Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This is stupid!

A spruce tree grower in Nova Scotia isn't happy his 16-metre Christmas tree has become a "holiday" tree in Massachusetts.

Every fall, the province sends a tree to Boston as a thank-you gift for the help the New England city gave Halifax after the devastating 1917 ship explosion that levelled parts of Nova Scotia's capital.

Officials with Boston's parks department decided it would be less offensive to some people and generally more inclusive if the word "Christmas" was dropped when they referred to the tree.

"A lot of people celebrate various religious holidays but also enjoy the lights, and we're trying to be inclusive," said Toni Pollak, Boston's commissioner of parks.

A lot of people celebrate various religious holidays but also enjoy candles, and no one would dare call a menorah a "holiday candelabra." (Nor, I think, would anyone want to show such disrespect!)

Yes, a support inclusive language (ie. "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas") and a greater awareness of how language is used in general, but--honestly--I think this is getting ridiculous. Just because you change the name of a symbol doesn't make the symbol itself any more "inclusive"/"less offensive." Reappropriating a name doesn't necessarily reappropriate the symbol with which it is associated.

Besides, the Christmas tree--which is a symbol the early Christians carried forth from their pre-Christian religious traditions--isn't actually a religious symbol, but rather (one of the) emblem(s) of the secularized celebration of a religious feast-day; the tree isn't a religious symbol itself.

Levelling and sanitizing are not pre-conditions of inclusivity.

On the other hand, not merely tolerance of, but respect for the various religions and their symbols (in both their sacred and secular incarnations) are.


Jae said...

Tut. I'm not Christian but I celebrate the secular Christmas, the one without the religious bits, and find it disturbing some people feel the need to change the language of one religion to suit all the others. The mind boggles to imagine what Eid will be renamed. Or Passover... Once you start renaming things you might as well go the full distance!

Ecks Ridgehead said...

It's silly, isn't it? Luckily though, these kinds of stories (in the UK, at least) only seem to involve local authorities treading on eggshells; the general populace - of whatever faith, colour or creed - tend not to give a monkey's. There is rarely a case of anyone actually being offended by a " Christmas" tree and requesting that it be changed.

But if you want to play it safe, just celebrate Isaac Newton's birthday on December the 25th...

Natalie said...

This kind of name changing (not all manner of renaming, mind you)--"levelling and sanitizing" language, as I put it--is, I think, the most sinister form of mind control/brainwashing. When you control the manner and means of communication, you can control the ideas communicated. (Orwell and Foucault were more than just on to something!) Furthermore, I can't see how it teaches tolerance! If anything, it encourages assinine, retaliatory-like measures like this one in Oxford, Nova Scotia.

I'm sorry, guys. I get the sense that I'm preaching to the already converted. The whole thing just makes me so angry, though!