December 24, 2005

Happy holidays. Merry Christmas. (Add in, this year, for the first time this century, Happy Hanukkah.)

Where I know the belief structure of the other, I will so wish them: Merry Christmas to the Christian, Happy Hanukkah to the Jew, Happy Eid to the Muslim, happy holidays to those who follow neither tradition but nevertheless participate in the season, if only to the point of having received a day off from work and a day for time with family. Where I am aware of a current major cultural holiday (and please do let me know what I might not be aware of), I will so wish in the sidebar of this blog.

Whatever a person wishes to wish me in the spirit of a given festival, I will joyfully accept.

Yet I continue to read every year more complaints from those who feel that another's different wishing somehow constitutes an erosion, a threat to their own beliefs.

What does it say about us that the nature of the greeting is even an issue? A person who so wishes should be able to find a "Merry Christmas" card to send to another person celebrating Christmas without everyone who is neither giver nor receiver getting all uptight about it. Similarly, a person who so wishes should be able to find and send a "Happy Holidays" (or whatever) card in the peace and spirit of the season. For those who might think otherwise, I might remind them of a certain vision of Peter's (Acts 10:9-45).

A tree is a tree is a tree and if a person really objects to what the store selling that tree chooses to call it, there has always been such a thing as voting with one's pocketbook. (I will venture a wager, here and now, that in no place in the United States will Christmas trees cease to be sold somewhere in any given city: which gives the choice.) As to what others say about it: well, if they succeed in converting every holiday-bought tree in the United States into a Christmas tree,
  1. obviously there is a stronger desire for Christmas trees than for holiday trees, and
  2. it will only be returning it to the way it was in the United States ever since English and not German became the official language.
Yet I might perhaps find a great deal more validity in a determination to separate church and state illustrated by that "ten commandments in the courtroom" battle if it had any relevance whatsoever to the actuality ... and if the recent re-labelling of the White House tree had been resistance to a broader inclusion -- understandable as wanting to preserve the existing status quo -- rather than a determined change away from an already-existing inclusion. (For the White House tree had already been quietly re-named a "holiday tree" sometime in the previous decade.)

To resist an alteration away from a tradition is one thing. To pull something already altered back, away from the already-existing inclusive (and that under threat of lawsuit if it is not done), something else entirely. By such choices do we define our identity -- and, more relevantly, who is not and must never be allowed to be considered truly one of "us".

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