Monday, December 8, 2008

"Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays", does it really matter?

A few years ago I heard a statement from someone either at my church I attend or just in general passing, that someone made the statement "Happy Holidays" was taking the Christ out of Christmas.

Now, I'm a bit naive, gullible to the max. My whole life I have witnessed things that defy reason or logic, tested faith, and provided a sense of better understanding in some cases. Uproars ensued and were warranted in some cases. There were obvious things like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that garnered much attention. The Oklahoma City bombing, the incident with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom (or whatever it's SUPPOSED to be now), natural disasters (from Hurricane Hugo to Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes, floods, fires, and all sorts of carnage), Rodney King, O.J. Simpson's multiple trials, the Columbia disaster, the Challenger disaster, Y2K, the World Trade Center bombing, the Centennial Park bombing, Tonya Harding, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Susan Smith (not my cousin, that one that drowned her kids), the depletion of the Ozone Layer, Global Warming (or cooling if you just want to rattle Al Gore's chains), ridiculous gas prices, moronic presidents (just look at the last 16 years as a reference), assassination attempts on a president, an impeached president, the John Rocker fiasco (mostly because I'm a huge Braves fan and that was REALLY embarrassing), a new space station, new planetary systems being discovered and other planets being given a new "classification" (sorry Pluto), new understandings everyday about not only our own world we call home, but the universe as a whole.

So as you can see, in the grand scheme of things as it pertains to "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", this dispute means precisely CRAP! It's petty, for the love of God would all you Christians get a grip!

Seriously, when I was growing up, until about 2005, I never distinguished between the two phrases. Christmas was a part of the "Holiday Season." The "Holiday Season", as it is, incorporates a multitude of holidays other than Christmas. For instance, Thanksgiving is included in this season (just watch an NFL game that day, you'll see this phrase several times). That holiday has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas as it pertains to Christ, yet it is included as part of that season. Hanukkah is most definitely during that season and should be incorporated. It's a Jewish holiday and, unless somewhere this has been changed, Jesus was in fact a Jew as I recall. Are you telling me Jesus never celebrated Hanukkah growing up, never even once? There are a bevy of other holidays included that I won't go into here (mostly because I don't know them), but you also have to include New Year's Eve and New Year's Day into the equation as well.

So why then does it have to ONLY be "Merry Christmas?" What's so wrong with saying "Happy Holidays" that has so many Christians in an uproar? They're just words, nothing more. You can express them to mean in the same manner, regardless of your religious convictions. From my perspective, whether you believe as I do or not, I want EVERYONE to have a "Happy Holiday." There's a great sign in New York on a bus, I believe, that sums it all up. "Why bring God into it? Just be good for goodness sakes!" It has a picture of the Grinch and the implication is, even if you don't believe in God, Christ or anything, still try and have some joy during the Holidays! Isn't that what it's really all about anyway, the joy of the season?

If you really want to get technical, shouldn't Easter mean more to Christians than Christmas? Think about it for a minute. What happens at Christmas besides the birth of Christ? Yes, a pivotal moment to say the least, but he hasn't done ANYTHING yet. He's just born! Now, that being the case, at Easter time it is the celebration (or mourning for some) of a man, who at the ripe old age of 33, gave his life, WILLINGLY, to a group of people that hated him, they beat him half to death, hung him on two enormous pieces of wood, nailed him to it, hung him out to dry for all to see (while his Jewish buddies fled might I add), and died only to "disappear" from his tomb 3 days later and caused a stir the likes of which has never been duplicated since.

Hmmm, now that I've said that, let's examine for a moment how "society" as a whole stipulates these traditions. Number one, the average school system (state and government run by the way) acknowledges the holidays at Christmas by giving most students 2-3 weeks off! It's the most heavily requested time of the year for people wanting time off from work! Families, typically, unite during this time to celebrate in gift exchanges, "Dirty Santa Claus", "Ho, ho, ho and stuff." There are parties galore, from the beginning of December until New Year's Day. The radio stations start blaring "Christmas Music" as soon as Halloween ends. Stores decorate for Christmas as soon as Halloween ends (Thereby by-passing Thanksgiving altogether). The "Season of Giving" totally overshadows some important events in history, not related to Christmas, such as Pearl Harbor, where thousands of American servicemen died at the hands of the Japanese as a living sacrifice to the American way of life (which stands far more for what Christ truly represented and believed; they gave their lives so we might live). Don't forget THE LIGHTS! I can't really talk here, I love decorating my house for Christmas. I still have to wonder though how we all rationalize that power bill in January! Don't even get me started on weight gain and credit cards!

Now, at Easter, a much more important time to be honest for the Christian faith, it only receives one weekend. You might be out of school for Good Friday, but that's it (and what's so good about it anyway, he died that day?). There's no lights, very few decorations and some dumb bunny with eggs! At least with Christmas you get Santa and real gifts! The songs played are only heard in churches, very few on the radio unless it is a Christian station, and they are typically songs you've never heard of in your life. There's no parties, just services. People still get up at the crack of dawn, but no gifts. Families still get together, but not as much as they do at Christmas. Another confusing thing about Easter, it moves every year! So for that reason, if it doesn't hit a weekend you're already off (like for some that must work a job that requires it), getting off for it is no big deal. No one buys anything for anyone. For the most part, everyone seems rather sad.

I think if Jesus were here right now, he'd look at all of us and say, "I appreciate the gestures, whole heartedly, but you've got it all backwards." He'd probably tell us when his birthday really is too. I'm betting on July (because so many relevant things have happened Biblically in the month of July, Noah anyone?). But, I believe Jesus would say his birthday, although important, was not as big as Easter, at least to him. Much more important stuff happened at Easter than ever occurred at Christmas. It's important, and should be remembered, but the priorities people place on the Christmas holiday are a bit misconstrued.

Besides, when was the last time you saw a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas morning? It's under there, somewhere, nestled beneath the Christmas Tree, under all that wrapping paper you tore apart with your bare hands because you just couldn't wait to get that toy you've always been wanting, or those shoes, or that diamond neckless. Oops, you smashed it, oh well!

Hey, listen, I can't point the finger at any of you. I'm guilty too. All I'm saying is, based on some of the stuff I have mentioned here, why does it matter whether someone says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays?" I mean really, in the years to come, who's really going to care? Just make it a happy one and remember, no matter what you believe in, the season is truly about showing love, compassion and being the type of person that the other 11 months of the year, you wish you could be. You know what you believe in, as do others. Let them be and take care of yourself. Because from my perspective, if you hear the words "Happy Holidays" and cringe, you and you alone are the one having issues. Maybe that means you need to reconcile something with yourself. Guess what, Christmas is the time for doing that too.

So Merry Christmas and I hope that everyone has a Happy Holiday Season!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your post. As a convert to catholicism, I wanted to let you know you are right about Easter. It is way more important and we celebrate it 6 weeks before and 40 days after Easter Sunday.