I haven’t even had a chance for my thankful tummy to recover from all of last week’s turkey and stuffing yet, and people are already asking me to swallow their vapid and inane arguments about what words they should use to greet people with this post-Thanksgiving season. These are the same people I imagine sitting around the Thanksgiving table, one eye on the turkey, the other on the tv – weighing their religious convictions against each store’s Black Friday discounts.
I’m pretty sure the discounts win.
I grew up in a small town in Arizona. I had about three Jewish friends in gradeschool, and all of them celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. In my esteemed nine-year-old, awed, opinion, they were the luckiest kids in the world. They got eight days of presents, PLUS Santa? I was ready to convert for the gifts alone. But, lest we all rush home to beg our parents to buy a menorah, our teachers also devoted time teaching us about other holidays in their annual “Christmas celebrated around the world” presentations. (The title was a little misleading, since it included non-Christian holidays – but whatever, we were in 3rd grade!) I always looked forward to this presentation as it offered a peak into other cultures, and thus helped me prepare for the unlikely event I find myself stranded in a foreign land, far away from old St. Nick’s magic bag of goodies!
One year we’d “make” clogs to put in the hallway for Sinterklaas to fill with sweets, the next we’d have a drumming circle in honor of Kwanzaa – it was a cultural learning exchange carried out by teachers aiming to mold us into accepting, well-rounded young people. And, at the start of winter break every year, I would remember to wish my Jewish friends a Happy Hannukah, and they would wish me a Merry Christmas.
Because even our 3rd grade brains understood that when you wish someone well, the wish is for the someone else – not yourself.
Which was good and all, but, like many a small town in the good ‘ol U. S. of A., even though Christmas wasn’t really the only holiday to be celebrated in winter, it was the only winter holiday we publicly celebrated. And boy, was it celebrated! In fact, Prescott was dubbed “Arizona’s Christmas City” in 1989 – a title awarded due to the copious Christmas decorations adorning every square inch of downtown.
I loved it.
I loved watching the twinkling lights blink – especially when there was a blanket of snow on the ground, and especially, especially when I had a cup of hot cocoa in my hands as we walked through the wonderland magic. There were concerts and Christmas shows and even a mechanized Santa’s workshop in the gazebo. When we won the “Christmas City” title, I felt a swelling of holiday pride in my tinsel-loving chest.
It never occurred to me that such excess might make anyone uncomfortable.
It never occurred to me that if the courthouse plaza was going to be decked out for the “holidays”, it should probably be a bit more inclusive of other faiths and celebrations.
Until people started saying as much.
And then it was a conversation being had all across the nation – “Stop cramming Christmas down everyone’s throat!” could be seen in the newspapers and on the nightly news.
For a while, people listened, because the protestors were correct in saying that Christmas shouldn’t be the nation’s sole focus for
4, 6, 8, 10 weeks out of the year! And I like to think that, for a while, those who celebrated Christmas actually meant it when they wished someone “Happy Holidays”. That they understood what 3rd graders across America already knew; a salutation is for the person being saluted, not the person doing the saluting.
So what happened between then and now, that anyone asking a Christmas enthusiast to respect other people’s beliefs is a terrorist of biblical proportions? How in the world did people asking for a little consideration, become “Christ-less” soldiers engaged in a war on Christmas! Well, the Christmas-Crazies got upset at being told they had to share December and started the “war” in defense of their Christmas zeal.
Here’s a post that popped up in my newsfeed FB last week:
There are actually a couple messages being expressed here: 1- I’m going to wish everyone a Merry Christmas this year, regardless of their beliefs because; 2- By wishing people Happy Holidays, we have lost our connection to Christ; and 3 – Saying the words “Merry Christmas” enough times will invite God into our home, just as if he were that trickster Beetlejuice.
I wonder if the person posting this believes that Christ himself would rebuke a “Happy Holidays” well-wisher for choosing inclusivity over exclusion. It’s a question I might just be asking those who deliver a verbal “It’s MERRY CHRISTMAS!” slap when I extend a good ‘ol “Happy Holidays” their way this season.
Or maybe I should just go with something they can relate to, like “Have a lovely time celebrating MY convictions this holiday season, and please stuff yours up your ass.”
Because here’s the thing – I refuse to presume that the person I’m wishing cheer to has the same core beliefs as I do. If I didn’t, I might wish them a “Happy Winter Solstice” and be done with it. The takedown I might receive as a result of my own expression of faith though, would hardly be worth the satisfaction, not to mention the price of the time I’d have to spend giving a lesson to that person on acceptance.
And I would like to be clear – this is a discussion about acceptance, not political correctness.
“Political Correctness” is one of those hot-button terms that I think we’d all be better off just banishing from the lexicon. It’s become a rally cry for the extreme right; preface any efforts towards compromise or inclusivity with “PC” and people begin pulling on their boxing gloves. And now it’s being used by politicians, pulpiticians, and devout Christian soap-boxers, to turn the holidays into a political and religious maelstrom of “Us against Them”ness. They’re not people any more, these whiners who refuse to say “Merry Christmas”, but trouble-making PC police who want to piss on Jesus!
The truth is this: If everyone stomped around this holiday season screaming from their own little corners, it would be like spending a month an ALL-CAPS chat room. Everyone would go deaf from the noise whilst children look on with wide-eyed horror.
Come to think of it, it would look a whole lot like Black Friday – and doesn’t our nation look like the pinnacle of Christian goodness on that un-holy day?
So, this holiday season, are you going to express love and understanding to everyone around you, or obstinate isolationism? I, for one, will cater my well-wishes to those whose faiths I already know, (Happy Kwanzaa, Festive Yule, Merry Drunken Eve, etc) while wishing everyone else a “Joyous Holiday Season” and turning an ever-loving ear-muff to anyone who berates me for it.