Seasonal War of Words

Some Christians become prickly this time of year because they object to statements like "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas." They see this as an affront to their faith, and as political-correctness gone crazy. Alternatively, secularists object to the public display of Christian celebration and see it as the domination of religion over our culture. Both sides claim the other is waging cultural war and winning. Both sides are cast as oppressor and victim.

They both are mistaken and short-sighted, viewing this time of year as a Christian-only season of celebration and ignoring the existence of other holidays occurring in the last months of the year; in the United States, this holiday season begins with Thanksgiving in November and continues through New Year's Day (and for Eastern Christians until January 7th which they celebrate as Christmas Day).

From November to January we have, for example, the following celebrations:

• Thanksgiving
• Advent
• Hanukah (timing varies)
• Winter Solstice
• HumanLight
• Christmas Eve
• Christmas Day
• Boxing Day/St. Stephen's Day
• Kwanzaa
• New Year's Eve
• New Year's Day

That's 11 celebrations. Not one holiday alone, but 11-some of which stretch over a period of days, some of which (like Advent) comprise a prelude to a larger festival (Christmas). Some are secular (HumanLight, New Year's), others religious or cultural. Regardless of their nature, there is clearly a pattern of celebration of more than just Christmas.

I have no problems with someone wishing me Merry Christmas, although I am not Christian. I had no objections to a Jewish acquaintance bringing dreidels to a Christmas party the other evening, although I am not Jewish. I have no problems with my atheist friends who celebrate Christmas as a cultural festival, not the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. I have no problems with the people up the road who have a large Nativity scene set up on their lawn. If the Buddhist temple around the corner had put up a Rohatsu display (assuming their Zen, and that such a display exists) it wouldn't bother me. None of these things stops me from celebrating or believing as I like.

People who look for their religion or philosophy of life to be validated outside of their own tradition are insecure in their faith. To object to someone saying "Merry Christmas" because you are not a Christian is as intolerant and silly as someone else objecting to "Happy Holidays" because Jesus' birthday isn't specifically referenced. So long as our rights to practice religion, assemble, and speak freely are secured none of us has anything to balk about.

Regardless of what one believes or celebrates this time of year, all should recognize that the ideals of peace, goodwill, cooperation and tolerance are more important than our own petty little pet peeves. The spirit of all the celebrations I mentioned calls us to focus on ideas larger than ourselves.

Happy Holidays!

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