The social media hullabaloo over “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” is starting to wane. I saw fewer Facebook posts this year insisting: “I don’t care – I’m Christian and I’m saying Merry Christmas!”
I’m Christian, too, and very proud of it. As a matter of fact, this blog itself is one of my celebrations of my own Christianity. I keep “Christ in Christmas”. And as much as I was disheartened several years ago over the “Happy Holidays” bandwagon, with a little reflection, I can understand it completely.
Jesus instructed us to love one another. Love requires respect. Respecting one another’s religious beliefs (or non-religious beliefs) is what I believe we are called to do.
Our country is a melting pot and by living here, we need to accept that fact. Because our nation is predominantly Christian, it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the beliefs of our neighbors. I don’t see the acknowledgement of our differences as only a matter of “political correctness”, I see it as being respectful.
While living in our old neighborhood, our dog-walking schedule generally coincided with another couple on our street. My husband and I often stopped to chit-chat while our dogs sniffed and occasionally played with each other. The couple became familiar acquaintances – with friendly, but superficial, conversations. That December, my husband wished them “Merry Christmas”, as we always did to anyone we encountered.
“We’re Jewish!” the woman snorted. We had no idea. As oblivious Christians, we never even considered that someone doesn’t share those beliefs. Her sharp response startled both of us, but we appreciated her setting the record straight. My husband obviously hadn’t intended on offending her. His wishing her Merry Christmas was the same as her wishing us Happy Hanukkah – meaningless. In this context, “Happy Holidays” would have celebrated both of our traditions without even knowing the others’ beliefs.
Ever since that encounter, I understood the value of using the term Happy Holidays. I never view it as a dismissal of my Christian beliefs and it doesn’t impact the love I have for Jesus in my heart on Christmas and throughout the year.
I recently heard on the news that someone was changing ‘Thanksgiving’ to ‘Harvest Festival’. Even with my previous story in mind, I have to admit that my immediate reaction was, “What in the world is wrong with ‘Thanksgiving’ now?”
I learned that the “white man’s” treatment and overtaking of the indigenous Native American people has painful roots and prejudices that still continue to this day. This understanding brought memories of a childhood friend, Rowena, and her sister to mind. Those sisters were the only Native Americans I have had the pleasure of befriending. I was disheartened to think that a holiday that brings me joy might bring them sadness. If ‘Thanksgiving’ turns into ‘Harvest Festival’ in the coming years, it won’t stop me from celebrating all the blessings in my life, which I do on Thanksgiving, and really every day.
I have found that once I began looking at the differences in our beliefs as one of respect rather than silly political correctness, it’s very easy to appreciate our differences.