The fight is still raging–angry, defensive people snarling about the “right” greeting for the winter holidays. Christians insisting on “Merry Christmas” in defense of their holidays, everyone else wanting to feel included with “Happy Holidays.”Angry accusations on all sides. Could we all just take a deep breath, here? Perhaps put down the idea that this is even worth being angry about, that everyone who doesn’t say the thing you want to hear is personally against your non-obvious preference?
Just for the sake of opening up perspctives, let’s take a look at how the winter holiday is celebrated in different times. I know you like your own, and are rockin’ primal anger at everyone else, but just while you are doing the deep breathing, let’s take a look:
1. The bible–any copy or translation (and there are many)–doesn’t tell us how to celebrate Christmas. Nowhere is the word “Christmas” used, nor is the greeting “Merry Christmas,” so let’s put down the idea that there is a divine directive for any greeting.
In fact, in Jeremiah 10: 2-4 there is a directive against having a tree: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, for the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”
2. Pagan Solstice celebrations existed a long time before Christians invented themselves. Chinese, Semites, Druids and Egyptians all celebrated the Solstice. Pagans are not atheists or heathens–pagans celebrate nature as holding the wisdom of life. The Julian calendar named December 25 as the winter solstice in 45 BCE and celebrated it as the shortest day. After that, the days got longer, but the time from January to April were called famine months. More people died during that time than any other. On the shortest day there were celebrations that each day following would be longer. Food animals (cattle, sheep, hogs) were slaughtered because the meat would freeze (at least in Northern climates) and the animals would not have to be fed and protected during the long winter. These were the people who cut down trees for big, warm fires (Yule logs were the remnants of decorated trees and were used to end one year and brighten the next.)
3. The bible doesn’t mention the date of the birth of Jesus. Most biblical scholars set it sometime in Spring. Using a major Pagan holiday and time of year to put a stake in for their own holiday was a smart marketing move, and started the whole “who’s right here?” mess.
4. I might be totally wrong here, and I am not speaking for any Christian, just setting out an idea–that the birth of someone very important to your religious beliefs should probably not be celebrated with anger and insisting on the right happy, cheerful seasonal greeting.
5. In the big view of things, perhaps what we say is not as important as what we think and how we act. Getting angry at a greeting meant to be inclusive (Happy Holidays) or at one meant to celebrate Christians (Merry Christmas) is contrary to the whole idea of Peace on Earth. I’m quoting Gandhi, here, who was neither Christian nor Jewish: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Want more acceptance? Be accepting.
So, I have a suggestion–say whichever warm, loving greeting you want to use and accept what is said back with the same enthusiasm. All animosity ends right there.
Personally, I don’t believe there is a magic man in the sky who frowns on, and punishes, people for eating bacon and ham, or smiles on people who want to display plastic people and animals standing around a lit-up baby. I think there is something much bigger at stake here–how we treat people who don’t think the same way we do. I think that counts. In fact, I think that’s why we are on earth. To learn how to do that.
–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who works hard and understanding different perspectives.