As the Christmas season nears, get ready to be inundated by politically correct attempts to downplay the true meaning of our joyous holiday. In fact, it’s already started. Visiting the websites of some of our more prominent retailers, we can see the early signs. Wal-Mart’s homepage greets us with “holiday cheer” and offers us “holiday trees” and “holiday stockings.” The word “Christmas” appears only after you click on a few product details. HBC has no mention of Christmas and neither does Home Depot. Even the Pottery Barn, one of the busiest places during the Christmas shopping stampede, doesn’t mention the holiday by name. Instead, we get to browse through their catalogue of “holiday trim selections.” Strangely enough, Santa Claus himself, the secular guardian of the commercial side of Christmas, seems to be missing in action this year. Did someone finally blow Santa’s cover to reveal his secret identity – St. Nicholas? Has he been blacklisted and deemed unmentionable along with Jesus himself? Seemingly, only Canadian Tire still has the courage to use the “C” word.
The corporate world’s erosion of Christmas is an interesting phenomenon that has been taking shape for some time. In a country where the forces of political correctness have permeated government institutions, and where multi-culturalism and secularism are viewed as justifications to erase any traces of Christianity from the public realm, it was inevitable that corporations would feel compelled to follow suit. The first phase was to stamp out Christmas at the workplace, lest any non-Christian be offended.
Throughout my career, I have seen this war on Christmas firsthand. Managers replacing Christmas cards in favour of cards wishing their employees and customers “Season’s Greetings,” “Happy Holidays” or even “World Peace.” Christmas parties supplanted by employee activity days held in July. Christmas trees no longer erected in workplace lobbies. I have seen managers disciplined for allowing workers to mount a small Christmas tree in their plant and for organizing “Cringle” gift exchanges.
A better approach to dealing with Christmas at the workplace is to allow employees to celebrate holidays that are important to them. Numerous workplaces allow decorations recognizing Muslim and Jewish holidays as well as Christian ones. This is a far more effective way of promoting inclusion and diversity than banning everything. Banning everything excludes everyone.
The second mistake of the corporate world involves playing down Christmas to customers. This is where corporations face a huge dilemma, since Christmas is the busiest time of the year for retailers and the promotion of Christmas products is essential. This dilemma, of course, is needless. The simple solution is for companies not to fear Christmas and to give customers exactly what they want – a Christmas theme in their stores. Retailers profit by meeting the demands of consumers. As it happens, the vast majority of Canadian consumers celebrate Christmas in one way or another and that celebration includes buying decorations, trees and gifts. Why, then, should it matter to corporations that not everyone celebrates Christmas, when enough of us do to create a great market for them to turn a nice profit from offloading their Christmas products? It can’t be the fear of losing non-Christian customers. There is no evidence to suggest that non-Christians boycott stores that display “Merry Christmas” signs and sell religious Christmas cards or, for that matter, Nativity scenes.
The best way for retailers to feel secure in the fact that they are not alienating anyone is simply to act like retailers and respond to market demands, not the opinions of those who preach political correctness. They should offer Christians an ample supply of religious supplies for Christmas, as well as secular Christmas-related items for the non-religious who celebrate, but do not attach religious connotations to, the holiday. Moreover, retailers need to be aware of the consumer market that they operate in and provide other religious products that may be in demand at different times of the year – products that other religious groups may want to purchase to help them celebrate holidays they deem significant.
As we get closer to the Yuletide season, it will be interesting to observe the actions of business. Will business turn its back on Christmas, even though Christmas is good for business? For their sake, and ours, let us hope not.
A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.
Michael Filonienko is a Toronto-based consultant and freelance writer.