Sunday, December 15, 2013

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

I think this post is gonna touch on a sensitive issue for some folks.  Please keep an open mind until you've read it all.  Then think about it. 

 This time of year I see a lot of posts on social media that look like this:

I'll be honest, it irks me. Every. Single. Time.  Why can't we all just agree that we each get to say what we want to say WITHOUT being rude about it, AND nobody gets offended by whether they are wished a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holidays?  Why do we expect someone else, be it a store employee, a stranger in the parking lot, or even our friends, family, and acquaintances to express OUR beliefs TO us?  It makes zero sense to me, especially when there are so many different celebrations in October, November, and December.  Just take a look at this wiki list of winter holidays/festivals and you'll soon realize there is so much more to this season than just Christmas.

In fact, even if you like to say Merry Christmas, I think it's perfectly okay for a business to ask their employees to say Happy Holidays.  Why should they ask their Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, employees to say something they don't believe?  Saying Happy Holidays does not go against your belief if you celebrate Christmas.  What it is says is, "Hey, I don't know you.  I don't know what you believe, I don't know your culture, I don't know your family.  What I do know is that whatever you celebrate this time of year, I hope it's a good and happy one."  

As a culture, our first thought is always about ourselves first. What about what I believe?  What about why I'm offended?  What I can't figure out is why we always expect everyone to respect our beliefs, but we make absolutely no effort to respect theirs?  Let us not forget that our ACTIONS speak LOUDER than our words.  Simply respecting other people speaks louder to them than ANY Merry Christmas you can muster. 

When I was working, I was very fortunate to work for a company that did not tell me what I had to say to people.  I could say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or nothing at all.  Since I believe in Christmas as the celebration of Christ's birth, I chose Merry Christmas.  Every Christmas, I would have an interaction with a patron of the business.  She was Jewish, and during the whole Holiday season, I would say, "Merry Christmas," to which she would reply, "Happy Hanukkah."  We understood one another.  She knew what I believed, I knew what she believed.  Neither of us were offended by what words we used.  (Just a side note here for my Christian friends: Hanukkah is a celebration of a miracle.  If you're offended when someone says Happy Hanukkah to you, you should do some research. Now, back to my point...)  We both showed respect.  That's all I really think we should do during this season.  It might surprise you how people react when you just show them respect.

To the folks reading this that feel Happy Holidays takes Christ out of Christmas, I say this:  Do you really think FORCING people to say Merry Christmas to you spreads the love of Christ during Christmas?  I would argue it does the complete opposite.  

When a checkout person says "Happy Holidays" to you, and then you snap back, "It's Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays," how effective of a witness is that?  All it does is make YOU look arrogant and intolerant. At that point, I'm pretty certain that the last thing on his/her mind is, "Well there goes a Child of God.  God must be so awesome if people that celebrate Christmas are so kind and wonderful."   Yeah.  That's NOT what they're gonna be thinking.  It will be more along the lines of "I'll shove that Merry Christmas......"  I'm sure you can fill in the rest.  And let's face it, there's plenty of miserable people out there at Christmastime.  People are stressed and busy. We don't need to add more fuel to those fires.  We need to be kind, and loving, and genuine.

I can hear the folks now that say, "But what about me?  I want to say Merry Christmas, but my company won't let me?"  I have a couple things to say about that.  First, sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do.  That is a fact of life.  If you want to call the shots, start a business.  If you feel SO strongly about this issue, do some research, ask in the interview what the company policy is on this topic.  And while you're at it, be sure to ask about everything else that offends you, and then refuse that job.  Frankly, it seems a little ridiculous if you think of it in that context.  If it is that much of a core value to you, then you should stand firm on it the rest of the year.

Secondly, is it so awful to offer a genuine, heart felt, Happy Holidays?  If the person celebrates Christmas, you've been kind to them.  If they don't, you've still been kind. Seems like a win-win kind of thing to me.  The point of saying Merry Christmas is to spread joy, goodwill, cheer, and happiness to the world.  So do it using whatever words it takes.  Words only have power because we give them power.  Make your Happy Holidays the best dang Happy Holidays out there.  That will speak volumes.  That will have power, maybe even more power than a Merry Christmas.

Now, to all of you out there that don't celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ, but rather as a time of family and goodwill.  You may want people to say Merry Christmas because that's how you were raised.  Or you might feel that Happy Holidays makes Christmas too commercial.  Honestly, it doesn't matter why it offends you so, it matters that it does.  Being respectful, kind, and genuine still applies to you. Remember, not everyone believes exactly the way you do.  Your celebration might not be "Christian" in nature, but you should still be respectful and kind to others.  In fact, the picture I posted wouldn't even upset me so much if it didn't have the "so deal with it" added on the end.  You want to tell people you say Merry Christmas, fine, do it. Make a little picture that says, "This person says Merry Christmas."  That would be SO much more in the spirit of Christmas than "so deal with it."  You're not winning anyone over with those four little words.

To those that want your children raised to say Merry Christmas, that's what you teach at home.  Don't expect society to parent your child in every arena.  There's too much of that these days.  Teach them what this season means to your family, your culture, and you.  But please, do it in a way that teaches them respect for other people.  If you just create a new generation of intolerance, then it's pointless.

So after all that, I think the question it leaves for us all is, how do we respond when someone wishes us a Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? I say, with love, kindness, and cheer, reply what you believe.  Don't act put out that some stranger doesn't know what holiday you celebrate.  You can just reply, "you have a great day" or if you celebrate Christmas, say "Merry Christmas."  See how simple that is?  You still get to express what you believe without being disrespectful, rude, arrogant, or intolerant.  After all, if this season is one of goodwill, shouldn't we actually practice what we preach?

Thank you to everyone that took the time to read all of this.  As a reward, here's a puppy:

Until next time....

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