ZYTARUK: Contemplating ghosts of Christmas past

Holy jeepers, of course it’s okay to say “Merry Christmas”

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My wife threw on her best Christmas sweater and hauled me down to South Surrey, to see the dioramas at the 20th Annual Journey of Christmas display at St. Mark Ocean Park Anglican Church.

It was nippy cold out, the lights were sparkly, and the scenes, put together by school children of long ago, were a treat. And then, it was back inside the church for a mug of hot chocolate.

I came across an easel adorned with a story I’d written for the newspaper, published on Dec. 24, 1999, under the screamer headline “Keeping Christ in Christmas.”

Of course, I had myself a read. That’s because good writing is simply irresistible.

So, I guess I’ll give myself permission to plagiarize myself to share an excerpt with you today. Kind of like embarking on an archaeological dig:

“Keep Christ in Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season. You might have seen these and similar slogans on bumper stickers this year and in years past, during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.

It’s not just a reminder. It’s a protest. For many Christians, it is deeply frustrating to see their religious holidays so heavily secularized. Jesus gets replaced by Santa at his birthday and a rabbit on the celebration of his resurrection.

It is not every day someone gets raised from the dead.

It’s quite an achievement, really. Imagine if it were you who defeated death, but you got upstaged by a bunny bearing chocolates.

Imagine achieving something so incredibly grand that it warranted dividing the history of humanity in two parts, Before Me and After Me.

Imagine the entire planet getting hysterical 2,000 years after you did your amazing thing, throwing millennial celebrations and consuming historic quantities of champagne.

Then imagine them not knowing why they’re celebrating, or worse yet, not giving a hoot.

If you can imagine yourself in those shoes — being the wallflower at your own planet-wide party — you’ll probably conclude, “It’s not easy being Jesus.”

Many who believe in Christ are deeply troubled by this mass ignoring of Christian tradition at Christmas and Easter.

Many think the world is conspiring to invalidate their personal beliefs.

But, seeing as the world is a pretty big place, most of their protests are generally confined to bumper stickers and letters to the editor around Christmas time, questioning why nativity scenes aren’t allowed in schools, why Jean Chretien’s Christmas cards say “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or why Surrey City Hall decided to rename a Christmas event “Winterfest.”

Certainly there are some secular humanist warriors who would like to see Christ removed from Christmas. They write letters questioning why a newspaper like the Now would bother to publish a story like this.

This movement against Christ in Christmas is parodied in an episode of the popular and sometimes profane cartoon South Park. In it, the townspeople become so “offended” by each other’s traditions and beliefs that they embrace a new, if not-so-sterile, hero called Hanky the Christmas Poo…”

And so on, a much younger, but nevertheless perceptive, Tom wrote in 1999.

So here we are, 19 years later.

Just how far has society wandered into this wilderness since then?

I found that out a few days ago, while enjoying a bowl of soup at a local eatery, by flipping open a copy of Star Metro Vancouver, which somebody had left on the table, to this screamer headline: “THE BIG DEBATE: IS IT OK TO SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS?”

Holy jeepers, really?

Of course it’s okay to say “Merry Christmas.”

In fact, it should be encouraged. Permit me to wish you all a very merry one.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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Tom Zytaruk is a staff writer with the Now-Leader. He can be reached at tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com.

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READ ALSO ZYTARUK: Chasing that mysterious Christmas spirit

See below photos of the Christmas displays at St. Mark Ocean Park (Photos: Tom Zytaruk)

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