COLUMN: Holidays not universal for all religions
As the season is getting colder, I feel the urge to say those two little words that get so many people in an uproar at this time of year.
There, I said it. If you don’t like it, get over it.
It amazes me that people can be so offended that I choose to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
While it is true that the super-majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, it is also true that many Americans don’t. This is a lesson I learned when I was 6 years old and wondering why one set of my grandparents never gave me a Christmas gift. After having it explained to me what a Jehovah’s Witness was, I forgave them for whatever slight it was my 6-year-old mind thought was done to me.
So I don’t wish people Merry Christmas. Just as I had no way of knowing at the time what religion my grandparents were, I have no way of knowing that the person I am speaking to actually celebrates Christmas.
I could always play the odds and assume someone puts up a Christmas tree and sings yuletide carols, but it just seems insulting when people assume things about me, and I would never wish to commit the same mistake. The fact is that people celebrate a variety of holidays during this season, and I do not have enough time to wish people “Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Advent, Solstice, Chalica, Festivus, New Years and any other holidays that I may have forgotten.”
That is why I tell people, “Happy Holidays.”
Now I can understand why some people are offended when people change the name of something from “Christmas” to “Holiday.” To be honest, the term “holiday tree” sounds as stupid to me as the ancient pagans probably thought the term “Christmas tree” sounded when early Christians borrowed the pagan tradition of putting a tree in their homes.
Still, it is ridiculous to get bent out of shape because someone uses inclusive language instead of singling out your particular holiday for a shout-out.
The phrase “Happy Holidays” is not an atheist conspiracy to kill Jesus. I would wager that when Bing Crosby sang the song “Happy Holiday” in 1942, he did not do so with the intention of creating an anthem for Jesus-haters.
Here is something to consider: In my life, I have known hundreds of atheists and agnostics, and I can’t think of a single one who did not celebrate Christmas. I’m not saying all atheists and agnostics celebrate Christmas, but I am willing to bet more do than don’t.
In our over-commercialized society, this holiday has lost its overall religious message. There are Christians who celebrate it as a religious holiday akin to Easter, but there are also many who treat it more as a family holiday like Thanksgiving. For atheists and agnostics, it is easy to just follow the family holiday route.
Perhaps it is this dichotomous view of Christmas that has so many Christians in an uproar. The problem is that the issue has less to do with atheists and agnostics than it does with the state of lapsed Christianity. I believe that the energy being used to get offended at well-meaning phrases would be better used to encourage adherents to come back to the flock.
As the season is upon us and we focus on our finals and our shopping lists, we must remember that now is the time for us to work at coexisting.
With that said, I wish each of you a happy holiday.
Tom Taylor is a political science graduate student.