Happy holidays!

Last Friday was Good Friday. It was a big day for Christian. It was public holidays in Singapore and Hong Kong, but not in Islamic countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia. People worked as usual in those countries.

The holidays reminded me an interesting complaint from my cousin.

My cousin lives in the US. We visited her family during the Christmas’ time and stayed in her house for about a week. One day, we talked about her company, she told me, “I can not say ‘Merry Christmas!’ in my office now, so I am able to say a few more times to you.”

“It’s still the biggest day of a year, and public holidays in America, right? How do you greet with each other in the office?” I wondered.

“Well, we can ONLY say ‘Happy holidays!’” she sounded a bit annoyed.

“Merry Christmas!” or “Happy holidays!” sounds no different to me.

“Maybe she does not like the company.” I thought.

I got it straightened out after I followed my Cousins to their church’s silent night party.

There were some performances and dramas in the party. The kids played very hard on the stage, but they were short of training. At the end, the priest made an impassioned, powerful speech about the birth of Jesus, which, according to his message, changed our life, made strong impacted on the peace of the world, contributed to the development of humankind and so on. I just joined it for funs; I did not pay much attention. But, I got to know one important point. (The priest effort did not waste his time on me.)

The birth of Jesus = Christmas; Merry Christmas! = Happy birthday to Jesus!

So, there is a big difference between saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Imagine John’s birthday party. Nobody is allowed to say, “Happy birthday to John!” When making a toast, friends can only say, “Best wishes to you!”

Isn’t the majority Christian in the US? Why do companies prohibit staff from greeting “Merry Christmas!” in the office? Concerning this, I sent an email to another American friend,

PS: While more and more people in China celebrate the Christmas, it is really strange to me that many friends in the US can not say Merry Christmas at work. That is another interesting thing I learn here.

He made a fast and short reply,

P.S. – In the US, Christmas is both a religious and commercial holiday, whereas in Asia it’s pretty much a commercial holiday. Though mostly Christian, the US has people of many religions – and to avoid offending those of Jewish, Muslim, or other faiths that do not celebrate Christmas as a religious celebration, many people say “Happy Holidays” instead – to cover everything.

I see! They want to achieve religious harmony. (Harmony is the big keyword of China’s current media.) Religion is very sensitive in the US too. While not allowing to say “Merry Christmas!” does take care of some other religions’, many people’s feeling, it restricts the freedom of Christian.

Such enforcement does help maintain religious harmony in many circumstances. There are too many examples in Singapore.

For example, students are not allowed to bring articles with strong religious symbol to schools. A few years’ ago, a Malay family in Singapore sued the government for this, because their daughter were not allow to wear scarf in the school. After lost the case, they transferred their daughter to a school in Malaysia.

Also, to avoid segregation, Singapore government strictly controls the proportion of different races in the HDB, the public housing of Singapore. Chinese, Malay, and India must share a certain proportion in every HDB block. For instance, when the number of Chinese resident reaches the limit in a HDB block, no Chinese can buy a house in this block even though there is a house for sale by other race.

Such enforcements sacrifice certain groups’ interests for the benefits of bigger communities.

It works in Singapore. You can see different races say hello to each other occasionally; you can find children of different races mix together on the playground near the HDB blocks.

Strangely, it was in Malaysia that I felt the truly so-called harmonious society in the first time. (The Malaysia tourism slogan “Truly Asia” does make some sense to me.)

Few years ago, we were backpacking in Kuala Lumpur. We went to its Chinatown for some cheap bargains. Like those in many other Chinatown, the sombrous lane was full of people, with shop keepers shouting for business and shoppers bargaining for exotic T-shirts or fake citizen watch.

Most of Chinese in the Chinatown speak Cantonese. Suddently, a loud “X你老母!…” in Cantonese (Kind of Fucking…in English) behind shocked us, while we were searching the way out. We looked back immediately, and saw a local India scolding a Chinese in perfect Cantonese! The Chinese was obviously not the rival. He stepped back, moaning away.

I have seen a harmonious society in this quarrel.

I think in a truly harmonious society, every member appreciates the similarity and difference between one another and everybody shares the happiness of “Merry Christmas” freely. Even when there is a quarrel, every member can quarrel in each other’s language without going into a bloody war.

It seems KL achieves this without using much enforcement.

节日快乐!

上星期五是复活节(Good Friday)。对基督教来说,这个是仅次于圣诞节的大节日了,香港和新加坡都有放假。马来西亚和印尼这些回教国家是正常上班的。

谈起圣诞节,我记起我的表妹对她公司的一个抱怨。

表妹一家在美国。那是去年圣诞节期间,我去美国旅游,在她家里住了一个礼拜。大家聊天,谈起她的公司,她说,“现在我在公司里不能说 ‘Merry Christmas!’ 了。现在你来,正好,我给你多说几句吧!”

“圣诞节还是公共假期啊?那你们说什么呢?” 要放假那总是件高兴的事情,他们不说“圣诞快乐!”那要说什么祝语呢?

“我们在公司只能讲’Happy Holidays!’” 她不无气愤。

说“节日快乐!”和“圣诞快乐”对我来说没什么区别,我对表妹的生气自然是不以为然的。

“也许她是不喜欢那间公司吧。” 我这么想。

直到跟着我表妹一家参加了他们教会的平安夜晚会我才有一些明白。

晚会表演的小孩很认真,但缺乏训练。我只是去看热闹的,心不在焉。不过我搞清楚了一点,整个晚会就是讲耶稣出生的。最后致词的牧师还慷慨激昂的陈述了耶稣出生对我们整个生活的改变,世界和平的影响,人类未来贡献等等,等等。好了,我算是弄明白:耶稣出生 = Christmas。Merry Christmas!= 耶稣生日快乐!如此说来,禁止说Merry Christmas,只能说Happy Holidays,那是有大大的不同了。就如在朋友的生日晚会上,你举起酒杯,不能说“祝你生日快乐!”,却只能讲“祝大家今天快乐!”

难道在美国不是信基督教的人比较多,为什么会有公司禁止员工说“Merry Christmas!”呢?尽管在中国大部分人不清楚圣诞节是怎么回事,但是现在还是有越来越多年轻人庆祝起圣诞节。在美国的很多公司却不允许员工说“圣诞快乐!” 这有点不可思义,也很有趣。就此,我问了另外一个美国朋友。

PS: While more and more people in China celebrate the Christmas, it is really strange to me that many friends in the US can not say Merry Christmas at work. That is another interesting thing I learn here.

他很快就给了我回答,

P.S. – In the US, Christmas is both a religious and commercial holiday, whereas in Asia it’s pretty much a commercial holiday. Though mostly Christian, the US has people of many religions – and to avoid offending those of Jewish, Muslim, or other faiths that do not celebrate Christmas as a religious celebration, many people say “Happy Holidays” instead – to cover everything. 🙂

原来是怕引起宗教纠纷!”Merry Christmas”的宗教意义太强了,会引起其它宗教的反感。哈哈,看来美国这个大熔炉对宗教问题也很头痛。它对宗教问题的处理还远远不能做到挥洒自如。禁止讲”Merry Christmas“当然照顾到其它一些宗教很多人的情绪,但同时也剥夺了基督徒的一些自由。

不过类似的强制措施确实在一定程度上能维持宗教和谐。在新加坡就有太多的例子。

例如,在新加坡公立学校里,学生是被禁止带有宗教意义的物件上课的。有个马来家庭为了让他们的女儿带头巾上课还跟政府打起了官司。败诉后他们把女儿转到马来西亚读书了。

又比如,新加坡政府组屋对入住人口的种族比例有严格的控制。每一座楼入住华人,马来人及印度人的比例都各有限制。假如一座楼里的华人入住率达到了上限,那么即使楼里有非华人人转售房子,华人也不能买了。

凡此种种,都是依靠强制性措施牺牲一部分人的自由达到整体的和谐。新加坡自上世纪六十年代种族暴动以来就没有发生过大的宗教种族问题了。在新加坡很多的地方都能看到华人小孩与马来,印度小孩一起玩耍。在电梯里大家见了面有时也会互相打招呼。

然而让我第一次觉得各个种族可以无所顾忌,无忧无虑地生活在一起的却是在吉隆坡的唐人街。

我们当时到吉隆坡自助游(Backpacking),来到唐人街猎猎奇,拣一些便宜货。吉隆坡唐人街的华人大部分说的是广东话,很多吃的也是广东口味。除路上的招牌有马来文,行人多有黑白相间外,我整个感觉就是到了广东的一个城市。

成衣街里,挤得满满是人。我们一面看,一面寻着路走,突然听到后面有人喊 ”X你老母。。“ 那是一句广东骂人的话。喊得声音很大,吓了我一跳。回头一看,原来是一个印度人在跟一个华人吵架。那印度人用广东话骂人一溜一溜的,那华人难以还嘴,最后转身嘟嘟囔囔的走开了。

一个社会里要是各个种族能够互相理解包容,能够共享”Merry Christmas”的喜悦,能够用对方的语言互骂而不用兵刃相见,我觉得才是真正地和谐。在吉隆坡的时间太短,不知道他们是怎么做到的。

 

 

 

A joke – there are worse things in life.

A father passing by his son’s bedroom was astonished to see the bed was nicely made and everything was picked up.

There he saw an envelope propped up prominently on the centre of the bed. It was addressed, ‘Dad.’. With the worst premonition, he opened the envelope and read with trembling hands:

Dear Dad,

It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing this. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with mom and you. I’ve been finding real passion with Barbara and she is so nice even with all her piercing, tatoos and her tigth motorcycle clothes.

But it’s not only the passion dad, she’s pregnant and Barbara said that we will be very happy. Even though you don’t care for her as she is much older than I, she already owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. She wants to have many more children with me and that’s now one of my dreams too.

Barbara taught me that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone and we’ll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with her friends for all the cocaine and ectasy we want.

In the meantime, we’ll pray that science will find a cure for aids so Barbara can get better; she sure deserves it!!

Don’t worry dad, I’m 15 years old now and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I’m sure we’ll be back to visit so you can get to know your grandchildren.

Your son,

John

PS. Dad, none of this is true. I’m over at the neighbour’s house. I just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than my report card that’s in my desk centre drawer. I love you! Call when it’s safe to come home.

I laughed even when I read it in the second time. But I think it has something beyond just joking.

“There are worse things in life than my report card.”

There are worse things in life than no money, urgly dressing, small house and etc. Many of us do not see this point until the worse things come.