It’s that time of year again.
My friends are so annoyed.
“It’s not Happy Holidays,” they grumble. “It’s Merry Christmas!”
I stare blankly, like I’ve had too much bourbon in my eggnog. My brain wants to throw out some well-timed snark, but misses its window of opportunity. Instead, I turn my PC filter on and fight the urge to ask what greeting they wish upon their Jewish friends.
I had done this once. On accident, I wished a Merry Christmas upon a Jewish co-worker. He took quite a bit of offense at my faux pas. He leaned forward and shot back Happy Hanukkah, with a slight pause between the words as if thrusting a dagger-spiked menorah into my gut.
“Right!” I brushed off the faux pas, as well as his offense. “Happy Hanukkah.” I then asked if he wouldn’t mind telling me a bit how Hanukkah is celebrated.
“It’s like you’ve never met a Jew before,” he griped, turning his chair back to his monitor.
“Don’t be such a Scrooge,” I nudged him. “It’s the holiday season.”
And this is what I want to remind my friends. It is the holiday season. Christmas isn’t the only holiday being celebrated this time of year. And while I understand their love for Christmas, and their faith, getting all nasty about making this time only about Christmas feels decidedly, well, un-Christmas-y.
Among other holidays being celebrated, there is St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Las Posadas, Boxing Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the New Year. And don’t forget the Thanksgiving we just celebrated sort of kicks it all off. So why not wish someone an all-inclusive Happy Holidays? Heck, that even hits the folks who don’t celebrate anything at all, wishing them to be happy this time of year. Go ahead and wish folks a Merry Christmas. Or a Happy Hanukkah. Or wish them a Happy New Year. Or wish them Happy Holidays. Whatever the words, just wish them happiness. For this is the time of year when we remind ourselves just how much we have forgotten to do so during the other eleven months of the year.
“Bah!” you say? “Humbug?”
“Why should I worry about offending some made-up holiday like Kwanzaa?” someone once asked me. “I’ll keep my Christmas and make it merry.”
“Then keep your Christmas and make it merry. The point is to share joy and love, not claim it for your own.”
“The point is,” he reminded me, “Jesus Christ was born. Christmas.”
I asked him if he was aware that we didn’t really know that Jesus was born December 25, and it was likely that Christmas was drafted onto a pagan holiday that involved yule logs and mistletoe among other folk traditions. Besides, Jesus being born wasn’t what Jesus was all about, but rather his teachings and his dying on the cross. Jesus never asked us to celebrate his birth by leaving cookies out for some jolly fat elf coming down our chimneys and placing the spoils of Black Friday under some decorated evergreen tree that happens to be inside our home. “So,” I said. “In a way, Christmas is a made-up holiday.”
Guess who doesn’t send me Christmas cards anymore.
As for me, I will keep my Christmas and make it merry. And I will wish a Merry Christmas to those I know who celebrate it. And I will wish a Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish co-worker. And if I’m not sure which holiday you celebrate, I’ll be sending along a Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and maybe a Merry New Year to throw you off a bit.
Whatever our personal reasons for the season, let’s celebrate our reasons while we extend warm wishes to those who might celebrate a bit differently, if at all.
That, to me, is in the spirit of the season.