I don’t know why, but this year I am getting a little more agitated as people complain about those that say Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings, as opposed to Merry Christmas. The chief complaint is it is offensive to say anything but Merry Christmas. On the whole, I have to heartily disagree with that. I feel that it is rather pretentious to say just Merry Christmas, at a time when people all over the world celebrate a variety of holidays and festivities.
Even before I had committed myself to a polytheist-loving lifestyle, where I (and my family) celebrate(s) Saturnalia, Winter Solstice and a secular-version of Christmas (aka Santa Claus), I found those who complained about the use of Happy Holidays to be thoughtless towards others. You see, I was raised knowing and loving people who celebrated more than just Christmas. I understood how important their own holidays were to them, and I wanted them to feel as happy as I did about celebrating Christmas. In a world dominated by Christmas Carols and excessive advertisements exploiting the joys of Christmas, I could not understand why people could not have enough kindness and acceptance in their hearts to simply say Happy Holidays, Good Tidings, or Season’s Greetings. These encompass all religions and lack thereof, as well as all of the December Festivities.
Don’t get me wrong. If I know someone personally celebrates a specific holiday I will say to them Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Yule, Lo Saturnalia, or whatever greeting is appropriate for them. I see no problem with that. In general, especially to those I do not know well or those I just meet, I feel Happy Holidays is more appropriate. Then, I am not making assumptions about them nor am I excluding them in any way because I am acknowledging the fact they celebrate any holiday (even Christmas). It is those that complain when strangers tell them Happy Holidays or those that say Merry Christmas to be spiteful because they refuse to acknowledge or care about other human beings on this planet, that upset me the most.
A few thoughts on this. Long before a little baby named Jesus was supposed to have laid in a manger (let’s ignore the fact that all signs from The Bible point to either a spring birth or a September birth), the Ancients of the various parts of the world, the Greeks, the Romans, the Celts, celebrated a variety of festivals. The Greeks celebrated a festival to Dionysos. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia. The Celts celebrated Yule. All celebrated and paid homage to the Winter Solstice. Many modern day followers of these Ancient religions celebrate variations of these festivals.
Another Festival, known originally as the “Festival of Lights” dates back to 2 BCE or before. Today, we call it Hanukkah or Chanukah. My brother used to call it Chunken when we were little, though that is a story for another day. This was just a few years before Jesus was said to be born. These are Ancient celebrations that still continue today. By telling people Merry Christmas who celebrate something other than Christmas, you are saying to them…your holiday is less important than mine. It is not about taking away from the joy that Christmas brings to those who celebrate it. It is about acknowledging and embracing the differences we all have, being kind to our fellow man (and woman) and being compassionate.
Here is a list of some of the holidays celebrated in December:
The Birth of Mithras (Festival)
With Christmas, there are many ways to celebrate. There are two aspects of Christmas that may be celebrated together, but do not have to be. Those are the birth of Jesus and the story of Santa Claus. Both stories speak of charitable men who were selfless towards others. Some celebrate for the birth of Jesus. Some people do not even bother with gift giving. They donate their time to charitable activities, in honor of the kind of man Jesus was depicted as in the story of his life.
Others celebrate Santa Claus or Ol’ Saint Nick, a man who gave presents to children and was selflessly charitable to those around him. They celebrate with time spent with their family, Christmas Trees, decorations, food, and gift giving. Still, some celebrate both. There is no right way to celebrate Christmas. The entire idea of a December holiday was borrowed from other religions, and most of the Santa Claus based traditions (the tree, gift giving, family time, food, etc.) are from celebrations like Yule and Saturnalia.
Those of us who celebrate these Ancient holidays do not care that these traditions have become a part of Christmas, too. Religions borrow from other religions. That is always how it has been and how it will be. What we do care about is people becoming so self-righteous as to assume these religions no longer exist and that Christmas is the only celebration in December. We are not asking these people to celebrate the old holidays themselves, but they also need to realize Christmas is one of the youngest holidays celebrated on the list above. As such, it is not the only one nor the right one for everyone.
What breaks my heart is that I see this happen the most in the United States. This is a land that was founded on the principle of religious freedom. The pilgrims came here to escape religious persecution. The Founding Fathers feared any establishment of a national religion because they believed in acknowledging all the various religions and denominations. The salt on the wounds of the pilgrims was still so fresh, they wanted better for this nation of immigrants…this new world where anyone could be whatever they wanted and live and celebrate however they believed they should. Most who complain about not saying Merry Christmas hide behind religious pretenses. They say it is because Jesus is the reason for the season and Christmas is the only holiday that should be acknowledged because it IS the only holiday…but it’s not. Jesus is the reason for Christians’ season, but 2/3 of the world is not Christian. We shall not all be forgotten nor shall our holidays be deemed substandard.
We, as human beings need to realize that Happy Holidays is not done to leave anyone out. It is meant to include EVERYONE and EVERY HOLIDAY! By saying Happy Holidays we are saying Merry Christmas, Joyous Yule, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Festivus…whatever is individual to you. We are saying Happy Holidays to you, whatever holiday you may celebrate. If it is Christmas, it means Merry Christmas, but if it is not, it means Happy Holiday you do celebrate. You ARE included in such greetings. All people are included. Isn’t that what the holidays truly are about; Peace, Happiness, Health, Love and Acceptance, to all?
So please, I implore you. Have a Happy Holidays and consider those in the world around you as they celebrate their own unique holiday, too.