Thursday, December 8, 2016

Happy Holidays Redux

Back in December 2007, I wrote a post about a rising national protest from some Americans. They were complaining about being instructed to say “Happy Holidays” to their customers instead of wishing them “Merry Christmas.” This gag order was seen as an infringement on their religious rights, and yet another assault on the public expression of religion in general and Christianity in particular. Since then, this religious persecution mantra has resurfaced on an annual basis, sponsored in part by Fox News stoking the fire. After these many years of argument, we really need to put this issue back into the Church where it belongs, and out of the public debate and business marketplace.

When we look to extend a greeting or good wish to another person, the presumption is that our goal is to honor that person’s life and aspiration. When we send someone a Get Well card, it is not we who are sick but another who is suffering. When we send a Congratulations card to a recent graduate, it is not we who are walking across that commencement stage. The premise is that we extend good feelings to someone for what is happening in THEIR life, not ours.

The story and celebration of Jesus’ birth is a remarkable yet decidedly Christian event. However, there are millions of non-Christians in this country, almost one-third of our population. Many of us no longer live in isolated homogeneous communities, but increasingly we live intermixed all together.  One can choose to “spread the Gospel” in the winter holiday time to those not looking to receive it, or one can express true love and acceptance of each other and honor their respective celebrations.  People who insist on the “right” to wish a Merry Christmas to people whose traditions of observance are different are in fact being very selfish.  They are looking to make themselves feel better, not the person they are addressing. They are not seeking to truly spread “joy and good will to others,” but to themselves. Does a Christian you expect a Jew to wish you a Happy Hanukkah?

On the website, there are 19 religious holidays listed as celebrated in December, and 21 in January. They include a number of generalized “Christian” observances, but many are reflective only of one denomination of Christianity: Christian, Catholic Christian, Hispanic Christian, Hispanic Catholic Christian, Orthodox Christian, Armenian Orthodox Christian, Ethiopian Orthodox Christian.  In addition, a number of non-Christian holidays occur within these same two months: Jewish, Shinto, Buddhist, Confucian, Daoist, Islam, Zoroastrian, Baha'i, Sikh, Wicca/Pagan.

People of all of these faiths are our neighbors and fellow citizens. Our country’s diversity is one of our strengths and reflects our multiple cultural and religious heritages.  So say Happy Birthday to me on my birthday, not yours.  Wish me a Happy 4th of July, not a Happy Bastille Day.  Wish people joy and peace in their own personal form.  If you know that family or friends are Christian, then by all means wish them the “Merry Christmas” that they celebrate. If you do not know them, or have not bothered to try to understand another person’s religion and culture, then do not assume that you know them. Just know that when in doubt, “Happy Holidays” really does work just fine in all cases. And in this time of such strife and division, perhaps a simple message of “Peace” works even better.

Happy Holidays. Peace be within each of you, and your families and friends.

©   2016   Randy Bell     


Anonymous said...

As usual, you're right on target....sending you "happy holidays" and "Namaste."

Anonymous said...

Very true. In the occasion of wishing someone happiness and peace during the holiday season, as well as in all acts of kindness, it should be about the other person, not ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Excellent !