McGinnis: A holiday requestWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d like to ask a small favor from those who think that the use of “Happy Holidays” is part of a plot to eliminate Christmas: Please, just relax.
First of all, “Happy Holidays” has been in use for years. Long before it had any connotations of being a relatively “religion-neutral” phrase, in my world the term was primarily used to refer to both Christmas and New Year’s. “Season’s Greetings” was used much the same way. So the argument can’t be against the phrase, but rather the context in which it’s being used, or rather, the phrase it is being used in place of.
Secondly, understand that “Happy Holidays” isn’t excluding your beliefs at all, nor minimizing them. The phrase is being used in an effort to acknowledge the validity and value of the holidays celebrated by many different belief structures, which Christianity is quite obviously one of. It’s not shutting you out, it’s letting other folks in. I haven’t heard anyone say “Happy Holidays, Unless You Celebrate Christmas” yet.
When a stranger says “Merry Christmas” to me, I smile and nod and thank them. I do not turn a cold shoulder and sneer at their wish. I know they mean no harm. I just think that if they took a little time and gave a little thought to what they were saying, they would realize that they are being just a little bit presumptuous and exclusionary. By assuming that I am Christian and therefore open to the greeting which they give, they are, in some small way, assuming that their beliefs are somehow more applicable to me than my beliefs are.
In the same vein, some people refuse to see the use of an innocuous phrase like “Happy Holidays” as anything but an outright affront to what they believe. By gum, you’d better say “Merry Christmas” or I’ll never shop at your store again! Okay, then what? If I don’t somehow acknowledge Easter when that rolls around, you’ll skip town, too? What about All Saints Day? That one doesn’t get much play nowadays. Shall we add that one to the canon? Taken to its logical extreme, these folks are basically insisting we tailor our speech to suit their beliefs alone.
We’re losing sight of a lot of things here. Let us not forget what this wondrous season is truly about: Money. Yep, the almighty dollar. A mass-marketed, corporately driven merry-go-round of homogenized cheer and wonderment designed to separate as many of us from as many of our little green pieces of paper as possible. No matter what the holidays used to mean in society, to anyone, that definition has long since gone the way of the dodo.
Outright cynicism aside, what allows me to relax and enjoy the season is the spirit in which it is intended by the individuals participating in it. For those of us who don’t have a financial stake in the holidays, the joy comes in giving — showing our love for others by doing something special, to let them know how much they mean by giving a present, baking a cookie, sending a card or just seeing them and giving them a hug.
As someone who gives a lot at this time of year, nothing does my heart gladder than to see someone I care about smile and say thank you, no matter what I did for them — and any season which gives me the chance to do that, and do it often, is a wonderful time, no matter what I do or don’t believe in.
That, truly, is the Reason for the Season: giving out of love and respect to those who have enriched our lives, and being enriched in return simply through the act of giving. Perhaps those who seem intent on finding fault in an innocently intended phrase should reflect for a second on the fact that, at some level, saying “Happy Holidays” is giving — giving worth and consideration to those who might not believe exactly what you do.
As a few great philosophers on the sadly long-lost TV show “Mystery Science Theater 3000” once opined: “If there’s one point we’d like to make with this festive holiday song, it’s that Christmas comes but once a year, so for a few days, for crying out loud,
can’t we all just get along?”
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.