I’ve made an argument earlier that we should all just wish each other whatever greetings we wish and not get to upset about it. I will stick to that claim, but let me mention that it would also be nice if we, the wishers, would at least acknowledge that not everyone celebrates the month of December the same way, or even at all.
I don’t happen to celebrate Christmas, but the look on people’s faces when I acknowledge that I haven’t purchased presents for every person I know, certainly shows a shock and dismay as if I’ve somehow offended them by not sharing their habits. I could ask them how they celebrated Ramadan? ‘Why, it’s not my holiday,’ I am sure they’d respond. At this point I can smile and walk away.
Christmas isn’t an age old tradition from middle age Christians. It was invented in the Victorian ages and the traditions have grown since then. In Charles Dickens’ Christmas tale, the humbled Scrooge wakes up and demands a little boy to go to the butcher to buy a big turkey. Because the butcher is open on Christmas! In Dickens’ time Christmas wasn’t that big a deal and things weren’t closed for this high holiday. Traditionally Christians don’t even typically celebrate birthday’s let alone Jesus’. Saints days are their death days, the day they ascend to heaven! And if they did want to celebrate Jesus’ birthday it surely isn’t in winter. Whatever would those shepherds be doing with baby lambs in the middle of winter, even in warm Israel.
Substituting “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” still doesn’t alleviate the fact that little Jehova’s Witness boys and girls will be left out in the cold with their Buddhist and Hindu classmates during conversations about what toys Santa brought. And it doesn’t eliminate the feeling of disappointment from the poor children who didn’t get all the things they saw on television. Of course, I am not suggesting that we ban Santa or Christmas. I am suggesting that we have a little common courtesy for those around us and realize that maybe, as we’re caught up in our red and green and christmas carols and snowmen, and fat men in red costumes and reindeer and Christmas lights and, and, and, and, and……whew….that we maybe catch ourselves and imagine how this feels to the 37 people who are foolish enough to live in the U.S. and not celebrate the exact same way. Maybe that would be a good Christmas lesson.
So I’ll concede to the Religious Right that “Merry Christmas” isn’t meant as an offense to me but if I had a Christmas wish, it would be that we recognize that Christmas is not for everyone and not everyone celebrates it, or even Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali or necessarily anything. In this great free society we are able to celebrate nothing at all without having overwhelming pressure to spend ourselves into oblivion for the sake of a made up holiday season.