This post originally appeared on November 22, 2015.
This is not the type of article I usually write. For some, it may be a little controversial. That’s O.K. – this is just my thought and perspective – comments from my readers are always welcome. I find as I age, I am less interested in ideology and more interested in spirituality. I feel a shift in my world view.
Globally, we are facing humanitarian crisis after crisis of gargantuan proportions. Yet, once again, it has started — the continued arguments over the term ‘Happy Holidays’. The articles, news comments, Facebook posts and even political candidates weighing in on what for some is apparently a controversy invoking the idea of a ‘war on Christmas’. Last year I had someone say to me, “I hate Happy Holidays!” As a Christian, I asked myself, “How is it someone is using the word hate in this season of peace, love and joy?”
So, I decided this year to weigh in myself in an attempt to give a different perspective in order to quell what seems to me a silly thing for concern, considering how the world is currently ripping apart at the seams, filled with war, terrorism, hunger, homelessness and on and on and on. In this season of giving thanks, this season of peace, this season of love, I offer this.
The use of the term Happy Holidays is not a recent occurrence. As a child in the 1950s and 60s, I remember my Mother often used the greeting Happy Holidays. My Mother sometimes worked at one of the local stores during the Holiday Season, which in the United States, started around Thanksgiving. In those days, we were a country primarily of Christians, most notably of Protestant faiths. I remember my parents talking about how it was a big step for many when Kennedy, a Catholic, was elected President of the United States.
If, like my Mother, you worked at a store starting around Thanksgiving, can you imagine the clerks saying, “Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” before handing you your package and receipt? Instead, they said, “Happy Holidays.”
From my point of view, and I was a child at the time so I could be totally off kilter on this one, but it seems to me Happy Holidays was a wish of inclusion. Heck, when I was a kid, Andy Williams sang a popular song, Happy Holiday, which was originally sung by Bing Crosby in 1942 and written by Irving Berlin in 1941. To me, it is still a Christmas song I listen to at Christmas. But, it could be a song for any of the other celebrations during the Holiday Season, as well. So, Happy Holidays was used way before I was born! Yet, some people take offense at its use like it’s a recent occurrence designed to be a ‘war on Christmas’.
I don’t remember any controversy over the use of the term Happy Holidays when I was a child. So, why in recent decades has it become such an issue for some people? Perhaps it is because in the 1950s and 1960s, Christians were pretty much in the majority, at least in the United States. Well, folks, a 2016 poll by ABC news found that 83% of Americans still identify themselves as Christians.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world. But, these days, we live in a much more pluralistic nation and for that matter, the entire world is more diverse. Today, a store clerk would have to add Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice and, a new one I recently heard, Happy HumanLight. If we are a diverse people, a welcoming people, a people wanting to include rather than exclude, than Happy Holidays recognizes our diversity, it welcomes someone regardless of their faith or even if they don’t have one. It includes everyone.
If I know someone is a Christian, I say, “Merry Christmas.” If I know someone is Jewish, I say, “Happy Hanukkah.” And, so on. To me, that is just common courtesy. As a Christian, I am not offended if someone says, “Happy Holidays” to me. It is all inclusive, welcoming and courteous. I recognize the person most likely has no idea what my affiliation is, but is still showing me common courtesy with a wish for a Happy Holiday. It’s about acceptance of differences and not making this all about me and my faith.
This season is not about us individually. It is not about self-righteous indignation. It is not about hate. It is not about creating still more us vs. them situations. It is not about red cups or whether a retailer or someone on the streets says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. We certainly have larger worries as a world. We are all connected as a world. When one suffers, we all suffer. And there is already way too much suffering.
In this season of love, peace and joy, let us put our small differences aside and accept each other regardless of faith or any other differences for that matter. Let us give thanks for our diversity and that we have the ability to make the world a better place. Let us truly make this a season of love, peace and joy.
I leave you with the Buddhist prayer of loving kindness:
May you be well;
May you be happy;
May you be peaceful;
May you be loved.
To all my readers, wherever you are in the world, whatever your circumstance, whatever your faith – Happy Holidays