An Atheist’s Christmas

By Allyssia Alleyne

I have an unabashed love of Christmas. I love the lights, the decorations, and the decked-out trees. I love buying gifts and the artery-clogging holiday dinners. I love Christmas music (everything from “Little Saint Nick” to “Silent Night”), Christmas specials, and the excitement that surrounds this time of year. I love that it brings my family together and gives them a chance to appreciate and love each other.  Oh, and I’ve never grown tired of that story about the birth of Jesus and the wise men and the salvation of mankind.

I am not, however, religious. In fact, I don’t even consider myself a Christian.

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Ethnic! Xmas! Drama! 2011 Edition

  1. In Friday’s Globe and Mail, Damage Control columnist David Eddie fielded a question from a Chinese dude with a white fianceé. Her parents keep giving him “themed” Christmas gifts – a rice cooker, a Jackie Chan box set – which makes him feel uncomfortable. His fiancée thinks he should suck it up and so, basically, did Eddie. Unsurprisingly, not everyone agreed.
  2. First up: The ethnics are ON IT.
  3. My FAVOURITE G&M “Damage Control” column: “My white in-laws keep giving me ‘Chinese’ gifts”… attn: @ethnicaisle
    December 23, 2011 10:47:57 AM EST
  4. “Last year, my fiancée’s family gave me a rice cooker. I’m Chinese-Canadian. They’re Caucasian.” (ht @annhui @DakGlobe)
    December 23, 2011 9:03:49 AM EST
  5. good intentions are overrated. that column is so fucked up. that writer should not be giving advice.
    December 23, 2011 10:58:22 AM EST
  6. that G&M column is basically Forbes-lite in the way it completely ignores the reality of being not-white
    December 23, 2011 10:59:53 AM EST
  7. it enraged me to read the fiancee saying “get over it.” all i could think was “what a horrible relationship”
    December 23, 2011 11:02:36 AM EST
  8. WHY IS THE PICTURE ON THE COLUMN A BOWL OF RICE? @dakglobe @ghostfaceknitta
    December 23, 2011 11:08:56 AM EST
  9. Should it be two old white folks standing in the bg, out of focus, with Chinese man in front with arms crossed?
    December 23, 2011 11:12:58 AM EST
  10. @_anupa @dakglobe I cringed when I saw that too. Also, if I were her folks I would’ve assumed dude already had a rice cooker. I mean, c’mon.
    December 23, 2011 11:13:45 AM EST
  11. Canice Leung breaks it down:
  12. re: “in-laws give asian dude rice cooker/jackie chan dvds” … 1. being cute-clueless is not a defence for being racist
    December 23, 2011 1:24:04 PM EST
  13. 2. i would be BUMMED if i was marrying into a family, knew them for (probably) years, and still the only thing they saw was my ethnicity.
    December 23, 2011 1:24:39 PM EST
  14. 3. i would really love a rice cooker, but actually. but that’s because i love cooking, not because i’m chinese.
    December 23, 2011 1:26:22 PM EST
  15. 4. only a white dude advice columnist would defend that. people can’t be forgiven for doing bad things just cause they had good intentions.
    December 23, 2011 1:27:54 PM EST
  16. 5. i am normally a fan of david eddie’s writing, which is why this particular piece of advice is even more disappointing.
    December 23, 2011 1:28:54 PM EST
  17. Fight! Fight! Fight!
  18. @canice Excuse me? “Only a white dude advice columnist would defend that”. ONLY?! Look, stupidity comes in ALL colours, shapes and sizes.
    December 23, 2011 1:29:41 PM EST

Have A MultiCulti Christmas

Holiday cheer + hot sauce, coming atcha:

Renee Sylvestre-Williams demonstrates how to make a Trinidadian treat, pastelles.

Denise Balkissoon wishes she wasn’t so tortured about Christmas, but she is. “My Muslim relatives began to make the religious pilgrimage to Mecca. They became much more devout, and there went half my presents. Meanwhile, my Christian, Hindu and agnostic relatives realized that the size of our family was bankrupting everyone. There went the other half….Soon, putting up the (fake) tree just seemed like work. One year, we decorated a plant in the hallway instead.”

A half-Jewish Jew, Justine Purcell Cowell just wants in. “How I marveled at the sweaters and make-up that emerged from their magical trees. (And oh, how I borrowed those sweaters, how I shared in the joy of that make-up!)….Hanukkah is not Christmas. It’s the compensatory holiday that Jewish parents give to their children. ”

Also in is Navneet Alang. He’s going to kick back and enjoy a white Christmas. “Mad rushing to get presents? Check. Grand Christmas feast with a turkey and all the trimmings? Check. Indulging in icewine and gorgonzola in front of the fire like they do on those Food TV specials? Super-gluttonous, you-best-believe-it check. Yeah, when it comes to late December, we are the Christmasiest Punjabis this side of a… Gurdwara at the North Pole?”

“I don’t blame my parents for not lying to me. How were they to know that was what parents here did? Who would assume the truth — that the population of an entire continent could knowingly be partaking in a conspiratorial deception employed to manipulate the mass psyche of their very own offspring?” Shed a tear for Simon Yau, whose parents never encouraged him to believe in Santa Claus.

Kelli Korducki highlights the Christmas differences between Gringo and non-Gringo Catholics. “At my maternal grandparents’ house…another dozen or so relatives insisted we eat yet again, open more presents, and watch Spanish-language Christmas specials that inevitably featured some combination of music and buxom dancers dressed as either sexy Santas or naughty elves. A couple of hours later, my brothers and I would be ripped away from Telemundo‘s hypnotic gyrations and herded into my parents’ minivan—overtired and sugar crashed—to get to the church in time for midnight Mass.”

You Can’t Make Me: The Grinch Who Endures Christmas

By Denise Balkissoon

Last year about this time, I went to visit a friend with a new baby. It was a visit that has scarred me for life. First, I called the baby by the wrong name. Then, I said what I was getting my partner for Christmas in that voice that means “and what are you getting your partner for Christmas?” My friend told me what she got him for Hanukkah because, like, they’re Jewish. After years—nay, decades—of resisting Christmas assimilation, I had fallen prey to its insidious tentacles. I was mortified.

I wish I wasn’t so tortured by Christmas, but I am. My family has always played fast and loose with the holiday. Meet Raggedy Anne, who I got when I was four. My dad’s job had taken my family to Saudi Arabia, which is not a place known for sales of Christmas wrapping paper; I found Anne behind the curtains in the living room. Back in Canada, most of my 20 aunts and 19 uncles (crazy, right?) gave out presents, but I had 50 or so first cousins (totally crazy, right?) who also needed something to unwrap. My haul was big, but fairly budget.

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Creepin’ Your Christmas

By Justine Purcell Cowell

There is a 20-foot Christmas tree in the lobby of my condo. Fabulous, right? But being the half-Jewish Jew that I am, my response is two-fold. First, that beautiful glitz and gold sends a chill of childlike wonder through me. Second, it makes me curious about who decided our condo was Christian. Was there a juried vote? More likely there wasn’t much thought put into it.

It’s not like it would make my heart sing to see a menorah there beside that giant tree. It wouldn’t, maybe because Hanukkah is not a major holiday in the Jewish Calendar.

Even my rabbi said so. It’s a minor holiday that got elevated (okay, rabbi didn’t say this next part) in order to compete with offer us something that at least tries to be fun at Christmas time, seeing as we get denied the sackfuls of jolly-given gifts and the decorative support of every mall in North America.

It’s a confusing time for me. While I do enjoy a good latke, and I think menorahs are cool, Christmas has always had an exotic allure. Growing up in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Thornhill, everything was reversed: Christmas was the odd holiday out with only about one house in twenty covered in lights. “Christmas” was something for the people in those houses, something extraneous.

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