So Christmas got me thinking. And yeah, I said it, Christmas. None of that generic, politically correct ‘Happy Holidays’ nonsense, but Christmas. The day celebrated predominantly by Christians and commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.
To be fair, anyone who knows me knows damn well I don’t personally celebrate Christmas. Not because of some conflicting religious or cultural belief, it’s just not my thing and that’s another story entirely. But watching various companies and brands and people tip toeing through the politically correct minefield got me thinking: What the fuck is the big deal about celebrating everything?
Let’s not censor celebrations.
When I lived in Cambodia, my Khmer friends celebrated all sorts of things. Water Festival. Pchum Ben (Ancestor’s Day). International Fish Day. You name it. (I’m pretty sure they have more public holidays than just about any other country on the planet!*) And none of my friends were particularly worried about offending me by celebrating them. And nor should they have been. In fact, I was happy enough to have the public holidays for whatever they wanted to celebrate thanks very much. At times, I even joined in to a greater or lesser degree.
They weren’t my beliefs, but that’s fine. It’s a wide world and I was more than happy for them to celebrate pretty much anything and everything they wanted. And I quite enjoyed using the opportunity to learn a little about their culture and beliefs. In return, to the best of my knowledge, they had absolutely no problem with me celebrating anything I chose to either.
So why on Earth are we worried about whether or not we’re allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore? Why is everyone from Starbucks to the local school or Child Care Centre now too scared to say, let alone celebrate it? Our American friends don’t dumb down Halloween in case it upsets witches. Or druids. Or Michael Myers. Or whoever the hell may take offence. They don’t dumb down Thanksgiving or Independence Day or Labor Day or a whole heap of other days, so I’m genuinely not sure why any of us, anywhere, should be worried about what we do and don’t say. Or celebrate.
Celebrate more. Not less.
In a world that can sometimes be quite dim and grey, surely we should be celebrating more, not less? We shouldn’t be telling people not to celebrate things, we should be joining in and celebrating everything. We’re not going to develop cultural understanding and tolerance by doing less, by shying away from our own beliefs, by self censoring our celebrations. On the contrary. Let’s everyone celebrate everything.
If you don’t want to join in, that’s fine. Don’t. I don’t celebrate Christmas, or Halloween or probably 99% of the world’s other significant days, but I’m more than happy for anyone else to do so.
My celebration is not an insult.
I’m also reminded of the time I attended Indonesian Independence Day celebrations at the Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh. I went along to share that particular celebration with my Indo friends. It wasn’t supposed to be disrespectful to the Dutch who used to rule that country. And this is also important. Sometimes days get a bad rap based on differing perspectives. Australia Day has fallen foul of this in recent times as well, being dubbed ‘invasion day’. The reality is, there aren’t many countries on earth who weren’t once called something else, ruled by someone else, or part of some other region or country or kingdom. We shouldn’t forget that. But does that mean we should pretend people never came to Australia and settled the country? Come. On. It happened. White settlers came here. It’s part of what makes the country what it is today. And celebrating that, need not be a kick in the teeth to the original indigenous inhabitants. Hey, let’s celebrate their awesome culture also. There’s enough celebrating to go around.
Perhaps think of it in sporting terms: the winning team celebrates. Not to be mean spirited to the losing team, but because of their particular achievement. Sure there’s a ying to the yang, and I don’t mean to trivialize the beliefs or hardships of others. I can celebrate civilization and progress, and celebrate nature. Just as I can celebrate all kinds of other things that may, at times, seem slightly, or even completely, contradictory. Because to me the secret to a better world isn’t to contract and start celebrating less, but rather to be tolerant and inclusive and celebrate more.
* This Business Insider article lists India as having the most public holidays with 21, but depending on how many of these are ‘official’, I’m pretty sure Cambodia has got their 21 well and truly covered.