Thursday, December 15, 2005

an opinion about christmas

I love Christmas. I cherish the traditions and luxuriate in spirit of the day that literally lasts more than a month for me. This is easy for me to say. I was raised a Christian. I am also fortunate that my father is one of Santa's most dedicated helpers ever.

This year, it's been hard to listen to the debate raging over the use of the terms "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays." Are people really fighting about this? Yes, they are, and with every fiber of their being. I found one site with some interesting perspectives on both phrases. I've read countless articles and heard news pieces on NPR about the contention of the day.

Here is my opinion on these phrases.

When I say the words "Merry Christmas" to someone, it is with the hope that I might share my joy of the season. I say it confidently to people who I know appreciate and accept it and will not be offended by it. If I encounter someone whose religious affiliation I don't know, I use "Happy Holidays" (or some variation such as "I hope your holidays are nice"). I have always found this phrase to be particularly inclusive, as it can cover Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other religious or cultural celebration that occurs in December. Bonus that it throws good wishes for the new year, too.

I understand that some Christians may feel slighted because Christmas is not embraced in the public arena as it was years ago. But I also understand the reason for that. It is about inclusivity again. Our country was founded on the right to religious freedom. It has attempted to build on that by creating a structure of government that is separate from religion (although it doesn't do it well, but that's a rant for another day). To me, it makes sense when the President and First Lady send cards in December that say "Happy Holidays" because, no doubt, some percentage of the 100,000 recipients is not Christian.

Where I cease to understand what's going on is when people insist that the phrase "Happy Holidays" is somehow slighting Christmas. That by addressing all religions, it is excluding Christianity. That doesn't make sense to me. It is including all religions.

There are those who are literally fighting to force people to use the phrase "Merry Christmas" because they feel attacked as Christians by the insult of "Happy Holidays." Let's repeat that: they want to force people to say "Merry Christmas." Have they thought about how they'd feel if a vocal group of Jewish people strong-armed "Happy Hanukkah" into the parlance?

These same people want to force government buildings to have Christmas trees. I love Christmas trees. Love them. I think it's beautiful and wonderful and grand when City Hall lights up a huge spruce tree in the front lawn. But if the municipality in question doesn't want to single out one religion, can't it simply attempt to embrace all the appropriate religions who celebrate a holiday? What's wrong with having a nice Star of David on the front of the building, behind the Christmas tree? One does not negate the other. What if that vocal group of Jewish people strong-armed the Star of David in lieu of the Christmas tree?

Personally, I respect that there are people who don't celebrate Christmas. I still want to share my joy of the season with them, and am happy to wish them well with their own religious celebration (plus those good tidings for a happy new year).

I think nothing but good can come from wanting other people to be happy.

I'm amazed that the desire to spread joy has degenerated into religious squabbling. It's no wonder people are cranky instead of happy this holiday season.

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