At this time of year, it’s become more and more common to hear people say “Happy Holidays.” It’s to the point where it’s begun to grate on my nerves. I understand this bland, neutral phrase is supposed to be more “inclusive” but why? Why must one be a Christian to celebrate Christmas? I’ve been an agnostic my entire adult life, and I celebrate the holiday as part of my American heritage. Yet it’s supposed to be somehow wrong to wish a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist “Merry Christmas”? Christmas is, in my view, about more than just Christianity. It’s about “peace on Earth, good will toward men.” I’d argue that saying “Happy Holidays” is not inclusive at all, because it implicitly excludes non-Christians from the reason for the season.
Oh, I understand the rationale, the implication that our traditions are offensive because they remind others of some ugly aspect of our past. I don’t buy it. As bad as we European-Americans are supposed to be, at least we don’t judge other cultures in that fashion. We know that all nations have made mistakes and that judging is both hypocritical and wrong.
Let me give you some examples. If I was in Israel during Purim, and somebody wished me a happy Purim, I’d appreciate it. Would I get all huffy thinking about what the Hebrews did to the inhabitants of Canaan when they occupied the Promised Land? Certainly not. I’ll take a blessing in the spirit it’s given.
If I’m ever able to visit India for the Holi festival, that raucous celebration when they throw colored powder at each other, I’d want to participate, even though I’m not a Hindu. Would I be offended if someone wished me a happy Holi? Nor would I stew over my distaste for India’s oppressive caste system.
We shouldn’t dwell on mistakes of the past because it is the past. In particular, the persecutions and pogroms once committed by Christians are almost nonexistent nowadays. As human beings, we’ll never be perfect, but I like to believe we’re getting better. This is what Christmas is all about, a spirit of love and forgiveness.
So with that said, I’d like to wish everyone everywhere a Merry Christmas, no matter who you are or what you believe.