Saving Christmas (And other Festivals)

Soon, most of you will be away, and I hope you will not be checking your emails or your tweets or facebook (Facebook is almost a non-noun now, so I choose not to capitalise it) status updates. It’s a good thing, if you will do that. And, if you do insist on staying online – I hope it is all about you telling me what a good time you are having. So,

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year.

No, I did not say Happy Holidays. Like, for example, the BBC has been doing on its channel.

The world’s changing into too much of averageness, And I will have none of it. Every specific thing that I have known – every festival is being reduced to an abstraction of meaninglessness. Hate me for it, but I refuse to participate in this politically correct (PC) charade

When it is Diwali, I will wish you a very Happy Diwali and Prosperous New year. When it’s Christmas, I will do the same. And I will wish you a Happy Id, depending on when the moon chooses to show itself. Even if it for a moment in that day, I will remember Guru Nanak’s teaching. I will wish you a Happy New Year, when the Parsee, the Tamilian, the Maharashtrain and when the Punjabi celebrates it; when anyone celebrates a New Year (I may not know your new year, that’s another thing). What the hell, if you decide a that a day in the year is a start of the new year, I will wish you then. (Just let me know about it)

I do not do Happy Holidays. Period.

I do not know what they mean. It is almost like wishing you a fun vacation. Which I will do – if you are going on a vacation. But I refuse to do it during a holiday given for a festival. If you look deeper at any festival, it is essentially a time to be with family and friends. To make merry, to connect, to eat together; to enjoy together. And each festival has a ritual, a means — a method — to be with family and friends. Some festivals have protocols. Some fun; some weird. You may not subscribe to them in their entirety, but in your own modified way, you will follow them, let go of your ego and high-practical-scientifically-oriented-thinking for those few days and just be. For most of us, these days, festival holidays, especially if they come in contact with a weekend, are a way to retreat from the daily routine. The significance of the festival is lost to us. Some may think that. I don’t, yet. As joint-families give way to nuclear families, it is the way to go. We still end up doing what we were essentially supposed to do at festivals. We are with family and/or friends and we make merry.

A few years ago when I had wished many of my customers in the US, a Merry Christmas, my colleague, who was based on the US for a while, had chided me for sending these messages. He identified a few of my customers, who were Jews and other non-Christians, and told me that it would be inappropriate to wish them a Merry Christmas. I thought about and acceded to his request and maintained the “Happy Holidays” protocol in the next few years. In my mind, however, I never ever completely agreed with him. He of course, never took the pain to remind me of Jewish festivals when I could wish them, specifically. I later asked him, why none of my customers ever wished anybody in my team a Happy Diwali? My team took the pain to explain that we would not be working for a Thursday and Friday and sent them Wikipedia links about Diwali. Apart from a few generous souls, no one ever wished my team a Happy Diwali. He obviously had no convincing answer. Most of the folks from the US, wished us a Merry Chirstmas, incidentally, in December as they proceeded to their “Happy Holidays”.

Isn’t it blasphemous to wish a Hindu or a Muslim a Merry Christmas? Or, for that matter, wish a Happy Diwali to a Christian? I do not know.

This post may be seen as the cultural incongruence we face, when working with different regions and religions. It possibly is; even, But, we need to make that slight extra effort; we need to understand that abstracting every festival to meaningless averages is not going to help us understand each other better. What will help us, is participating in each others’ festivals. I have been blessed that I was invited to a family Thanksgiving dinner, in the US, where the family kindly cooked chicken for me because they were not sure if I’d eat turkey (I did). I have been blessed that my friend from the UK has visited Lalbaug cha Raja, and participated in the Ganapati Aarti, with me at my home. I have been blessed that my friends, when they have stayed overnight at my place, have offered their morning Namaz at my home.

Most important of all, I have been blessed to have been taught to know and respect cultures around the world and that I can keep this respect alive without succumbing to political correctness. So, whether you are Christian or not, here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year.

What other people believe and do, does not determine who you are. What you believe and what you do, determines who you are.


6 thoughts on “Saving Christmas (And other Festivals)

  1. I think the case of X-mas is unique as compared to say Diwali or Eid. The latter are pretty much mono-religious holidays. With X-mas, there being this history of solstice festivals that predate X-ianity, which, as the claim goes, were appropriated by X-tianity. Given that murky history, calling it by the name given by the vanquishers, is kind of taking sides with the vanquishers. Besides X-mas is the most global holiday now, and it will have to bear the brunt of it, by (ironically) being stripped of its religious identity.

    The spirit of the festivals is doing the things — like you say: spending time with near and dear ones, eating, drinking, making merry. If by ‘secularizing’ the name, more people can make merry, ain’t it better?


  2. Nice piece. It would take more effort to remember every special holiday occasion, but that effort would be worth it. Besides, wishing someone a merry christmas is done in the spirit of the season. If people get overly sensitive about the hidden meanings and connotations of every damn thing, we’re going to be left with “Hello.”


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