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The War on Christmas

Apparently, celebrating Christmas is now politically incorrect. Or making a big hullabaloo about it, atleast. We are now supposed to wish people “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Offices and other organizations worry about putting the ‘C’ word on their December newsletters for fear of hurting the sentiments of non-Christians. Playing carols in secular workplaces at this time is frowned upon. Celebrating the birth of Christ has suddenly acquired sinister political overtones, almost accusing the Christian world of forcing the rest into joining in the celebrations.

Which is all rubbish, ofcourse. You, I and the man on the street know that this is a concoction by people who have nothing better to do (read politicians). Why should the minorities in England feel threatened by a timeless festival? So what if it is so commercialized? Does having Christmas Cards and carols are in shops in October mean that minorities feel slighted or hurt? It’s absurd. But then that’s what this world has become. Absurd.

Can you imagine this happening in India? The “minorities” celebrate their festivals (and that of the “majority” community) with equal fervor and gusto. Can you imagine a toned down Diwali or Ganesh Chaturti just because the Muslims, Christians and Parsis might feel bad about the scale of the celebrations?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

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I spent the better part of an afternoon looking for Christmas cards with images depicting the Nativity. All I could find, however, was oodles of glitzy cards with Christmas trees, Santa’s or words like NOEL or Merry Christmas printed on them. No sign of images of the Nativity itself or anything remotely related to the event. It’s fashionable not to be ‘religious’.

Finally found one which had a drawing of the three wise men. That would have to do for now.

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Mr R & I braved cold winds and freezing temperatures to stand in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday evening to watch the traditional lighting of the Christmas tree. The Trafalgar tree is Norway’s ‘thank you’ to England for her help in the second World War. Each year, since 1947, a tree in Oslo is chosen by the Lord Mayor of Westminster and then shipped to London where the lights are lit by the Mayor of Oslo in a ceremony full of pomp and music.

This year, the Oslo Boys Choir were accompanied by Sissel, a Norwegian singer who also features on the ‘Titanic’ soundtrack. The choir of St Martin in the fields, a brass band and mini-bells wrapped up the program. It was wonderful listening to carols in English and Norwegian, even though we couldn’t feel our toes and fingers by the time the ceremony started.

For me, that is what Christmas is all about – braving all difficulties and hardships and yet finding the strength to celebrate the birth of Christ.

To all those who look at only the vast sums of money being spent on the festivities, I say leave that critical eye aside for a moment and just enjoy the feeling of joy that surrounds this month. You can feel it, even with the credit card debt and the demands on your time and wallet. You really can.

Merry Christmas everybody. No apologies here for saying it, and meaning it.

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