A Christmas Wish: Can't We All Just Get Along?
A few days ago, I posted the following status to Facebook:
“Re all the current ‘War on Christmas’ rhetoric posted on FB: No one I know is offended by the phrase ‘Merry Christmas.’ I'm not, and I haven't been a Christian for many years. At this holiday season, does it really do any of us any good to manufacture bad feelings that never existed in the first place? Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it, and peace on Earth and goodwill toward all. Namaste!”
It got a lot of positive feedback, but it also puzzled a few people. What was I talking about? They hadn’t seen anything like that from their Facebook friends.
So I thought I would share the content of the status that inspired me to post, as well as expand my thoughts on the matter.
First, the inspiration: A former high school classmate posted, “MERRY CHRISTMAS! If that offends you, get over it! JESUS is the REASON for the SEASON!”
Now, throughout the build-up to the big day, I’ve been seeing similar postings, mostly from former classmates, and I’ve let them go without comment. I don’t have any problem with such phrases as “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings,” and I don’t see why anyone would find them problematic, but apparently there’s a lot of umbrage out there about more inclusive holiday greetings—umbrage that to me seems ill-placed. But whatever. It was the tone of this status that I found particularly counter to the spirit of the holiday season. My way or the highway! Almost as if the person who posted it was counting on offending those who don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. Or those who celebrate other holidays at this time of the year. And was, in fact, proud of doing so.
Initially, I was simply going to post my response as a comment on her status. Then I thought, “No. I think other people need to see this. With the number of similar (though not as strident) posts I’ve seen in the last few weeks, I figured I couldn’t be the only person, Christian or not, who, while not being the least bit offended by the greeting “Merry Christmas,” is plenty annoyed by the ginned up outrage over an issue that doesn’t, in fact, exist, and that the pursuit of which does nothing but divide.
So I posted my reply as my status.
And I simply have to add a bit of a history lesson here—I was a Social Studies editor for years, after all—Jesus is ONE of the “reasons” for the season. In fact, most human cultures that developed in the Temperate Zone of the Northern Hemisphere held some kind of celebration around the Winter Solstice. After all, what better way to encourage a society to work together to brave the cold, dark winter than to celebrate with a festival of warmth and light? For the Celts and other northern European pagans, the festival was Yule. For the Romans, it was Saturnalia—the holiday that the early Christian church actually appropriated as Christmas. A wise move, really, but if those who tout Jesus as the reason for the season want to be accurate, they should acknowledge that Saturn predates Jesus if they want a reason for the season in the first place. The truth is, there are probably as many “reasons for the season” as there are humans who celebrate at this time of year.
And yes, I celebrate Christmas, even though I’ve been an agnostic now for much longer than I ever was a Christian. I give presents to friends. I decorate. I enjoy the company of friends and family. I sing Christmas carols and drive Jeff nuts playing them for hours on end. I force him to endure Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol year after year after year. Yes, I celebrate. And no, I’m not the least bit offended when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas.
So to all my friends, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Blessed Yule, and to all, a good night!