’Tis a few days before Christmas and the Grinch is on the prowl.
Turns out the Grinch is a team at Simon Fraser University that has published the following anti-Christmas research: “Identity moderates the effects of Christmas displays on mood, self-esteem, and inclusion.”
According to the professors and their grad student Grinch accomplices, their research shows that “the pervasive presence of Christmas displays in December makes people who do not celebrate Christmas feel like they don’t belong, and it harms their emotional well-being.”
For those of us struggling to breathe under a seasonal avalanche of Bing Crosby, this is nothing new, but the closer you look at the actual experiment, the more you have to ask: Don’t these guys have anything better to do?
Here’s what they did — they put one group of students in a lab decorated with a 12-inch Christmas tree and another group in a lab with no tree. Then they asked them how they felt.
Subjects didn’t know they were in a study on the psychological effects of Christmas trees, but were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their mood. Moods varied depending on the presence of the tree and the background of the respondents. In the presence of the tree, Sikh and Buddhist respondents felt less sure about themselves and felt excluded from the university. Christian students reported a more positive mood.
Putting aside questions about the research (maybe 12-inch plastic trees are culturally depressing. Maybe Sikh and Buddhist students require much bigger trees to feel good?), this just encourages the brand of self-righteousness that blights the yuletide season annually.
Some killjoy kicks Christmas out of the mall in case someone might feel excluded. And now, they’ve got research to back them up. “Studies show …” they’ll proclaim, ignoring the fact it’s one study and one tree.
I wonder what would happen if the team put its subjects through the Halloween test. Or the Thanksgiving test. At some level, they’re all religious festivals, but they are also festivals.
I’m in favour of festivals. Thanks to multiculturalism, we keep adding them to the calendar: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa; Diwali; Narooz. If we keep this up, we can have a parade every day of the year. And how good is that?
The point is to use festivals to include people, not exclude them. We all believe different things, but if there’s one belief that unites us all, it’s simply this: Festivals are fun.
So, without prejudice, I offer the following greeting: Merry Christmas! (And happy holidays to everyone, even professors).
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting; firstname.lastname@example.org.