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Warmest wishes from an infidel

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Of course you may wish me a Merry Christmas. And I may respond with a smile, or a thank you, maybe even a same to you.

I understand what the season is, and what it means to many Canadians.

But not to all of us.

Maybe it’s hypocritical to celebrate this time as a period in which the kids come home and families get together. We do have a Yule tree, and presents, and a turkey, and Yule lights on the porch, we even listen to the music of the season — Tom Jackson and Loreena McKennitt are particular favourites. Sure, I can point out that some of these traditions trace back to the pagans, when some of my ancestors were Druids and pagans and barbarians in the wilds of Northumbria.

The other side of my family, the ones from Prince Edward Island, are Irish Catholics, who have a somewhat different perspective on Christmas than do I.

If you’re a Christian, you don’t always have to say happy holidays to me, I’ll generally take it that if you choose to wish me a merry Christmas, that you’re doing so in the right spirit.

Calling me an infidel, when it's meant to be exclusionary and contemptuous and mean-spirited, that’s a different matter. Declaring, as some people do in letters to the editor or in online comments, that the country was founded by and still belongs to people of your faith, I may see that somewhat differently. Refusing to recognize the diversity of Canada, that’s a problem. I think that when institutions or governments or businesses don’t recognize that diversity, they do so at their peril.

I used to work with a guy who sat at the next desk, who told me that I am ‘racially’ Christian.

Sigh.

Yes, I certainly am politically correct, and I’m allegedly a bunch of other things that you’ll be able to read about in the posts I anticipate getting from anonymous trolls.

On the other hand, I was kind of surprised to see three emails in the last few days from Canadian Mennonite University, which wished students, staff, and people on their mailing list happy holidays. Come on, eh, any reasonable person expects that a faith-based Christian university can call tomorrow Christmas without the rest of us getting in a snit.

There were public schools again this year which had Christmas concerts, there were public schools which had winter concerts or seasonal concerts. There were public schools in which people who celebrate Christmas invited other children and teachers to experience and share their culture. When I quibble is when I encounter people who believe that public schools are the appropriate place to inculcate other people’s children with their religious beliefs, and through exclusion try to steer those children towards a paricular belief system — not hearing about that happening much, lately.

Meanwhile, I’m off until I work the city desk on Sunday, Jan. 5. Late this afternoon, I’ll join people of many different beliefs and non-beliefs, listen to the world’s greatest choir, and sing Silent Night while holding a candle.

Peace and love, everyone.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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