I'm gonna go ahead and apologize thrice for this entry. I realize some folks might be a bit offended by the title, others by the comic to the left, and still others by the video at the end.
Please note that my intention is not to incite ire, but to develop a point about this whole "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" debate.
So if you offend easily, I'd suggest refraining from the visual aids I've chosen (though you might enjoy the sweater!).
Anyway, the comic above was sent to me by my friend, Mary, this morning. I'll freely admit to laughing at the plight of the poor guy who just wants to spread some well-wishes. It's a situation many of us have no-doubt found ourselves in over the years.
The last few years, I've fallen into the politically correct trap of "Happy Holidays." It started back when I was working as a Center Director for an educational center. With 200 some families as customers, I felt I needed to be diplomatic in my holiday greeting approach so as to side-step the toes of paying customers. I also had a lot of Jewish / atheist friends, so saying "Merry Christmas" seemed insensitive to me.
Mind you, I wasn't "super-Catholic" at the time. As I've stated before, though I was away from the Church, I never lost my love of Christ, so when I stopped saying "Merry Christmas" I always felt a twinge of guilt. I felt like I was actively pretending not to be Christian just to appease public opinion.
That being said, my pastor's homily last week made me re-examine this stance. I briefly touched on that in this post, but I admit to pondering this for a little while now.
This year, I've definitely made more of an effort to wish others a Merry Christmas. However, if I know you're Jewish, I'll wish you a Happy Hanukkah. I don't believe that's taking Christ out of Christmas so much as acknowledging the beliefs of others and wishing them goodwill in a language they will appreciate. After all, our words can be gifts as well.
And what are well-wishes other than verbal gifts of goodwill?
Your dear Aunt Sally creates one of her infamous winter sweaters for you. She slaves over it lovingly for a month, picking out colors, embellishments, and patterns she "just knows" you're going to love. Excitedly, she hands you the box which represents all those hours she thought of you, persisting against craft store lines, miscounted stitches and tangled tinsel, all so she could keep her cherished loved one warm through those chilly winter months.
You open the box and pull back the paper, revealing her most "unique" creation yet.
Do you throw the box at her and stomp off, angry that she doesn't know your favorite color is now black, or that feathers are so last season?
Of course not.
You emphatically thank her for her thoughtful gesture. You compliment her on her choice of colors and you gush about the adorable Mr. and Mrs. Santa Flamingo. You point out the green tinsel grass as brilliant to the cousin sitting next to you, and you might even brag about the softness of the feather collar. In fact, just to prove your gratitude for such a heartfelt, thoughtful gesture of slave-labor, you just may pull it over your head and strut through the kitchen so everyone can admire dear Aunt Sally's artistic brilliance.
Because it's not about the sweater. You don't get warm fuzzies because the gift itself is something you love. The person GIVING you the sweater is who you love, and what that sweater represents - thoughtfulness, generosity, and love - is what counts. The feelings BEHIND the gift are what shoot out the warm fuzzy vibes into your heart. Why is it any different when those feelings are encased not in a sweater, a coffee maker, or a fruitcake but in a verbal salutation of goodwill?
So how about we all agree to view these salutations as a personal gift from the heart! Accept each and every greeting as a thoughtful gesture of peace and blessing, and dole out your own without fear of stepping on toes. If anyone is offended, simply remind them that words are gifts, too, and they should be accepted graciously from anyone willing to bestow them.
As for me, I'll be sticking with "Merry Christmas" unless I know for a fact someone celebrates a particular holiday. :)