Christmas is an interesting time in Canadian society. Canada, like the United States, is officially a Christian country, and as such we get Christmas Day off. Yet it seems that the country is both simultaneously embracing and rejecting this, and it feels very awkward.
I have checked official sources, and the government refers to the upcoming holiday as “Christmas”. Indeed, even my school's calendar regards this time as “Christmas Holidays”. Yet, it seems that administration does not want teachers to use the word “Christmas” or the celebrate the holiday publicly. This is, to put it lightly, odd.
This trend is often said to be rooted in political-correctness. It can be easy to see why that may be. Canada relies largely on immigration, and has many large 'minority groups' which we cannot afford to alienate. When you've got a large percentage of the population that aren't white Christians, it's important to not make them feel unwanted.
Yet at the same time, this doesn't fully hold up. If that were true, the government themselves would change the holiday's name. The administration of the school board would assign a different name to the two weeks off we get. One could easily call it a plethora of other names: Xmas, Winter Holidays, End-Year Celebrations, Giftmas, Pagan Celebrations in the Guise of Christian Ones, Decemberdays...
It's probably important to note that a huge portion of the population celebrates the non-religious aspects of christmas; probably more than those who strictly celebrate the Christian aspects. When one looks at the advertised aspects of the year, symbols such as snow, presents for being good, Santa Clause, reindeer, pagan trees, friendship, and family, are much more common than baby Jesus or the virgin Mary.
Many stores already say “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!”. The reasoning behind this may be that they don't want to get sued, but that's not entirely true. As the owner of a store, they have every right to say Merry Christmas, as it does not infringe upon any rights to say it. Saying that your local Walmart is not allowed to say Merry Christmas is like saying that the local Christian store isn't allowed to say “god bless you”.
No, the real reason they aren't doing it is to try to avoid alienation. When you've got a huge retail chain servicing millions every day, of multiple backgrounds and religions, you don't want to alienate people. At least if you want to keep profits high, you don't want to.
And that's what the whole “Christmas” issue is really about. Alienation. It's about doing what makes the most people feel okay. If it was about doing the morally right thing, you'd do the same thing, as conscious alienation of people is wrong. That said, the phrase “Merry Christmas” isn't intrinsically aggressive. It doesn't mean “If you are a White Christian have a good year and praise Jesus our saviour, but if you aren't then you deserve to burn in hell for eternity you devil-worshipping heaven”.
That said, it does have obvious Christian overtones. And it's obvious to see why this would bother some people. What “Merry Christmas” means is quite simple: Enjoy this time of year, where light and goodness can be seen in the world. It's about friendship, about family, and about how good can shine through no matter what the situation, if given the time to. It's about charity and wholeness of being, and about happiness and love. Yet it also has that obvious underlying message of “Jesus saved us, so honor him”.
But hey, we have another phrase that means pretty much the same: “Happy Holidays”. And guess what: it doesn't alienate anybody. It's about love and friendship, and the good in the world. And it doesn't have to mention Jesus to do so. It's accessible, and beautiful.
So enjoy these days, have fun, and most of all: Happy Holidays.