It happens every year. In December, I see the comments from people about wishing others Merry Christmas or the push to use Happy Holidays. There are “holiday parties” which seem to get under other people’s skin as they wish they were Christmas parties. Some people are simply asking a question about why others should be offended by Christmas greetings, while others seem to suggest a more militant of “by God, I will wish you Merry Christmas whether you like it or not!”
Every year I think about writing this blog post. But its hard to clear my head on the topic by the time I’ve seen a couple of rants. By now, some of you may be asking why I would care enough to write a post on the topic. There are a few reasons that I want to walk through one by one.
I will openly admit to being a faithful person more than a religious person. Growing up, I was always at church. The relationships built there and the life lessons learned are a major part of who I am. I have continued my journey of faith with a lot of reading, experiences like travel to Israel, Turkey and the Vatican and a lot of introspection and discussion. Although I’m not a regular church goer, I find myself closely tied to the church and count many ministers among my family and dear friends.
For Christmas, many years I have skipped putting up a tree, yet I have almost always put a nativity set out. I have a couple that I prize dearly. One that connects me to my mom & grandmom as it was a ceramic set the family made and the other that was carved from olive wood I purchased for myself when I was in Bethlehem a few years ago (featured in the photo here).
“Merry Christmas” is a greeting that to me helps me offer a succinct connection to all of that in just a couple of words. When someone says Merry Christmas to me, it makes me smile and for a minute at least, it helps remind me of the reason for the season. For me, those words embody a certain spirit and love that I want to share.
My Friends, Family & Others
I have mentioned before that I grew up with what some friends have told me was a very unique experience. Early in life, I had family members who were Jewish. There was a time when our family included a Jehovah Witness and there are a few Buddhists in the family too. In high school and college I had a lot of friends who were from other parts of the world and who had different beliefs than me.
So while my family went to a Christian Church during the Christmas season, I learned early that it wasn’t the same for everyone. And I learned it in a way that helped me respect the traditions that others had. Heck, despite our not being Catholic or Baptist, we frequently would be at events at those churches as well as our own.
All of that is layered with an appreciation for the United States. We do a lot of things wrong here I will admit and I get into debates with family about what those things are. However, one thing we have had from the onset is the freedom to worship. To me, that right of freedom to worship based on personal choice is paramount.
What’s Best for Me
For me I need a combination of wishes that helps extend the joy and peaceful insight that I hope others see in the season and in me. It’s how I choose to respect others that has me saying a variety of phrases rather than just sending a Christmas wish. There are lots of reasons to be happy this time of year & they are all good.
When I see Jewish friends during the holidays, I try to remember to tell them Happy Hanukkah as I truly hope they are having a great holiday season and pursuing their faith. With Buddhist and Hindu friends and family, I’m far more likely to focus on New Year’s wishes. And my friends of different faiths tell me Merry Christmas though they don’t personally celebrate it.
For people I may not know well but would like to offer up a cheerful greeting, happy holidays works well. They could be celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, the Solstice or simply celebrating a bit of time off as holiday. They may even being cheering “festivus for the rest of us.” My largest group of family & friends get the Merry Christmas!
If someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah, I don’t assume they mean to offend me by failing to recognize the fact I’m not Jewish. They are simply wishing me well. But I also know that my saying “Happy Holidays” doesn’t take anything away from my faith or the spirit which which I celebrate anything, it simply shows I’m aware that others may be celebrating something else. And in that minute, I get to be the kind of person I want to be. The kind of person who respects other religions and cultures.
For me arguing about which greeting I should use is counter-productive, I choose to celebrate the season instead!
One More Thing…
If you’d like a light-hearted look at the holidays, check out this post on the “12 days of Cotton.” Yes, I wrote cotton-based lyrics for a Christmas song. And yes, I recorded it! LOL. I hope you have a great one and don’t forget to make my favorite fiber part of it!