Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Holidays

cranberry sauce from last Thanksgiving // *personal photo*
If you wish me a "happy holidays" today, I won't be offended.  It's the day before Thanksgiving today, but Thanksgiving is really only celebrated on the one day, not an entire liturgical season, so I can see why you wouldn't want to wish me a "happy Thanksgiving" today.

Advent starts on Sunday, but there's not really a common joyful greeting for the Advent season.  I guess you could say "blessed Advent," though it doesn't quite roll off the tongue, and that would be an appropriate, specific greeting starting on Sunday, but not today, so I can see why you wouldn't want to wish me a "blessed Advent" today.

The Christmas season starts on December 25 and lasts clear on through the end of January, during which I will greet everyone I meet with a "Merry Christmas!" I don't say this to try to force my religion on you or because I'm making an assumption about which deity you do or do not worship, but rather because for me, it's the Christmas season, and I'm feeling merry, and I want you to feel merry, too.  I could say "Merry Wednesday" to you today because it's Wednesday, whether you recognize it as such or not, and I'd like you to have a merry day.  If you're Jewish, and you choose to wish me a "Happy Hannukah!" during that season, I won't assume you're trying to force your Jewishness on me or suggest that Judaism is the only acceptable holiday.  Rather, I'll take the greeting for what it is- an expression of the joy you feel at that time and your wish for me to feel that joy, too.  But regardless of what the department stores and radio stations want us to think, today, the day before Thanksgiving, is not Christmas.  Christmas doesn't start until, well, Christmas, so I can see why you wouldn't want to wish me a "Merry Christmas" today.

The end of the calendar year- from the beginning of November through early January- is generally recognized as "the holiday season" in America because there are an awful lot of holidays that fall during that time.  Rather than worry about what specific holiday falls on any given day, it's become common to greet each other wish "happy holidays" to convey the general joyfulness felt when the weather starts to get cold and families get back together again to eat ridiculously large meals.  And yes, there are some people who do not celebrate any of the religious holidays this time of year, but they still recognize that this is a season of holidays that gives even their cold little atheist hearts a warm feeling, so they default to "happy holidays" as a way of wishing others well.  It's not meant to be offensive, it's not meant to suggest that whatever specific holiday you are celebrating is less important than any of the others- on the contrary, this greeting recognizes that there are holy days even if they themselves don't feel that way.

So here's the deal- if you're happy today, and if today happens to fall during a specific season, and you want to offer me that seasonally appropriate greeting- I won't be offended!  And I'll respond in kind with my seasonally appropriate greeting (which, today, would probably just be "happy holidays" if we're being honest here.). And if you're happy today and you do not greet me with "Merry Christmas," I will not assume that you are trying to offend me or subvert my religious beliefs- because you know what?  It's not even Christmas yet.  And if it's December 23rd I probably won't say Merry Christmas to you quite yet- because it's not Christmas yet then, either.  But even if, on December 25th, you choose to say "happy holidays" to me, I will smile and be thankful for the greeting, because that is indeed a happy day, and a holy day, too, so you've gotten it right, whether you meant to or not, and I'll respond with "Merry Christmas" because it's Christmas, even if you don't celebrate it, and I want to spread some merriment back to you in return.

Is there a real threat to religious liberty in this country at this time? Yes, there is.  But red cups and department store cashier greetings are not the battlegrounds worth dying on, because the people offering them to you are not the ones fighting you.  So let's all do our part to spread joy this Christmas season- when the season actually starts- by not pitching fits about things that don't matter.

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