I don’t know if people are more thin-skinned these days, but apparently they are, judging by the reaction to minutiae such Miley Cyrus’s behavior, Alec Baldwin’s anger at the paparazzi, and this guy from Duck Dynasty (I knew nothing about him or his show until this whole thing erupted). Throw in Geraldo Rivera, Kim Kardashian, Amanda Bynes, and a partridge in a pear tree, and you have a whole Christmas stocking filled with stuff to keep you ranting all day.
If you have the time and inclination, so be it; but, as John Lennon wrote in his beautiful song, “And so it is Christmas, and what have you done?” If you want it to be that you spent the year worrying about things such as described above, good luck to you. Three people in my family passed away this year, and there are wars and terrorism and the threat of natural disasters to think about. There’s the economy and the so-called Obamacare (both looking better lately, thankfully), and there are people in need of food and drink all over the world. How you choose to view that world outside your window is, of course, up to you.
Which gets me to this nearly insane argument over whether or not to say “Happy Holidays.” You may have heard recent stories such as the one where a woman was assaulted for not saying “Merry Christmas.” Then there was one about the woman who got fired because she refused to say “Happy Holidays.” Believe it or not there are too many of these tales to even keep track of at this point.
The problem is that you have incendiary guys like FOX News talking heads Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly banging the drum about not saying “Merry Christmas,” and this gets all the worst elements in human nature riled up even more. While real news is out there and needs to be reported, they are wasting their air time complaining about something that seems to be inconsequential at best, but since it has become an issue gaining attention it needs to be addressed.
I overheard a confrontation in my local Starbucks yesterday that boggled my mind. The barista handed a guy his tall Pike and added, “Happy Holidays!” The guy snapped back, “I prefer Merry Christmas, pal!” He then walked over to his friends and started ranting. “We have to stand our ground and take it back. They need to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or else.”
Now, I started thinking this guy was going to get violent, but instead he stormed out the door followed by his posse of disgruntled reindeer. I got my grande cappuccino and, since I frequent the place, gave the barista a tip and said, “Happy Holidays.” He smiled and said, “To you too.”
I walked out into the beautiful morning shaking my head. I am a Christian and have absolutely no idea why “Happy Holidays” offends anyone. I use it myself when I am in situations in which I have no idea of the person’s religious orientation (which is 90% of the time). “Happy Holidays” covers everything from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, and it is said not to insult people but rather to honor their individuality and respect the dignity of their respective faiths.
When I think about it, I use “Merry Christmas” in situations where I am certain that I am in the company of fellow Christians. Obviously, leaving Mass and coming out of the church, I would be saying it. Picking up my kids from school (Catholic), I would wish the teachers and other parents it. But in a place like Starbucks, or in the post office, or the department store, it would be inappropriate for me to wish the other person “Merry Christmas” and therefore I use “Happy Holidays.”
Still it has become a bigger issue, a sort of us-versus-them mentality, and I just don’t get it. Why does anyone believe that he or she has the right to impose a way of thinking or beliefs on others? Yes, I know that in the long history of atrocities committed in the name of various faiths terrible things have happened in the name of gods. We cannot ignore that, but we can recognize that now, in 2013, we should know better and be better than this.
I use “Merry Christmas” with family and friends and enjoy doing so; however, I use “Happy Holidays” in almost every other arena. I don’t find it offensive, and I really cannot fathom why anyone else does, but people are entitled to their opinions. The thing is that when we start to make our opinions an imposition on others, or we threaten them in some way, we are in no way in the spirit of anything resembling a “holiday” spirit. These people become Christmas bullies, and that has nothing to do with the child born in Bethlehem or even that jolly old elf in the red suit.
So, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Malkha, Chalica, Pancha Ganapti, Festivus, or nothing at all, I wish you peace, love, and happiness this season. I hope everyone will do the same and then the season will indeed be bright.
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