With the calendar being flipped to December again (that always seems to happen this time of year!), I decided to revisit something I originally wrote in 2011, because I’m sure it will be useful again, especially with our current administration making it an issue.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or something else?
I have written about this topic several times before, but alas, it’s that time of year once again, and I always get questions.
Let me start out with my disclaimer: though I naturally think that my point of view makes complete sense, it is indeed MY point of view and I have great respect for other opinions, even if they differ. To each his or her own, you know?
December always seems like a strange month. The pace of life tends to get even faster around me as the majority of people prepare for their holidays, whatever they celebrate, and IF they celebrate.
I mostly spend the month of December trying to stay out of the way of everybody else. Seriously. Even though I’m Jewish, I don’t make lots of Hanukkah preparations: it IS one of the less important holidays on the Jewish calendar, after all. Most of the pomp and circumstance associated with it was created ages ago as a way of competing with our Christian friends. We pull out a few menorahs from my collection to decorate (usually very last-minute) and plan a day on which to make potato latkes. Other than lighting the candles on each of the eight evenings, that’s pretty much it.
I realize that Christmas involves SO much more to those who celebrate it, and I respect that.
Where things get complicated (for some people) is when Christians, Jews, and those of other faiths want to wish each other holiday greetings. Many (but not all) people get their panties all tied up in knots in one of two ways:
1. They are overly worried about what might be offensive to someone else and spend so much time trying to figure out what greeting to say or send that the lovely feeling behind it all can get watered down
2. They are belligerent and uncaring, believing that it doesn’t matter what other people might celebrate and they are going to say or send the greeting of their own holiday and other people’s celebrations can suck it.
Come on, people. Can’t we all just get along?
It’s simple. If you know that someone celebrates Christmas, it’s really nice to say “Merry Christmas” to them, but I doubt you’d get a correction if you said “Happy Holidays”. (If you do, move on. Assume that person has something going on that is making them a little rude and crabby, and don’t think another thing about it.)
If you know that someone is Jewish, it would be really, really nice of you to either say “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Hanukkah”. That said, I don’t go off the deep end if someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, even if they know full well that I don’t celebrate it (that happens), because they mean well. I even say “Merry Christmas” back! (This goes for people of other religions who are celebrating other December holidays too, of course!)
I mean, how many people do you know that say “Merry Christmas” just to be a jerk? I’m guessing none.
I have been seeing a lot on the news lately about some Christians who are up in arms about all of the “Happy Holidays” business going on: some are angry because they think the message of Christmas is getting diluted from all of the political correctness in the world today. Though I don’t believe that December should be whitewashed necessarily and I do believe that folks have the right to celebrate what they want, THIS point of view makes me angry.
First of all, the world is full of all different kinds of people who celebrate (and don’t celebrate) all different kinds of things: that’s a fact. Second of all, I wish that those people who make complaints like that could be in the holiday minority for a week in December to see how that feels. Third of all and most importantly, I wish they would STOP BEING SO OFFENDED about what’s going on out in the world, and refocus on their families and how they can be kinder to others. If they are devoutly religious in their home and place of worship, it shouldn’t matter one bit what is going on outside of their circle.
The best thing to do is remember that, not just in the “spirit of the season”, but EVERYDAY, it’s important to consider the feelings of others while remembering, on the flip side, that when people say something from the heart–no matter what it is–the very best response you can give is a smile. Be kind.