Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mappy Christmashannukuwanzaamadan...and Chinese New Year

Every year around December 1st, Christians all over America take up the “It’s Merry Christmas, Not Happy Holidays” banner. I myself was one of those Christians until this year when I made a stunning realization. Much like the Christian war on “The Gays”, the war on “Happy Holidays” is a shining example of the modern church’s ability to shoot itself in the foot. With an assault rifle, probably.
Somewhere around 1982*, corporate America made a startling discovery. Turns out, we had Jews in our country! Jews, and Muslims, and Black People and CHINESE! Obviously this was a terrible oversight on all our parts, which was only compounded when corporate America realized that all of those people celebrate holidays around the same time as Christmas. Hanukuh, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Chinese New Year. Add to that the fact that the Catholics had somehow turned up to complicate things, and now we had not only those, but Advent and Epiphany! Thank goodness the Canadians never showed up. If we added Boxing Day to the mess, who knows what kind of chaos could have ensued. But I digress. Shortly after the discovery, board meetings were called to determine what to do with this newfound knowledge, and more importantly, the newfound potential for profit. After all, Halmark had done such a fantastic job commercializing Christmas, why couldn’t corporate America do it with all the other Holidays? Plans were made, Graphs were drawn up, and suddenly someone said “But what will we say?” Thus, “Happy Holidays” was born.
“Happy Holidays” is corporate America’s way of being inclusive and to avoid offending, which is their job if they wish to make a profit. Perhaps this is news to many, but there are thousands of families and people who don’t celebrate Christmas, and we can’t be so selfish that we aren’t willing to share the month of December. How can we spread the love and message that was given to us if we are so busy ranting about how we are being stolen from? In case you have all forgotten, this season is not “ours”. Strictly speaking, the Romans had it first, and it was a festival to celebrate one of their many gods. We just borrowed it and changed it around to suit what we needed it to suit. You can’t feel entitlement over something that wasn’t yours to begin with. We celebrate a worthy thing, truly, and there is nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of our savior, but if Christmas is the only time we think about the fact that our world has lost sight of its creator, we are doing something very wrong.
In reality, there is no reason for Christians to expect corporate America to cater to them during the Holiday season, and it’s counter-productive to think so. In fact, why are we getting so concerned about what corporate America is doing anyway? This is a time to think about a birth whose sole purpose was sacrifice, a young woman who accepted a challenge that seemed impossible, and a young man who trusted what he could not see. This season is a celebration of the greatest gift ever given to mankind, and a reminder to all of us to think first of our fellow man. Why have we allowed simple words to eclipse that? The truth is, we live in a world of many people, religions and creeds. Our mission is to spread the word of God, it’s true, but we will not accomplish that if we are expecting the secular world to spread our message for us.
In this, we Christians have, yet again, missed the point. Somehow rhetoric has replaced the message of goodwill, and semantics the message of peace. If you celebrate Christmas, say “Merry Christmas” without fear of offending. If you are Jewish, wish a “Happy Hanukkuh” with joy. If you celebrate nothing, say nothing, but take all wishes in the spirit in which they are meant, without worrying whether their salutation matches yours.
The point, Church, is to stop worrying so much about what comes out of the mouth of your fellow man between December 1st and 31st, and start worrying about your fellow man*. This season, I challenge every Christian to wish all a “Merry Christmas” while showing Christ’s love to the world, and, when greeted with “Happy Holidays” to smile warmly, wish them the same, and think about the gift that makes this holiday so very happy indeed.

* This year is completely made up, as is any account of corporate America’s actions during said year. Duh.
* I don’t much like this sentence. It’s awkward, but hopefully you see the point. Worry about your fellow man as a person, rather than judging him for the words that are coming out of his mouth.

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