Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Does It Matter?

I had a lot of running around to do today. With my own car being in pieces at a local automotive repair facility, I borrowed a friend's and cruised across the county and back in a frantic effort to get some last minute gift shopping done before 10:00 am. I had only one item that I needed to pick up at Wal-Mart. As I reconnoitered the available express check out lanes, I saw that they were all at least four people deep. One of the regular lanes was only two people deep, so I hopped in line. The lady directly in front of me had a cart load full of groceries.

"Ah, chestnuts!", I said under my breath, but just loud enough for the lady in front of me to hear. I was intending to prevail upon her sense of Christmas spirit in the hopes that she'd allow me to cut in line ahead of her.

I was successful. The lady, noticing that I had only one item cheerfully allowed me to pass. I thanked her, paid for my purchase, and again turned to the lady and said "Thanks again, and Happy Holidays".

Her face turned sour. "You mean, Merry Christmas", she said as if she were my sophomore English teacher correcting me.

Great. Another salvo in the "War On Christmas" was shot across my bow.

I smiled at this woman as she turned away from me. "Look, lady", I intoned. "When I say 'Happy Holidays', I'm wishing you the best for the week between and including Christmas and New Years. So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, Happy Kwanzaa and you're welcome".

The poor cashiers probably are no doubt on pins and needles this time of year because of stuff like this. Say "Merry Christmas" and you risk offending a non-Christian. Neglect to say it, and you might just tick off an overly sensitive Christian.

I was raised Catholic, but I have come to think of Christmas, not so much as a religious holiday, but as a very old, traditional festival that has Christian and pagan origins. As a child, I had no clue that Christmas was related to the birth of Jesus. Legend has it that I asked our Pastor if he knew that Jesus' birthday was on the same day that Santa Claus came.

Here in America, we have a rich tradition of celebrating Christmas as a nation. It's a time for national unity; a time to reflect on previous years and look forward to the next one; a time for taking a break from life and showing your friends and family that you care. And if you want to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth on that day, that's okay too.

So, for you non-Christians who take offense at people wishing you a Merry Christmas: Realize that, no matter what your beliefs, whoever said it to you honestly hopes that you have a good day on December 25, however you're intending to spend it. And to you Christians who insist on putting Christ back in Christmas at every opportunity, I will remind you that Christmas didn't become popular in this country until the 1800s. This nation was first settled by Puritans who loathed the notion of celebrating Christmas. To them, Christmas offered far too much revelry and was dangerously packed with pagan idolatry. They looked to The Bible to justify this. See Jeremiah 10:3-4: “For the customs of the peoples are false: a tree from the forest is cut down, and worked with an ax by the hands of an artisan. People deck it with silver and gold they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.” So, really, Christ wasn't in Christmas in the first place.

So, in the spirit of Christmas itself, whether you see it as a religious or secular holiday, I ask you, can't we all just get along?

1 comment:

  1. great post! there are so many traditions that people don't realize the origins and do it anyways, because it's "just tradition". sadly tradition has turned to commercialism and greed, where one has to get up at 3am to get to a store that has 5 toys that 200 people want for their kid.. LOL

    i agree.. whatever your spiritual/religious beliefs, unity should be the main focus.