Maybe it’s just me, but all the fuss about there being a War on Christmas doesn’t seem very much in the spirit of what the holiday is all about.
I mean, I get the whole War on Christmas idea, to a point. I understand that some Christians object to what they see as the secularization of Christmas. But there are other faiths, too, many of which have observations in December, and they should be respected equally. Christians are welcome to make their own Christmas celebration as religious as they choose.
But we’re not all going to feel the same way. And, frankly, the fact that anyone would think I’m waging war on their faith by saying “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” seems more hostile to me than my well-intentioned good wishes. I guess that’s why the idea of people fighting about Christmas perplexes me. I just can’t reconcile the idea of the War on Christmas with the meaning of the holiday.
I grew up Episcopalian and am now a Buddhist who is more philosophical than religious. My boyfriend is Catholic, and I have friends and colleagues who are Jewish, Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, atheist — you name it. I honor their beliefs equally.
My little world isn’t any different from our larger world. And in a country that was founded in part to allow religious freedom, why is it so difficult for us to honor everyone’s faith equally? (I could easily veer off here into a discussion about separation of church and state. Instead, suffice to say I recognize its relevance to this topic but my point is about what’s in our hearts rather than what’s displayed on city property.)
I know Christians who will always say “Merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays,” and I respect that they want the celebration of their faith recognized. But I can’t help but think of my Jewish friends who are frustrated by the number of people who ask, “What does that holiday mean? And Jews still celebrate Thanksgiving, right?” At least Buddhists can point to the Dalai Lama and say, “That,” but otherwise people don’t really get it a lot of the time.
That doesn’t offend me. If someone asks, I’ll explain my beliefs. It’s good that we learn about each other’s faiths, especially since they share many common principles. I’ve learned more about Catholicism since I started dating Joe Quincy — in fact, conversations with him helped shape this post and inspired its title.
It’s good that we share traditions and celebrate together, as far as our own faith allows. Celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah doesn’t impugn my Buddhist philosophy. It’s a time to share joy with the people I love. Buddhists value that, just as Christians and Muslims and people of all faiths do.
I guess that’s where I find myself so frustrated by the idea of the War on Christmas. To me, the whole point is to celebrate the ideal of “goodwill toward all men” — not just those we love, but those we work with or meet on the street. All men and women, whether we agree with them or not.
When people wish me a Merry Christmas, I don’t get prickly about it. I wish them the same in return, because if I didn’t already I now know they’re Christian. I offer glad tidings in the person’s faith if I know it, and I think “happy holidays” is a fine way to wish each other well, too. It honors every faith or simply a festive season for non-believers.
The many holidays celebrated in December (some with pagan origins, let’s not forget) are an opportunity to come together, to express gratitude, to experience the comfort and joy of family and friends. It’s a time to be good to each other.
The way I see it, we could stand to find more time to be good to each other. Every day, not just a few days a year. So whatever words you use, say something nice. And celebrate when someone says something nice to you, however they say it.