Friday, December 20, 2013

Political Correctness in Africa?

Last week I wrote about how Christmas in Africa is very different from back home.  Though the decorations have been up for a while, I haven’t given the holiday much thought until recently when I started to see en-mass Facebook postings about friends’ preparations.  Some of those social media comments have reminded me how political correctness often finds its way into our celebrations in western countries.

Every year it seems there is what I like to call the battle of the greeting. Some people are staunch “Merry Christmas” wishers.  Others, in an attempt to be all inclusive, and to avoid offending anyone, prefer “Happy Holidays.”  Either way, someone is always unhappy.  The Merry Christmasers get offended by the Happy Holidayers: “Damn it! It’s Christmas! Just say ‘Merry Christmas’ already!  I don’t believe in this PC crap!”  Of course, you also have the Happy Holidayers who are relegated to sidestepping “Merry Christmas” as their jobs or companies prohibit “Merry Christmas”ing.

I’m not entirely sure that I fall into either camp.  I believe in equal opportunity.  I think I demonstrate this best by the fact I am an equal opportunity dater.  In high school, one of the gag pages speculated as to which majors we would all select in college.  Mine was listed as International Relationships.  Due to my inability to discriminate when choosing boyfriends, I have celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Diwali, Chinese New Year and a host of other holidays I can’t even remember.  And even if I’m not a card carrying member of a particular religion or ethic group, I’m always happy to give and receive the appropriate corresponding greeting.

Personally, I think there is more stress on the wisher than the receiver.  I had a close group of orthodox Jewish friends in college.  I remember being out with them around the holidays one year, a year when Hanukkah fell the same week as Christmas actually.  We were at a store where the clerk wished us all a “Merry Christmas.”  My friend Eric responded, “Thank you!  Merry Christmas to you too.  And Happy Hanukkah as well.”  I asked if he minded when people wished him “Merry Christmas” and he said, “No, not at all.  Why should I mind it?  They are just being nice. I think we should always be wishing each other a Happy Whatever based on the next upcoming holiday, no matter what it is.”

Here in Africa we don’t wish anyone “Merry Christmas.”  During the month of December you regularly receive a “Happy Festive Season” or “Blessed Festive Season.”  After conducting some non-scientific research in which I asked six different friends (1 Zimbabwean, 1 Tswana and 1 Bushman both from Botswana, 1 Mozambican, 1 Namibian and 1white South African) the consensus is that “Happy Festive Season” is not an exercise in political correctness.  It is simply the holiday greeting here.

Thus, it appears I should amend my previous blog post in which I wished everyone a “Merry African Christmas.”  Instead, I hope you all have a “Blessed Festive Season.”


  1. Blessed Festive Season to you well!- Jasmine Goodnow

  2. Thanks Jasmine. Come back to visit any time!