Saturday, December 24, 2005
HAVE YOURSELF A . . .
erry Little Christmas.... and a Happy Hanukkah too!
Down here in the steamy heart of Bangkok, the Gecko and I agree. The Western Jihad against Christmas is silly. The fear of offending a non-Christian who might overhear one person wishing another a hearty "Merry Christmas" along with the acceptable "Happy New Year," is silly. The declarations in past years by some Islamic "thinkers" in Indonesia, that for Muslims to extend good wishes to Christians with a simple "Selamat Hari Natal" was in some way sinful, was silly (even shaking hands with a non-Muslim was frowned on by these folks). Most Muslims don't buy that sort of intolerance, and it's exceedingly strange to see so many non-Muslims in Western countries -- obsequious Christians and non-religious believers alike -- equating this bizarre form of intolerance with political correctness.
The Thais don't need to even think about this stuff. If it's Songkran time, you wish a happy Songkran to your friends. You don't worry about, say, a person of the Hindu belief system overhearing you and feeling offended (if one does, it's his problem, not yours). Any foreigner can expect to be wished "Merry Christmas" whether the speaker knows his religion or not. It's simply seen as the major Western cultural festival of the year, and the speaker is simply expressing his or her good wishes, in a spirit of tolerance and acceptance.
This has also been my experience in Indonesia, when I've been there at this time of year. Asians (at least in these parts) are mostly very generous in this way -- curious and accepting of other traditions, happy to participate with the appropriate greeting, and don't worry about it. The more the merrier! Exactly why it's become part of Western ways to feel embarrassed or ashamed of these traditions, and why so many seem to get all uptight about them, is a mystery to me. Why not just call it a "Christmas tree," if that's what it is? It has nothing to do with any other holidays, of which there are many -- so what's with the "Holiday Tree" nonsense? I can't figure it out, but it does perhaps point to trends in Western "developed" societies. Self-directed cultural intolerance seems to be the wave of the future.
Anyway, in the spirit of Season's Greetings (and "Grated Seasonings," which I have also been known to use in years past), I offer this Christmas card to friends, family and unacquainted readers alike. Many will know that I've not been too much of a "Christmasy" person for the past number of years, mostly because of its association with a loss in our family which happened exactly 21 years ago today, Christmas Eve 1984. But he loved Christmas, and he made it wonderful for all of us while we had him. So it's in his memory that I extend my Grated Seasonings, and Merry Christmas to all.
And lest this post be considered too serious, I'll add something I came across the other day (wai Mark in Mexico) that's sure to give you a chuckle. But please don't take from this that I'm fervently anti-Hill or anything, I just think it's clever and well written. I'll give you one stanza to tempt you:
She was dressed all in white from her head to her toe,Read the rest!
All except for a pink blouse that set her aglow;
An American flag pin she wore with great pride,
And she looked to my eyes like a blushing new bride.
Her eyes -- how they sparkled! Her cheeks were so rosy!
Her little pug nose just like Nancy Pelosi!
Her sweet smiling lips bore no hint of complaint
And her overall bearing was that of a saint.
As an aside, my apologies for being AWOL for the past week. A new computer acquisition for the Gecko's plush and opulent yet tastefully appointed editing suites, has been taking up my time. Moving files from our old beater dating from '98, getting things set up to work on a new operating system (my first crack at XP), and just generally playing with a not-yet-obsolete machine, has been my week-long preoccupation. Now I can post without having to change internet connections to a dial-up before it'll work. I'll even start separating articles rather than having a number in a single post (that's how slow the dial-up was, too much waiting to post them separately). I may even get a couple of new ones out later tonight.
My thoughts today are also, unavoidably, with Indonesia. There is a well-founded concern apparently, that extremists are planning their traditional Christmas Eve attacks. While many moderate Muslim organisations, as mentioned here a few weeks ago, are helping to safeguard churches across the country, jihadis are thought to be wanting to avenge the death of Dr. Azahari. Evidence gleaned at that event pointed toward possible large and numerous attacks in the planning, and who knows if they are still capable of carrying them out. Six years ago, I spent this evening, Christmas Eve, with a Catholic friend in Yogyakarta -- the first and only time I've attended a Catholic Mass. There were no problems, but I later heard of a few attacks on other churches (around Jakarta, as I recall). The following Christmas Eve saw coordinated bomb attacks right across Java which killed, I think, 17 people and wounded many. Let it not happen again, and may the Christians of Indonesia, and everywhere else for that matter, have a peaceful, safe and happy Christmas Eve.