In the last few years, the title of this post has become contro- versial in the US. Perhaps out of a fear of not offending anyone, there has, for a number of years, been a trend toward removing the word "Christmas" from "Merry", "Tree", and most sacred of all, "Sale" ;). I understand and agree with the impulse of not wanting to offend people, but I also recognize in a religiously and politically diverse world, one has to try to be tolerant in receiving words as well as saying them.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
On the other hand, I don't think you should say "Merry Christmas" to someone you know it will offend. What for, to prove a point? Is that in the spirit of the season? [also discussed: divinity of Jesus.]
In fact, I almost always either say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays" unless I think the person would prefer I say "Merry Christmas" or refer to another specific holiday, e.g. "Happy Hanukkah". The point is, intent matters and so does context.
For example, the title of this post is not a greeting to a specific person, nor any statement about the relative worth of one holiday over another. It is not a statement suggesting that you, dear reader, must be merry about Christmas. It is expressing my feelings about the season. Nor is it an expression of any religious beliefs (in my case at least). It is just my expression of joy at this time that I have always loved.
I love Christmas because it is a rare time for my family to come together. It is a time to sing carols and eat, drink, and be merry. It is a time to celebrate life. (I should say that I have found the Winter Solstice also to be a good day for these, which is fitting since the date of Christmas likely traces its origins to the Solstice-timed holidays of Saturnalia or to Sol Invictus.)
Christmas is not a religious holiday for me personally, because I don't believe that Jesus was divine. But I have come to think that Jesus was an amazing person. He was one of the first to preach nonviolence, and love thy neighbor. There have been others. For example, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are worthy of our reverence too.
It's too bad that much of Christianity bears so little resemblance to what Jesus seems to have been striving for. In fact, given that Jesus never wrote a word, it is amazing that any of his message managed to survive all the people who have been involved in constructing and making use of a religion about him (like the Roman Emperor Constantine, whose Council of Nicaea decided many things including whether Jesus was a deity or not).
Anyway, think of the message, love thy neighbor. And of course, eat, drink, and be merry. Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, and Merry Christmas!