December 9, 2011

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Other Insults

Last night Bradley and I rewatched a 30 Rock episode that included this gem:
"What Christmas card did we end up sending out?"

(Reads front) "Happy holidays..." (Opens card) " what terrorists say. Merry Christmas!"
That punchline packs a whopper because it's totally true. Not that we know what terrorists say come December, of course, because who'd want to make small talk with such folks? The kicker is the idea that we can get so up in arms about the semantics of holiday greetings.

I've heard lots of talk lately about the words we use to wish each other well this time of year.

I can see the issue from a number of perspectives. As a Christian, I celebrate Christmas. I wish people I know Merry Christmas because they too are celebrating Jesus' birth.

That said, I don't find it an insult if a cashier wishes me Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa or plain ol' Happy Friday.

Sharing one's best wishes for this season is hardly akin to a put-down. And while I don't celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Boxing Day, for that matter, I don't wince at the words.

Like individuals, businesses select their own festive decorations and should have the ability to recognize whatever holidays they wish. After all, we do celebrate more than one holiday this time of year, even if Christmas is our main focus.

I just wrapped up Thanksgiving, am excited for Christmas and plan to sleep right through New Year's. I think an enthusiastic "Happy holidays!" covers all of those occasions perfectly.

On the other hand, I don't want to be held back from wishing others a Merry Christmas if those are the words that flow from my pen or come out of my mouth. There's nothing unkind or untoward about that sentiment, particularly when said with an impossible-to-misread kind of smile.

I love living in the South, but around here we sometimes take for granted that everyone believes what we do. If you don't celebrate the birth of Christ, please don't take it personally if I wish you a Merry Christmas. Besides Easter, which really is the completion of Christmas and the crux of our faith, Christmas is the happiest time of year for believers. Take that wish as an extension of our joy.

As a child, I was thoroughly confused by a neighbor who put up a Christmas tree but said his family didn't believe in Jesus. The two seemed intrinsically linked to me.

Nowadays, schools have 'holiday trees' and many cultural traditions (stockings, trees, gifts) are celebrated whether or not a family believes in the religious significance of Christmas. So it goes.

For my family, the Advent season is a special time of year because of Jesus. For others, it's not. I won't be offended if they wish me Happy Holidays and I hope they won't crinkle their noses if I unknowingly wish them a happy holiday-they-don't-really-celebrate.

Don't we all mean well?

Another blogger summed it up perfectly in a post you must read:

"Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I wonder if the best thing that could happen to this country is for Christ to be taken out of Christmas—for Advent to be made distinct from all the consumerism of the holidays and for the name of Christ to be invoked in the context of shocking forgiveness, radical hospitality, and logic-defying love. The Incarnation survived the Roman Empire, not because it was common but because it was strange, not because it was forced on people but because it captivated people.

Let’s celebrate the holidays, of course, but let’s live the incarnation. Let’s advocate for the poor, the forgotten, the lonely, and the lost. Let’s wage war against hunger and oppression and modern-day slavery.

Let’s be the kind of people who get worked up on behalf of others rather than ourselves."


Ben Stein, who does not celebrate Christmas, had this to say:

"I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away."

If you're tempted to boycott a department store because their banner celebrates more holidays than just yours, please don't. Bestow all the Happy Christmases (if you're British, of course) you can, but take the meaning of what you're saying to heart.

Would it be a victory if we pouted and stomped our feet and got people to call their decorated trees (nowhere to be seen the night of Jesus' birth) by the name Christmas just to please us? Would it bring anyone closer to Christ or draw them to the Gospel? Hardly.

So, from us to you, happy everything, friends. And Merry Christmas in particular. We're celebrating for a reason in our house, but wherever you are, we hope you spend this season grateful and happy. Thank you for all of your sweet wishes this season.


Sweet Caroline said...

What a wonderful post!! Love the picture of the fam too:)

Kristen said...

I totally agree, bestie! So very well said. I’m so disheartened by the intolerance and outright hatred exhibited by some of our brothers and sisters this time of year. Bill O’Reilly preaches about the “War on Christmas.” Why do we have to turn it into a war? While I celebrate Christmas, and would like to wish others a Merry Christmas, I also like to show people of other religions the same respect that I want to be shown. I don’t expect to get a “Happy Hannukah” card from my Jewish (through marriage) uncle. We send a Happy Hannukah card to his family. In doing so, I’m not denouncing my faith; I’m respecting his. I’m wishing HIM the happiest of HIS personal holidays. The best you can do is keep your beliefs, and share them when appropriate while respecting the beliefs of others. I like to think that’s what Christ would have wanted. Love, love, love this post.

p.s. Such a beautiful picture of y'all! Love it!

Rachel said...

Great, great, GREAT post! I couldn't agree more!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

very well said. This is why I'm lucky to call you a friend.

and beautiful family!

Leslie said...

Great post! I just found your blog and became a follower. I used to only say "happy holidays"; when I was a teacher I was terrified of mis-speaking "Merry Christmas." But now, I embrace the greeting, and say it to all who celebrate. I even bought Christmas cards instead of holiday cards! :)

Tails from the City said...

I'm Jewish and I totally agree with Ben Stein- someone telling me to have a Merry Christmas does not offend me or make me feel threatened in anyway. I will indeed have a nice day on Christmas Day- with Chinese food and a new release in the theaters like the rest of my Jewish peeps. I just smile and wish them a Merry Christmas right back-I do honestly hope they will have a Merry Christmas in any way they celebrate!!


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