Facebook has shown me that a friend of mine from high school is a conservative Republican. (Facebook also shows me that she is also the owner of an adorable dog.) I was thrilled to learn this, because it meant we could have an entertaining back-and-forth about politics that was occasionally snarky, but never mean. I live in one of the most progressive zip codes in the country, so it’s hard for me to find anyone to challenge my assumptions, and that’s one of the things that I need more and more the older I get.
Since the election, there have been fewer political posts and more cute pictures of her sweet puppy, but recently she piqued my inherited Talmudic tendencies to argue by posting the illustration at the left, “It’s not Happy Holidays/ It’s Merry Christmas.”
Because Facebook isn’t really the place to have a long and sustained conversation (see the above re: snark), I thought I’d expand upon my thesis here. There seems to be an assumption among some people (including the person who created the graphic) that there is some kind of authority preventing people from saying, “Merry Christmas.”
As I said to my friend, the only occasions I’ve heard about where this is true are in retail environments, where sales clerks are told to say “Happy Holidays” so that they don’t alienate non-Christian customers. This is a marketing decision made by corporate executives, not an Inquisition carried out by the government. No one pops up and arrests the customer who replies, “Thank you, and Merry Christmas.”
When I was a child in elementary school, we sang Christmas songs in school assemblies, including religious carols like “Silent Night.” (My first grade teacher, a wonderful Quaker lady, also had us illegally read a passage from the Bible every morning, even though the Supreme Court had already banned such practices.) I imagine that doesn’t happen anymore, at least not in the public schools.
There are many other places to sing Christmas songs. Church, for example.
Sometimes, one reads stories about towns that remove Nativity scenes from the public square. This happens because the First Amendment forbids the government from establishing religion. It does not forbid Nativity scenes from your own, personal front lawn. Or from churches.
(The same thing sometimes happens when a group of people want to put up a menorah in the public square. Menorah’s belong in one’s home, in the window, or on the synagogue lawn.)
But lets consider this from another angle. Even if you are a Christian who only knows other Christians whom you know for a fact to be Christians, you probably don’t see everybody you know every single day. With work and school schedules the way they are, there is a good chance you might see somebody today, and then not see that person until January 5.
It would not be impossible to imagine that you might want to wish this person both a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Or, to be concise, you might say, “Happy Holidays.” Because Christmas and New Years Day are, together, more than one holiday.
I, myself, as a Jew, wish people, “Happy Holidays” in the fall, when the Jewish High Holy Days run rampant. And I also say it in the spring, when Easter and Passover overlap. If I’m not paying attention, I’ll say it for Chinese New Year.
Because, at its root, a holiday is a holy day. And, to me, every day is holy. As it says in my favorite Psalm (#118), “This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad of it.” If I wish you,”Happy Holidays,” I mean all of them.
Limiting it to just Christmas is kind of stingy.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess, is ready for donuts.