“I don’t like it.” Vetfaan points at the Upington Liquor Store’s pamphlet, advertising the specials for the season.
“I do. Look: the beer is a bargain.” Kleinpiet smiles.
“Not the beer, man. It says here: ‘Happy Holidays’.” Vetfaan frowns. “Whatever happened to Merry Christmas?”
“Politically incorrect, my friend. It’s not fashionable to advertise your religion any more. It’s like BEE – if you don’t comply with the norm, you don’t do business. Christmas is seen as an excluding factor in society these days; you have to respect other religions, too. So, ‘Merry Christmas’ is no longer acceptable.” Gertruida sighs. “It was so much simpler in the old days…”
“But what about Ramadan? Are they going to wish those guys ‘Happy Fasting’ now? Or ‘Happy Candles’ when it’s the Festival of Lights? And what about ‘Happy Adulthood’ for Sammie’s nephew’s bar mitzvah? What’s with the ‘Happy’, anyway?”
“Good question,” Oudoom says. “‘Happy’ is such a nonsensical word. It’s the name of one of the Seven Dwarfs, isn’t it? One of these days somebody from the Association of National Cretins will demand compensation for the abuse of the poor midget’s name. It’s all so politicized these days. Even Father Christmas flies in the face of gender equality…and who says he’s got to be a fat, middle-aged, bearded chap with a booming laugh? And don’t get me started on carols either; Jingle Bells and White Christmas doesn’t really convey the wonder of what we’re celebrating.” He hums the tune and does a little jig around his chair. “Not very pious, see,” he says as he sits down again.
“Well,” Vetfaan gets up to make his point, “I’m sticking to the Afrikaans, which is what Christmas should be about, anyway. ‘Geseënde Kersfees’ says something about blessing and grace – for everybody. When I shake somebody’s hand with that wish, I’m not trying to advertise religion. I’m merely confirming a universal faith. We all believe in something, and that’s okay. Words like ‘halaal’ and ‘kosher’ don’t offend me; simply because I respect the way other people go about their lives. Surely it’s not too much to ask that they see my wish as a gesture of goodwill?”
Oudoom nods and drops the frivolous attitude. “Goodwill to all. Yes, that’s what it’s about. You can go on a happy holiday in the Drakensberg or Kruger Park – that’s fine. Happy holidays are for summer days , braaivleis and lots of fun. Geseënde Kersfees is about celebrating God’s love for us all.”
The group in Boggel’s Place falls silent while they contemplate the grace and mercy of the Christmas message. It is – they’ll all agree – a concept that has been commercialised and watered down to such an extent that many people simply miss the point of it all.
But, despite the political frowns and all the other objectors, the people of Rolbos – all of them -unite in wishing every reader a Geseënd Kersfees. May this time be a time of grace and blessing; allowing peace, love and goodwill to flourish amidst the turmoil of a world we all hope will be a better place next year.
Rolbos will be back in the new year, but if you feel like reading up on a miracle in the meantime: read the story of Silent Night. It really is one of the best Christmas stories ever.