Queen's University

Will that be "Season's Greetings" or "Merry Christmas"?

The Review received a deluge of letters from readers who wrote in response to the article by Scott Kemp, Artsci'02, MPA'05, that appeared in our Fall 2011 issue ("Merry Christmas to us, one and all," p. 8). What the letter writers had to say might surprise you.

Season’s greetings” is more inclusive

I read Scott Kemp’s article and felt the need to respond. As a Jewish alumnus, I am glad to receive “Season’s Greetings” messages from people and organizations. To me, this is not about “the simple fact that the majority of Canadians value the celebration of Christmas,” but rather that Queen’s is – and should be – an institution that values diversity and inclusion. Valuing diversity and inclusion acknowledges and includes all members of the population, not just the majority. Kemp states that “the primary reason this is the Holiday season is because of Christmas….” I think there are many who celebrate Diwali, Kwanza, and Hanukah, as well as other festivals at this time of year, who would disagree. If we only cater to the majority, then why do we concern ourselves with accessibility for the disabled? Why would we go to the expense of installing a ramp at the entrance to a building? We do it because we are an inclusive society and it is the right thing to do.
     Kemp states that Christmas has “been celebrated . . . in Canada for well over 400 years.” What he doesn’t say is that the early settlers to Canada brought Christianity and it’s celebrations with them. Christmas became a Canadian tradition, it was not always one.
Since the time of the early settlers, many others who have come to Canada have brought their traditions with them. And in the same way that Kemp honors his heritage by celebrating Christmas, others honor their heritage by celebrating other holidays. Traditions change and grow. The “cultural legacy” we should value is that Canada is a place where everyone is welcome and where everyone has the freedom to have his or her own beliefs.
     Scott Kemp should continue to celebrate Christmas, but what he shouldn’t be doing is advocating that his beliefs are more important than others. If I know someone celebrates Christmas, I wish him or her a “Merry Christmas.” If I know they celebrate Hanukah, I say, “Happy Hanukah.” If I don’t know what they celebrate, I say “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” because I want to be inclusive and respect the beliefs of all.
     Have a “Merry Christmas,” Scott Kemp, and “Season’s Greetings” to everyone else.
Sandra Morrison, Artsci’86
Burlington, ON

A timely and thought-provoking article

I received my copy of the Review today and, as always, I made it a priority to sit down and read it from cover to cover. I was very pleased to see the inclusion of Scott Kemp's opinion piece on the place of Christmas in the cultural heritage of the University, its alumni association and, indeed, our country.
Thank you for making space for this timely and thought-provoking article. I could not agree more strongly with Scott Kemp.
Richard Anderson, Artsci'91, Ed'92, MEd'09
Belleville, ON

And a big MERRY CHRISTMAS to you too, Scott Kemp! I agree with you wholeheartedly.
Irene (Jakubassa) Frezell, Artsci’87, Ed’88
Kitchener, ON

Reading this excellent opinion article was like a breath of fresh air. I wish to congratulate Scott Kemp on his initiative. I had already decided to include a rider with all our donations in 2012 stating that if we receive any communication from them toward the end of the year that ignores the fact that the reason why there are holidays at this time of the year is because of Christmas, We will remove their name from our list of over 100 to whom we regularly donate. Since Queens University is on that list, they will receive this notice.
Dalton McIntyre, Sc'47
Ottawa, ON

The letter writer is also a WW II navy veteran. – Ed.

As Scott Kemp points out, "the primary reason that this is the holiday season is because of Christmas, which is one of the most important holidays in our culture." With this thought in mind, we must begin to openly reflect on this reality during the Christmas season.
Too many Canadians are concerned that the use of such words as Christmas, Easter, etc. will offend non-Christian Canadians. Possibly it will, but we must vigorously defend our cultural traditions or they will be lost to future generations. For example, Christmas has already been "expelled" from our public school system.
Congratulations to Scott Kemp for his fortitude in documenting this unfortunate erosion of our once-proud heritage. And Merry Christmas.
Harry Martin, Arts'53
Ottawa, ON

I am writing in support of the opinion piece by Scott Kemp. I agree that it is incumbent on all of us to support and maintain our proud cultural legacy.
Leslie Foreman, MA 72
Kingston, ON

I completely support Scott Kemp’s position, and I feel that he has clearly articulated some very good reasons why "Merry Christmas" is the most appropriate greeting for the Queen's University Alumni Association to use. Thank you for printing the article and inviting feedback.
Vicki Bassett, NSc’80
Almonte, ON

I agree 100% with Scott Kemp’s request. Merry Christmas to you and yours,
Cathy Driscoll, PhD’94
Halifax, NS

I’m writing to tell you how much I loved Scott Kemp's request to bring Christmas back to Queen's.
Dr. Suess, the author of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, would be proud of Scott. I'm sure that there will be those writing to you who are just fine with the term "Season's Greetings" and like the fact that it sums up in one term that those from different cultures are all celebrating in various ways at the end of the year. I get this, to a point.
     However, in my opinion, the terms "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" are watered-down, unspecific and boring when you consider the history and tradition of Canada (as Scott mentioned).
In attempting to please everyone, people run the risk of pleasing no one. When TV ads mention the irritating term "Happy Holidays", most of us know that these ads are largely referring to Christmas...you see red and green boxes, hear jingle bells, and lighted, decorated fir trees. If we try to throw out/water down our Canadian heritage and traditions, our country runs the risk of becoming bland and colourless. I’m so tired of political correctness, particularly on university campuses in this country. It seems that some members of the university "elite" do-gooders are incredibly out-of-touch with what really matters to most Canadian families. In fact, the majority of Canadians (around 70 per cent, according to Stats Canada) are Christian and celebrate Christmas. In addition to the 70 per cent Christian majority, there are many other Canadians who are not religious, nor Christian who still "do Christmas" simply because it's great fun for friends, family and kids. Many of my friends approach Christmas this way.
     So I say, go ahead and use "Merry Christmas." Majority rules. Nevertheless, feel free, if you wish, to also specifically name some other popular holidays that happen near the end of the year (for example, one to three per cent of Canadians are Jewish). I think a Gap radio ad did this last year, which I thought was great.
     Last year, at the end-of-year party, my husband's boss used the dull term "Happy Holidays." This year I’m going to suggest to him that he send out an email to his staff members a few days before the party and ask them if they want him to mention at the party the name of the specific holidays they celebrate (some may say Christmas, some Diwali, some Hanukkah, etc.). It would only take a few minutes for him to mention the specific names of the various holidays submitted by the staff, and people from a variety of backgrounds would feel truly acknowledged. This would be a good way to show the true "diversity" of the staff, instead of lumping everyone together by using the non-specific phrase of "Happy Holidays".
Christmas is a wonderful holiday for children and adults alike. It can and should represent sharing and fun, concepts that even non-Christians can and are welcome to enjoy.
     A Jewish friend of mine always goes to a Christmas tree-trimming party every year and has a great time. I recently lived in East Toronto, and many non-Christian recent immigrants from East Asia enjoyed local Christmas events such as Christmas songs, foods, gift exchanges and visits with Santa. This is similar to those who move to England and learn to enjoy the tradition of afternoon tea time there . . . "When in Rome . . . ." For so many Canadians, saying "Merry Christmas" is an excellent way to express peace, love, and generosity towards others, including towards the poor and isolated, at this time of year. This is what the Grinch finally learns, too. Maybe, just maybe, Christmas means "something a little bit more.”
Julie Green, Artsci’90
Toronto, ON

 

 

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2011-12-20
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