Trent Ernst, Editor
You’d think something as simple as seasonal greetings would be, well, simple.
But no, over the last number of years, simple wishes for people to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year have become complicated.
It’s been called the war on Christmas, and there are indeed some people out there who are waging war against the sacred as governments and corporations try and avoid the intrinsic connection between Christmas and Christianity, often in an effort to be sensitive to other cultures.
Sometimes it’s misguided, but a lot of the objections to focusing on Christmas is an attempt to be accepting. To show love to other people of other cultures. Which, if you were a Christian, should be fairly foundational to your beliefs (cf Luke 10:25-37)
It’s hard for Christians, who have made up such a large percentage of the North American Landscape for so long, to deal with the fact that not everyone is a Christian.
The militant Merry Christmas isn’t really the appropriate response to the anti-Merry Christmas crowd. Again, it becomes people standing on either side of some imaginary line drawn and throwing stones, just like politics or the toilet roll debate (definitely under).
But to say others must say “happy holidays” is as narrow-minded as saying “screw you, Merry Christmas!”
And so it becomes a topic of endless debate and handwringing and, yes, conflict, at a time when, at least those on one side of the issue, say they are celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.
So how do we deal with this Gordian Knot? Is it a stalemate? Are we going to be arguing about this forever?
Probably. But I’d like to propose a simple solution. You could ask.
No, seriously, bear with me. Ask “does it trouble you if I say ‘Merry Christmas?’” And if the person says no, then go for it. And if they say yes, then find out what they are comfortable with.
But you could take it a step beyond that. Find out what holiday they celebrate, and take the time to figure out the traditions around that.
If someone is Jewish, wish them a Happy Hanukkah. If someone is a pagan, blow their mind and wish them a good yule.
Of course, this doesn’t hold for the thousand casual interactions of the everyday. You can’t ask everyone you bump into what faith they subscribe to, but you can do it for people who are more than just casual acquaintances. That’d be a start. Meet people where they’re at instead of making them meet you where you’re at.
And for those casual, everyday encounters? That’s where the generic “happy holidays” comes in, or the ironic “have a fabulous festivus.”
Or, you could duck the issue entirely and greet others the way you do the rest of the year. “Hey.” or “Hi.” or “Hello.” There’s nothing wrong with that, either. Because whatever political point you’re making by using your greeting of choice isn’t worth alienating people over.
And if someone does say “happy holidays to you,” and it offends your (culturally) Christian sensibilities, or someone says “Merry Christmas,” and it troubles your atheistic soul, take a second and get over yourself. Put yourself in their shoes. Are they trying to insult you? No. Think they’re being sincere? Probably. Then accept it for what it is: a sentiment of well wishes during what is a long, cold and often lonely time of year and extend your own well wishes.
As the golden rule says: greet others as you would have them greet you. So if you care how you are greeted, perhaps you should care how others are greeted to, and greet them kindly. With respect.
Or, you know, just throw up your hands and say “Bah, Humbug.”
So, Merry Holidays, and enjoy whatever tradition it is that makes you happy at this time of year. And don’t worry; it’ll all be over soon.