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Silence Those Bells

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Jingle bells, jingle bells.

Will someone please turn off those stupid jingling bells?

Why must we be attacked by the ghost of Christmas commercialism everywhere we go? And why has this been the case since, oh, October?

In practically every place you go in this country, Christmas music is playing, so that annoying earworms begin to travel with you. It's as though they're a constant reminder that you're supposed to be feeling jolly and spending lots of money.

And speaking of spending money, why are we supposed to send cards to and buy gifts for everyone in our address books, regardless of whether we (or they) actually celebrate Christmas? Gosh, could it be because merchants are looking to boost their bottom lines, so they not-so-subtly pressure us with their bright, large displays of products?

If I want to buy presents for friends or loved ones, I do. I don't need to be told to do so by stores or greeting card companies. I don't like enforced gift-giving, where people have to buy useless presents for one another simply because that's what you do at Christmas. Where's the fun and joy in that? Wouldn't it be so much nicer to give presents to people when you found things they liked and you wanted to surprise them, rather than because it was the traditional gift-exchange?

I'm not Christian and I don't celebrate Christmas. A number of English friends have informed me that I'm wrong: "everyone" celebrates Christmas and it's not a religious holiday. I think many Christians would beg to differ: Christmas was traditionally a holiday to honour Christ - you remember Christ, right, that guy who was the basis of the Christian religion. And if Christmas isn't a religious holiday, what is it? A stressful season of crowded stores, frantic shopping, and enforced good will? Why is that worth celebrating?

I can understand the desire for a few days off during what is in the northern hemisphere one of the darkest times of year. As a teacher, I certainly appreciate having a short break between semesters. But I definitely don't appreciate the way this time of year has been turned into a non-stop carnival for commercialism, and a very Christian-centric one at that.

A few years ago, I finished off the semester by wishing my students a "relaxing break". A colleague heard of this and told me I was being offensive by not specifically saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Christmas". I pointed out that not all my students celebrated Christmas and that I was leaving my well-wishes open to individual interpretation. Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, Ashura, and yes, even Christmas, are all holidays that often (but not always) happen in December. On our calendar, the new year starts at the end of December. Why not let my diverse student body choose for themselves which holiday/s, if any, they want to acknowledge and which holiday/s, if any, they want to believe I am referring to? And what's wrong with wishing them a relaxing couple of weeks off from their studies, anyway?

In short, Christmas seems to have taken over December (and November and much of October, too). I don't see why it should. I'm aware I might sound like a grinch who wants to steal Christmas, but that's not actually the case. I think we should leave Christmas to the Christians. And in return, Christmas can leave the rest of us alone.

I for one would be grateful for a month of silent nights, and silent days.