It’s Merry Christmas every Christmas season and not some whitewashed “holiday” greeting, something Rudy Fernandes continues to fight for. Photo from Pixabay

For Rudy Fernandes, it’s a ‘Merry Christmas’

  • December 14, 2023

Rudy Fernandes will not back down. 

A longtime member of Cristo Rei Parish in Mississauga, Ont., Fernandes and his wife Maureen have implored hundreds of politicians, mainly in the Greater Toronto Area, via letters for almost a dozen years to reassert “Merry Christmas” as the de facto holiday season greeting in the public square.

“I was so concerned that with the (overwhelming) population of Christians in Canada, we are so much on the back burner,” said Fernandes. “We seem unable to exert any authority on what is happening. That concerns me significantly. I thought this was a good way to get our voices heard.”

The 2021 Canadian census indicates Fernandes’ assertion about Christianity being the overwhelming dominant religion in Canada is correct. More than 19.3 million Canadians (53.3 per cent) reported following a Christian denomination, 10.8 million of them Catholic. No other religion attains more than a five-per-cent share.

However, the number of non-religious believers has risen from 16.5 per cent in 2001 to 34.6 per cent in 2021, which is in step with the rising tide of secularization permeating Canada. 

Recently, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) claimed in its “Discussion Paper on Religious Intolerance” that the statutory holidays linked to Christianity, Christmas and Easter are evidence of “present-day systemic religious discrimination,” and it perpetuates the “settler colonial state.” The CHRC writer decried that non-Christians must ask for specific days off to observe their holy days. 

All 109 members of the Quebec National Assembly agreed to a motion on Nov. 29 condemning the CHRC’s paper. 

“(The motion) denounces all attempts to polarize unifying events that have been part of Quebec’s heritage for many generations,” the text stated. “Finally, it invites all Quebecers to come together during the upcoming Christmas period.”

A 2022 Leger poll suggests a considerable level of harmony among Canadians regarding Christmas greetings. Of 1,526 Canadian adults surveyed, 70 per cent stated they are more likely to use Merry Christmas as their greeting compared to 23 per cent who default to Happy Holidays. Perhaps more notably 92 per cent “of those who grew up in a culturally or religiously non-Christian household disagree that they are offended when people greet them with ‘Merry Christmas.’ ”

This data is encouraging, but in Fernandes’ view, transformative success is trying to get more prominent leaders like politicians and business titans to not yield to political correctness and remain true to keeping Christ as the reason for the season. 

“Think about it. It’s OK to say, ‘Happy Eid,’ it’s OK to say ‘Happy Diwali,’ and its OK to say ‘Happy Hanukkah.’ We should not be concerned about how people might respond if we say Merry Christmas,” he said.

Fernandes summed up his efforts by stating, “I cannot honestly tell you that it’s been a huge success so far. Until we can ensure that many politicians and business leaders understand and follow what we say, I feel like I’ve failed… but I keep on trying.” 

In many ways, Fernandes’ efforts have borne fruit. He has received letters of support or understanding from over 600 politicians. He already received “10 to 15 replies” to his letters by late November. He shared responses from Mississauga city councillors Brad Butt and Carolyn Parrish, both of whom declared they say “Merry Christmas” during the Yuletide season.

He has also mobilized over 300 others to mail out form letters over the years, including members of the Canadian Goan Christian Group, of which Fernandes is a member. 

Fr. Carlos T. Macatangga, the pastor of Cristo Rei Parish, has committed to mobilizing the parish’s Knights of Columbus and St. Vincent de Paul chapters to assist Fernandes.

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