NOTORIOUS for their generally apathetic attitude, our shop girls have gone even further overboard with their customer service techniques just to ensure that we can genuinely and deeply hate the thought of dipping into our pockets and pocketbooks to buy whatever it is we buy at this particular time of year.
I got caught in the middle of two department store sales girls exchanging the longest and hissiest "kiss teet'" I've ever heard while they attended to the simple task of wrapping store-bought gifts. No, it was not the end of a long, hard day, it was only the beginning. As I proferred two small gifts to be wrapped, I heard one say: "Dis ya naaah guh wuk..." the other said: "stchooooooooooooooooops" and the first then responded with a prolonged, disgusted "stcheeeeeeeewwwwwwwppppss".
I think they killed my Christmas spirit right there and then. Maybe forever.
Nevertheless, I trudged on and tackled my Christmas Card list — all from the National Gallery of Jamaica; which I shamelessly plug herein and to which I encourage you to go in future for all your Christmas gifts. Anyway, I have lots of friends all over the world and am happy to say "Merry Christmas" to many. But I do have some associates who prefer to be non-secular when it comes to spreading good cheer at this time of year. After all, there are other holidays celebrated at this time of year: Hannukah and Ramadan, for example.
To them any references in a seasonal greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Saviour", "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer" or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, wrongly implies an endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting. So for them I end up saying and writing politically correct phrases like: "Season's greetings" and "Very best wishes to you and yours for this year and the next", and then I generally run out of ideas.
But even after Church last Sunday (yes), I forgot myself and said to Miss Mamsie: "Happy holidays" and she just about pulled my ear and said: "No. Merry Christmas!!!" It's women like Miss Mamsie that keep the Christmas spirit going, and I thank her for it.
Nevertheless, in this day and age of not wanting to offend anyone, we must be careful with our words. But alas, a writer must appeal to a higher authority on the matter, ie, a lawyer, for the most appropriate phrasing to include in one's greeting cards and letters at this time of year. This is what my lawyer suggested:
'Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practise religious or secular traditions at all. I wish you a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or sexual preference of the Wishee.'
If my card gets to you a little late, it's because they clearly took a long time to get written this year.
Enjoy the day and whatever it is that Christmas brings you. Beyond the material trappings, the shiny decorations and bright lights, the smartly wrapped boxes and can't-miss parties and soirées, and the urge to make up for all the missed opportunities for new and renewed friendships: Christmas matters.
In a time and place where the economy hovers on the brink of disaster, and crime and corruption abound, Christmas is literally the "light" amidst all of the darkness. For Christians it's the celebration of the birth of a baby boy who was to be the "light of the World"; for others, Christmas is significant because it falls after the winter solstice, when the longest and darkest night of the year yields to the hopeful light of day.
Christmas, my friends, is the season of hope. Every twinkling light, every prettily wrapped box and the anticipation that it brings is a symbol of hope. And to quote the Rev Theo Chambers: "You must maintain hope and faith to accomplish your dreams. Hope reaches forward and claims success, while faith holds on until success is attained."
Merry Christmas to all.