Appeared in the North Shore News – December 30, 2016
A few days ago, you may recall, some Canadians celebrated Christmas, the birth of Jesus.
Many others didn’t. Christianity isn’t their faith. Sensitive to them, and eyes on demographics and possibly dollar signs, greeting card designers proclaim ‘‘Happy Holidays,’’ or replace Jesus with Santa Claus, that jolly old elf with a sleighful of gifts.
TV seasonal fare wraps female-meets-male love stories around a Christmas theme (my private term for this formulaic tosh is goopies).
Overwhelmingly, radio stations jingle the bells, don’t limn the faith – oddly, otherwise stonily secular CBC devotes the day to appropriate music, including carols.
So it’s a shock, I mean a real 2016 cultural shock, that in a business paper – this paper’s sister publication, Business in Vancouver – this headline jumped out over an opinion piece published just before Christmas: ‘‘Somewhere on the road to political correctness, we lost Christmas.’’
The author’s parents were immigrants. She recalled how in 1974 she and her sisters were in tears when this chubby man in a red suit visited her school with gifts for the children: ‘‘He never visited us.’’ Her parents, who arrived here with $7 and little English, learned that incredibly difficult tongue, unmastered by none, and befriended neighbours.
Years passed, and the writer ‘‘found myself on the defensive after my employer, a Canadian TV station, surveyed employees and decided to replace the annual Christmas party with a ‘Winter Festival’ in February.’’
She voted against. Colleagues glared at her. She praises Canada’s developing inclusion, like extension of the right to vote, and protection of religious freedom. And – you may not call this a bombshell, I call it a bombshell: ‘‘Yet as government and employers work to acknowledge and respect the multicultural nature of our society, political correctness has become a one-way road that’s left Christmas out in the cold. It doesn’t seem to matter that Christmas is the country’s most significant tradition or that Statistics Canada says two-thirds of Canadians identify as Christians.’’
There’s more: “In my opinion, we are in an era of reverse exclusion and intolerance, in which saying ‘Merry Christmas’ risks giving offence, even though Christmas has a cultural significance for many non-Christians.’’
Here I briefly intrude. It is jaw-dropping that her thoughts made the public prints. It shouldn’t have taken bravery, but in Canadaland 2016 it does. Millions of us native-born paleface Euro-North Americans prefer to judiciously keep any traditional religious beliefs to ourselves. Universities, bastion of rights? A late UVic professor mocked them as ‘‘islands of repression in a sea of freedom.”
Now heed this: The writer’s name is Renu Bakshi, and be shaken into thought if you wish by her final paragraph: ‘‘So, from my Hindu family to yours, Merry Christmas.”
• • •
Be warned. The following may upset some readers as utterly tasteless.
Malcolm Parry, excellent columnist for a well-known downtown newspaper and a North Shore resident, read that I’d had a bit of a swoon from an allergenic attack. He remembered his late pal Denis Mason, who similarly ‘‘one moment was sitting in bed reading his book, and then, following the equivalent of a movie hard cut, was surrounded by hospital personnel doing restorative things to him.’’
Mason, something of a West Van character, and once owner of a Bentley three-litre, which requires a certain eccentricity, was an exceptional jazz drummer – in London he had regularly backed famed blind pianist George Shearing. In retirement
Mason played with the Docs of Dixieland, “a traditional jazz group composed, as the name suggests, of medical doctors, who somehow lacked a drummer.’’
(You’d think with all that experience with surgical instruments … well, never mind.)
The possibly offensive bit: “One of the band’s volunteer gigs was at Lions Gate Hospital’s palliative care facility. And where the Docs ended sets by playing” — a pause here for readers too young to know the once-popular song, but the title tells enough – “After You’ve Gone.”
Far from being upset by this grim reminder of impending departure, reported Parry – who fell deathly ill himself several years ago – “the patients always insisted on it, said Denis,” who was pleased “to find a sense of humour alive and well in folk who were quite the opposite.”
Maybe they found gallows amusement in Woody Allen’s famous comment, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
• • •
Once more, hard-drinking actor Pat O’Brien’s advice: “Never drink on New Year’s Eve. That’s amateur night.”
© Trevor Lautens, 2017