At its core, Christmas is a holiday centered on hope, empathy, and love, but that isn't quite how the holiday is practiced. Christmas has been engulfed by consumerism, to non-believers and Christians alike, with the vain and greedy desire for gifts eclipsing the true altruistic core of the holiday.
Even the Christmas story itself is largely misremembered. Jesus's birth and early life wasn't a calm, serene experience, nor were Mary and Joseph blue-eyed and Caucasian.
Contrary to modern depictions, the Christmas story is actually one of Middle Eastern refugees. Mary and Joseph were ousted from their home in Nazareth, forced to travel to Bethlehem, and when they arrived, with Mary nearly at the point of birth, the two were denied lodging from not-quite-charitable townspeople.
Mary was then forced to give birth in a stable, an event that was no doubt far grittier than the idyllic representation seen today. Only days later, the new parents fled to Egypt, having been warned that if they should stay in Bethlehem, Jesus would be put to death due to Herod's decree.
First without a home, Jesus was then without a country. Jesus was a refugee.
Certain Montrealers will be reminded of that fact thanks to Montreal-based street artist Miss Me, who has recreated STM bus shelters into Christmas-inspired works of art.
Bearing the words "Holy night, silent night," Miss Me's work showcases a head scarf-wearing woman with a newborn in hand, seemingly running from an unseen assailant.
Titled the "The Story of a Refugee Family from the Middle East," the image is arguably a more accurate recreation of Mary and Jesus' story. In Miss Me's words, "The Virgin Mary looked a lot more like your friend Fatima than your girl Stephanie."
The artwork, which can be found throughout Montreal, isn't a religious comment despite its imagery.
Rather, it is a reminder that there are refugees throughout the Middle East right now, who, just like Jesus, are fleeing their home nation in fear for the lives, and they all deserve our love, compassion, and empathy.
So too all those who celebrate Christmas but refrain from actively supporting refugees (or outright hate on) from Syria, Palestine, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere, let Miss Me's artwork serve as a reminder that such an unsympathetic standpoint is about as far from the meaning of Christmas as you can get.
*All photos courtesy of Miss Me