There seems to be a giant push this year to reclaim the lost art of wishing someone a "Merry Christmas". I've seen several talking heads on television lately railing against people who say "Happy Holidays" and the like. They complain about the secular nature of Holiday plays at schools; they lambast the need for the government to put up a Holiday tree; and fire literally spews forth from their mouthes upon mention of the so-called "two reindeer rule" which, according to some statute, requires all religious displays to be accompanied by several secular symbols on government property.
I know you're not asking for my opinion but you came to my blog willingly and at least once every couple months, you could expect for me to post something semi-political in nature, so here it is.
Everyone involved in this discussion should save their breath because the point is moot. Christmas may have the word "Christ" in it but aside from the order in which those first 6 letters are arranged, there is absolutely nothing religious about this holiday. They want to argue about whether or not a blue spruce is a "Holiday" tree or a "Christmas" tree. Hello? It's a friggin tree! It's no different than a pumpkin or a turkey -- it's a symbol. That's it. There's no meaning to the damn tree. It's decorative. Like a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day, only much bigger.
In my household, we don't celebrate Christmas because we were raised as Christians. We celebrate Christmas and say "Merry Christmas" to each other because it's tradition. The calendar says December 25th is Christmas Day and being that we were both raised in households that celebrated Christmas in lieue of some other religious holiday we to this day celebrate Christmas. And we proudly celebrate the tradition of setting up a tree and giving gifts to one another and decorating the house and dressing a little nicer because it's a fun tradition. Because that's what we do. To us, it has nothing to do with religion and hasn't for a very long time. And it needn't either.
There are a number of holidays with religious origins that involve exchanging gifts in December. It doesn't matter what they're called or which one you particularly subscribe to and acknowledge because, combined, they all give people a reason to partake in a shared experience. The reason people started saying "Season's Greetings" is because it's all about the season. It's about adding warmth to winter and about wrapping up the year on a good, kind, and generous note. That's what this season is about. It's not because stringing 8,250 lights on your roof is a uniquely Christian thing to do, or because ringing up $7,000 worth of credit card debt is a Christian thing to do: it's an American thing to do. Hell, I would guess that even the most casual of Christians out there would agree that these things have absolutely zero to do with Christ's birth.
But yet we all do them (some with more restraint and good taste than others) because it's tradition. And I will keep on celebrating Christmas as a totally secular holiday, no different in my eyes than Thanksgiving or Independence Day, because it' a tradition that is worth keeping. It's a shared experience. I love the look of the neighborhood this time of year. I like going shopping for people and seeing the snow fall and I like the smells of the season. These are things worth celebrating and embracing regardless your religion. So what does it matter whether people say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas"?
I'll tell you why it matters. Because while the majority of Americans fall under the umbrella known as Christianity, not all do. Personally, I don't wish strangers "Merry Christmas" because I have no way of knowing whether or not that person is a celebrator of the light-stringing, credit-card-swiping season. I say Happy Holidays to co-workers or store clerks or whomever because I respect their beliefs, whatever they may be. I know it's hard for a lot of Christians to believe -- especially the rare few who attend church more than twice a year -- but religion makes some people uncomfortable. And while I have no doubt that wishes of "Merry Christmas" are meant with no ill will, it is a sign that you're not respecting the chance that the other person may be of another faith, or simply someone who doesn't wish to celebrate any particular holiday. If you don't know for certain, don't say it. It's not about you being put-out and having to bend to the will of the secular minority, but rather you being a respectful human being and acknowledging the fact that not everyone is like you.
I do not consider myself Christian, but I take no offense to anyone who says "Merry Christmas" to me, so long as they know that I do celebrate the tradition of that particular holiday season. But if you don't know me, "Happy Holidays" is preferred. Why does it matter? It matters because one shouldn't presume that everyone is just like them. And to be perfectly honest, Christians aren't exactly making a great name for themselves these days. Assuming someone is a Christian can be seen as highly offensive. After all, how many Christians out there wouldn't be insulted if someone just assumed you were Jewish? Or Muslim?
Life, and the Holiday Season, is a lot easier if you just leave religion out of it.