Monday, November 17, 2008

Welcome To Pottersville

Do you remember the part in "It's A Wonderful Life"? where the angel Clarence Odbody takes George Bailey around Bedford Falls to show him what it would be like if George weren't alive? Without George, Bedford Falls has turned into Pottersville, and it's horrible. It's mostly a slum with Main Street dominated by pawn shops and sleazy bars. Everything is crass and seedy, there is no spirit left in the town. Everyone is angry and depressed, and worst of all Christmas has gone away and it doesn't snow anymore.

Well, it's already started. Here in Vancouver, decorations have gone up in all the shops and malls, and the store fronts have painted-on signs wishing everyone "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays". Magazines in the supermarkets have their "holiday" issues on display, and commercials on television are advertising "holiday" gifts. Well, first of all, it's way to early for my liking. And second, there is no reference - anywhere - to Christmas. It feels like Pottersville. Everything feels crass and seedy, and not at all like Christmas.

What has happened to Christmas? Why have we allowed it to be taken away from us? I have celebrated Christmas all my life; not "holiday", but Christmas. It is a tradition with deep roots in my culture. But, in order to be all-inclusive, rather than inviting other cultures into sharing our celebration of Christmas, we have homogenized it down to something that we hardly recognize anymore. How the hell did Christmas become politically incorrect, and why have we permitted that to happen?

It feels like Pottersville!

In Vancouver we celebrate all the cultures. We celebrate Chinese New Years with a wonderful parade and all kinds of parties and dinners; we have two large parades celebrating Vaisakhi, the Sikh holiday; we celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which is the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. During Chanukah our Vancouver Art Gallery erects a large menorah and the lighting of the menorah has become an annual tradition.

Nowhere does anyone mention that dreaded "C" word - Christmas. Nowhere!

How did this happen? If other cultures, in the spirit of all-inclusiveness, are permitted to celebrate their traditions openly and with joy, why are we not permitted to celebrate Christmas? Not "holiday" - Christmas!

This year I vow I am going to visit every mall and every store, armed with my can of spray paint, and the paint the word

wherever I find that offensive word "holiday". And then it won't feel so much like Pottersville anymore.

22 comments:

KathyB. said...

Amen Johanna ! Just don't get caught because then we will all have to chip in and bail you out of jail !

Jo said...

Kathy, *heh, heh* Well, it will be worth it, won't it? LOL

Leslie: said...

Thanks to Mr. Trudeau! :P

frizzy scissorhands said...

christmas does not exist anymore in our society, just some empty holiday, designed and hyped by retailers to increase their earnings. i think this year i will try something new ~ rejecting the holiday hype and making my own christmas ...

Russell said...

Cheers!!! Applause!! More cheers!!

Several weeks ago the President of our college sent an email that said the college will be closed on "Holiday Eve Day." I thought, wait a minute... does he mean Christmas Eve??!!

I sent him a note saying political correctness had gone WAAYYY too far when Christmas Eve is referred to as Holiday Eve Day!!!!

But, you are right. Every other religious based day or celebration is referred to by its religious name -- but when you get to Christmas or Easter, you have to be politically correct..!! Heh!

Put me on record as being politically incorrect and let me be one of the very first people to wish you, Johanna, a most wonderful Merry Christmas! this year!!

Carl said...

Hi Jo.

I suggest some egg nog and "Its a wonderful life" in the vcr. Repeat as needed.

Carl

willow said...

I say call your head angel. "Jo-seph! Jo-seph!" ;^)

RiverPoet said...

Yes, I agree with you, Josie. I think in trying to be something for everyone, we have gotten rid of the concept of Christmas. I'm sorry, but if you have a problem with what it's called, then don't celebrate it!!! We've been reduced to consumers once a year, not spiritual beings.

Peace - D

Charles Gramlich said...

I still say Merry Christmas and always will. I agree though that our holiday has been hijacked by corporate interests who don't want to offend anyone while they riffle your pockets for cash.

Jo said...

Leslie, oh, yes. *sigh*

Frizzy, yes, it has become more than commercialized. We have given it away. I want it back!

Russell, thank you! I think Christmas will be very nice this year! I wonder, too, what would happen if the Vancouver Art Gallery put a cross up on its lawn, instead of a menorah? There would be holy old hell to pay! Argh!

Carl, oh, yes! *heh*

Willow, yes! Jo-seph and I are going to spread some Christmas cheer this year!

Riverpoet, yes, it's all about reaching as many consumers as possible, isn't it? And the retailers in question probably don't celebrate Christmas themselves!

Charles, I agree completely. We need to make them stop, stop, stop!

Hilary said...

It depends on what you're looking at. Christmas is one single day of the year, and I certainly don't begrudge anyone calling it what it is. But the "holidays" are exactly that.. the days in which people have time to celebrate whatever it is they believe in, if anything at all.

There's far too much hype, advertising and commercialism in general surrounding one single day. And it really has very little if anything at all to do with Christmas.

I live in a very diverse neighbourhood. A significant percentage of our population is not Christian. They still have holidays and take joy in that. Holiday is a generic term which does not assume everyone celebrates Christmas.

I totally agree that Christmas itself should be referred to by name, but the season surrounding one day is what seems to me, to be in question. I'm for the appropriate use of Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan etc. To rename a Christmas tree "Holiday tree" is as ludicrous as the fictional Hanukkah bush. But when stores are selling items to the masses for two months prior to Christmas, it just seems wrong to me for everyone to be inundated with labeling that "Christmas."

Happy Festivus, to the rest of us. ;)

Deb said...

I remember the three distinct greetings. First, there was "Happy Thanksgiving". As the guests left your house, you began saying "Merry Christmas" for the next 4 to 5 weeks. As your guests left your home on Christmas day, you waved and said "Happy New Year". If I was talking to my Jewish friends, I would tell them "Happy Hanukkah". I refuse to break this tradition, let me tell you that I will spread this cheer as long as I have air in my lungs! Amen....or is that politically incorrect, too!

Anonymous said...

Right on Josie!!! It will always be "Merry Christmas" as far as I'm concerned. I do believe though that if you go through with that little spray paint job you have planned I may have to bring you a care package to the lockup!! Donna

On a limb with Claudia said...

It's an interesting thing - Christmas. Living in a much less diverse, and segregated city, Christmas is still celebrated in loud form.

HAPPY IN NEVADA said...

Hi JoHanna - first, thank you for the wonderful e-mail.

Second: How I overcame this 'Christmas' thing????

I have my home decorated for Christmas 365 days/year; have had for 10 years now, because I was TIRED of it either being 'too early' (for me), or 'too commercial'.

Then I told my family and friends that CHRISTMAS IS A SPIRIT YOU HAVE INSIDE YOU - 365, and it's WHAT YOU DO YEAR-ROUND, that makes Christmas 'real' and joyful 24/7-365!

My motor-home is FILLED with toys; gifts for people/kids I meet while traveling. Some people ask me if I 'sell toys for a living', and I say I 'give away toys for joy'. The main living area of the motor-home is decorated with Christmas items; on my dining table is the beautiful scene of Christ's birth, and I LOVE HAVING CHRISTMAS IN MY LIFE, MY WAY, all the time.

I also ask that no one give me gifts; they give to the charity of their choice in MY NAME, and tell me the charity after they give their offering. I've convinced my grown children to start this program of giving to those in need; NO GIFTS ARE GIVEN TO EACH OTHER NOW because we have THE GIFT OF LOVE AND FAMILY, WHICH IS THE SPIRIT OF GIVING.

When you celebrate what the Christ represented throughout his life, you MUST GIVE and never ever think of the 'get' side of life.

The more you GIVE, the more you GET - it works over and over.

In the USA they've commercialized every darned holiday they can dream up - anything to celebrate mom, dad, grandparents, kids - secretaries; you name it, and the 'capitalists' will think up a way to CAUSE YOU TO SPEND MONEY to celebrate.

Celebrate the JOY and it costs NOTHING! Call it Christmas or Easter - call it love - call it what you want, and SPEND NOTHING BUT TIME giving and showing/sharing love and understanding.

If you do this, then you don't have to SPRAY PAINT anything - you just SMILE and enjoy the SEASON OF LIFE; AND THERE IS A SEASON FOR ALL THINGS AND ALL THINGS ARE ALWAYS IN SEASON.

Regards, Diane

xup said...

You need to complain to the Charter of Rights people and demand you be allowed to celebrate your religious days. Seriously, someone should take it to court. That's what everyone else did to get their celebrations public notice

JR's Thumbprints said...

I read the story as a reprint in Zoetrope. Philip Van Doren Stern couldn't get the story published, so he sent it to everyone he knew for Christmas. The main character sold brushes. I wish I would've kept that issue of Zoetrope. Really lifted my spirits.

julia said...

If you do spraypaint it, take a picture. I'd love to see it.

I read your comment on 'wordmechanic' and wanted to say a qick 'right you are'.
The European countries have great problems with health care and University fees at the moment, because our societies are aging and it can't work the way it used to. But at least these countries still believe that health care and education are important.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Things are looking up.

The signes don't say "Merry X-mas" any more.

They spell it out.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Oh dang it all. Happy Hannukah.

But then someone on the Feast of Aiid will write in.

Firefly said...

Over here in SA I am glad to say that we still refer to it as Christmas and not as "holiday". It seems to be an American thing which have spilled over to you guys. The thing here is that Christmas celebrations are seen as winter scenes while over here Christmas is in the middle of summer. This means that our Christmas is celebrated a little differently from what people tend to see on tv.

Jo said...

Hilary, "Happy Festivus" to you too! Heh, heh.

Deb, yes, I remember those greetings too. Anything else sounds hollow, doesn't it? Sadly.

Donna, I plan to be on the 6:00 news on Global TV. Watch for me. :-)

Claudia, we have lost a lot of our traditions here, in the name of political correctness. Bah, humbug!

Happy, well, what can I say, except, MERRY CHRISTMAS! *heh*

XUP, you are so right. Someone needs to take it to Court. Yes!

Julia, welcome. Yes, don't you get tired of political correctness? Let everyone be who (whom?) they are!! :-)

Ivan, oh, yes, *sigh*

Firefly, I remember my mother telling me about her Christmases in South Africa, and it sounded wonderful. It was the middle of summer, and I thought the world was upside down!