyling, I guess?). I won’t go into what he said, as most of it was either obscene or completely illogical, but I couldn’t decide whether I admired him or not. I mean, on one hand, he was rude and loud and disruptive. But on the other hand, the guy had his own soundtrack! Everywhere he went. It’s like he was the star in his own (bad) live action rap video. How cool is that??