Keeping the C in Christmas

I’m not an overly religious person. Like a lot of people, I’ve dabbled with church on and off ever since attending Sunday school as a child

I’m not an overly religious person. Like a lot of people, I’ve dabbled with church on and off ever since attending Sunday school as a child, but found that my sense of spirituality doesn’t mesh that well with organized religion.

Growing up in Scotland, this clash first reared its head when I saw how destructive the Catholic vs. Protestant street war was — divided schools, divided neighbours, divided football teams, etc. None of it made sense to me, and still doesn’t. For a practice that at its core is meant to preach peace, love and understanding, it has a dark and ongoing history of inciting the exact opposite.

As an adult, organized religion failed me again when I noticed that the most blatant hypocrites tended to also be the ones who bragged about being closest to God’s bosom. I met people who could justify cheating on their wives or their taxes or any number of sins, but still felt a need to misquote the Bible in order to spread hatred of others over such things as gay marriage.

Not everyone is like that, right enough. In my travels, I have made a lot of great friends through church. When one is new in town, church services have always been the best places to meet friendly and welcoming people.

As we enter December, a large group of people will be dusting off their Sunday suits and dresses for their once-a-year pilgrimage to one of Victoria’s elegant churches or chapels to celebrate Christmas.

Yes, the C word.

A word that has become almost taboo on the lips of store clerks, advertisers, shoppers and media.

“You can’t use the C-word,” I’m told. “Use ‘Holiday’ or ‘Festive’ instead.”

But it’s not a holiday. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one or two days off work, which is more of a break than a vacation.

And you can’t wish someone a ‘Happy Festive Day’ without sounding like a total dork. And besides, I celebrate Christmas. I have friends who celebrate Hanukkah, and I know others who celebrate Winter Solstice and Rohatsu.

If I wish someone a “Merry Christmas” they can answer back “And you” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “Wonderful Solstice” because they all mean the same thing — and that is, “I hope you’re happy.”

Religion is something best practised within the privacy of your own home or your own meeting place, but we have to stop punishing people for using the C-word because some zealots believe it’s forcing Christianity down our throats.

That’s like banning “Hello” because it could be a subliminal message from Satan to get you thinking about buying a winter condo in balmy Hades.

Christ is in Christmas because it’s a day set aside to celebrate his birth, but the message is universal: “Peace be among you.” M

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