This afternoon, my team was rounded up and told to go downstairs.
"What for?" I asked. There's no way they were going to have a staff meeting on Friday before a holiday weekend. No way they'll foist new financials or managerial directives or... whatever. Would they? "What's going on?"
The CEO matter-of-factly replied, "Chocolates."
And to many cheers of "Joyeuses Pâques" (Happy Easter), we feasted on dark chocolate, milk chocolate, double-milk chocolate... you get the picture. There's no shame in it here. We had Easter chocolates. And on Monday, we have a day off for Easter. These weren't "seasonal chocolates." We're not getting a "spring holiday."
To be honest, as a non-Christian heathen, this doesn't bother me one bit. As someone who was raised Muslim, I'm not deeply offended. I'm not crying foul to HR and saying, "But today's also Norooz!" (That's Iranian New Year, wherein we also dye eggs and give baskets with a bunch of fake grass and hideously sweet sweets in 'em.) It's Easter here, and no one seems to be too bothered by it.
But that's not what some folks back home would want you to believe. It's not what the AM radio-listenin', Fox News-believin' contingent would have you think. These same people who honestly believe that there's a "War on Christmas" somehow want you to think that it's "even worse" here in Europe.
I spend a lot of time on internet discussion forums. (I know it's bad for my sanity and general well-being, but my wife's not here yet, so I have a lot of time on my hands. ) Often times, these discussions turn to politics. And whenever we start veering into issues of social welfare - like nationalized healthcare, for example - a few of us looney lefties will point out countries like England and France as an example of where it's in place and... by god... it works! Some of us even have the numbers and *gasp* first-hand experience to back it up.
But of course, one of the aforementioned Michael Savage/Sean Hannity/Bill O'Reilly-worshipping halfwits has to take exception. Instead of arguing the point, they'll without fail say something completely irrelevant to the argument like, "But France is being taken over by the Muslims, who are implementing Sharia law!"
Sure, there are a lot of Muslims here. Newsflash: France colonized North Africa and in the process, made the populations of those colonies - primarily Muslim - citizens. Newsflash 2: Islam is the largest religion on Earth, so a representative sample does not constitute a "takeover." Last I checked, France is still widely regarded as a Catholic country, and nobody's demanding that all streets named after saints (of which there are approximately 96 million) be redubbed for imams.
But noooo... supposedly the long-held tradition of a Catholic culture and secular government are being replaced by radical Islamist Sharia law.
Uh huh. That's why almost everywhere I go, I wind up having to choose either ham, bacon, or roasted pork as one of my courses. And that's why I enjoy litres and litres of wine with government-regulated low prices every week. And that's why my mouth is full of company-sanctioned, bell-shaped Easter chocolates right now, and I'm relishing the fact that I'm getting a legally-mandated three-day weekend to mark the occasion.
Consider that whole NeoCon line of thinking debunked.
Although this whole chocolate thing does worry me a bit. I haven't seen a single chocolate bunny, but plenty of chocolate bells. Which means this year, I won't have the perverse pleasure of brazenly biting the head off of a defenseless confectionary rodent.
Oh no... I just realized something... Those filthy PETA radicals are taking over France and implementing vegetarian law!!!