happy holidays or merry christmas?the debate goes on, louder and stronger than ever. this year, in my town, christians had their panties in a twist because the tree we send to Boston every year for their commons (this is a tradition started several years ago to thank Bostonians for the help they provided during the Halifax Explosion of December 1917) was going to be called a "holiday tree" rather than a "christmas tree" to be inclusive of Boston's multicultural communities. People had enough humbuggery in their veins to say we should stop sending our trees if they aren't going to call them christmas trees! the guy who donated the tree even said he would rather they feed the tree to a wood chipper than have it called a "holiday tree"!
christians are all pissed off that all the "immigrants" to north america want to change "our" holiday season to include "their" weird traditions. the jews have their hannukah, the muslims have their ramadan, the black folks have kwanzaa – whatever the heck that is…. soon we'll be celebrating rastafarian holidays and native holidays, they say. oh, wait a second… natives? weren't they here BEFORE "us"? doesn't that make us "immigrants" too? well, that's beside the point. this is a christian country, and it's christmas, for christ sake – let us call it christmas!
so, problems with this argument from the whining christians?
well, holiday is non-specific, non-denominational, and all-inclusive for those who do celebrate religious traditions at this time of year. who the hell does it hurt to say "happy holidays", to be inclusive of everyone? also, saying "happy holidays" doesn't mean you suddenly aren't celebrating christmas and you are celebrating hannukah or participating in ramadan in some sneaky way without even knowing it. saying "happy holidays" doesn't make you less christian, or detract from the "sacredness" of your traditions! what the hell are you so threatened and insecure about?
christians dominate north american culture, this is true. however, this has gone on long enough! Two of our national holidays in Canada are christian – good Friday and christmas – and none reflect the religions of any other group. in Canada, we embrace cultural diversity in ways our US neighbours do not – cultural mosaic rather than melting pot, right? so why should it be so hard for us to say "happy holidays"!
a couple of years ago, I was making out holiday cards for my favourite clients. I was careful to choose ones that did not denote any particular religion, but featured wintery scenes and a message like "celebrate the joys of the holiday season". but, when I filled one of them out, I automatically wrote "Merry Christmas!" and I realized it when I was handing it to the client it was intended for – a Jewish lady! I said to her, "I hope you're not offended, but I think I wrote Merry Christmas in your card," to which she replied, "oh that's alright, Happy Hannukah to you! and Merry Christmas too!" Another of my clients wished me both a Merry Christmas and a Happy Ramadan that year. Neither were offended that I celebrate christmas (loosely, meaning I exchange gifts with my friends and family, not meaning I celebrate the birth of christ the saviour – I am an atheist after all), and both expressed to me the sentiments of their own celebrations. It was nice – I felt like they were extending some of the benevolence of their special traditions to me. I felt included, in a small way.
I think that's the point. By saying "merry christmas", we are not necessarily offending people – although in some cases we are. more importantly, we are excluding them, and not acknowledging their own beautiful and special traditions. we are making them invisible. that's not exactly a nice feeling. and that is why I wish people "happy holidays".