Oh, does that hurt? Too bad!
Recently my mother had sent me a package with Christmas* gifts, and I wrote her an e-mail to thank her for it.
“Happy holidays!” I concluded my e-mail. I immediately added: “Or, as you say in Arizona, merry Christmas! ;)”
(I am a proud Northern Californian; I believe that California probably overall is the best state in the nation, although not perhaps to the extent that Texans believe that theirs is the supreme state. [To me, the only remarkable thing about Texas is that it’s a state that we can say is even worse than is Arizona. Probably.])
I was being cheeky in my e-mail to Mom, but, because there is truth to the joke, I guess that it was at least somewhat provocative.
My mother responded: “Hope you have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS (I don’t care whose toes I step on – [it’s] our tradition and I like to say MERRY CHRISTMAS, but don’t get me started on this).”
I was joking (for the most part), but I don’t think that she was.
So Mom has inspired this blog piece; consider it her CHRISTMAS gift to you.
The use of the greeting “Happy holidays” does not mean that you don’t get to celebrate Christmas if you so wish to do so. There is no “war” on Christmas.
Many years ago, when I first encountered “Happy holidays,” I just assumed that it meant to have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, and that it just saved a lot of words. (I mean, really, in a sense, there are four holidays in there: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.)
It seems to me that “Happy holidays” still can mean that; after all, the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas Day and then New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day a week later.
“Happy holidays” also means, or perhaps has come to mean, that you’re not sure whether or not the person to whom you’re speaking recognizes/celebrates Christmas, and so you’re trying to be sensitive to his or her religious beliefs.
What, exactly, is wrong with being sensitive to the fact that someone whom you don’t know might not share your religious beliefs, including your holidays?
Indeed, there is no “war” on Christmas, but there is a war on anyone having religious beliefs and holidays that aren’t in line with the majority of Americans’ (about 70 percent of Americans identify as “Christian”).
Indeed, so hostile have “good” “Christians” “defending” Christmas become that very often “Merry Christmas!” is said not with love in the utterer’s heart, but is said with hostile defiance, perhaps even as a warning to its target: This is Christian territory!
Needless to say, this is not the spirit of peace and goodwill toward all humankind that Jesus Christ espoused, in black in white, in the gospels.
And how strong are “Christians” in their “faith” if it’s not good enough for them that “only” about 70 percent of Americans are on their team?
Christianity is supposed to be about love, but in most American “Christians” we see only fear, including the fear that if 100 percent of the nation’s population isn’t on board, marching in lockstep, then Christianity is “threatened.”
As someone who identifies more as an atheist than as anything else — I do gravitate toward Buddhism, which is more of a philosophy than a religion, as Buddha (presuming that a historical Buddha did indeed exist), strictly speaking, was not a deity and he rejected deism) — to me, more than anything else, “Happy holidays” is a reference to the winter solstice, probably especially here in the northern hemisphere.
As Wikipedia notes of the winter solstice, “Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter solstice occurs for the northern hemisphere in December and for the southern hemisphere in June.”
Scholars almost universally agree that if there was a historical Jesus (my best guess is that there was, but I don’t know whether there was or not, and neither do you), he very most likely was not born on December 25 or even in the few days surrounding it.
As Livescience.com puts it: “Researchers believe the Roman Catholic Church settled on December 25 for many reasons, such as that date’s ties to the winter solstice and Saturnalia, a festival dedicated to the Roman deity Saturn. By choosing this day to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, the church could co-opt the popular pagan festival, as well as the winter celebrations of other pagan religions.”
Christmas was ripped off from the pagans, and in any event, even the pagans were observing (and still today observe) the astronomical phenomenon of the shortest day and the longest night of the year. (Astronomical phenomena are objective and universal. We have different cultures, including different religions, to suit individual and tribal tastes, but we don’t have different astronomical phenomena to suit individual and tribal tastes.)
The winter solstice, to me, is the holiday, so if you say to me, “Happy holidays,” to me it means the winter solstice and probably New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, too (having picked January 1 as the start of the new year is incorrect, too – or, at the least, quite arbitrary – but that’s another blog post).
The bottom line: Feel perfectly, wondrously free to say “Merry Christmas” to those whom you know celebrate Christmas if you wish to do so; knock your jolly old soul out.
But if you don’t know whether or not the person to whom you’re speaking celebrates/recognizes Christmas, then why in the holy fuck would you want to say “Merry Christmas” to him or to her?
And to say “Merry Christmas” in order to shove your own fucking religious beliefs down others’ throats, because you’re so fucking sure that your religion is The One and Only True Religion to the extent that you believe that everyone else also should subscribe to it just makes you a fucking asshole (and therefore, I suppose, a likely Donald Trump voter [I haven’t yet asked Mom if she supports The Donald, because I don’t think that I want to know the answer…]).
To shove “Merry Christmas” and your other religious beliefs down others’ throats makes you no different, in spirit, from the assholes of ISIS who believe that they should shove their religious beliefs down others’ throats. You’re just not killing people (yet).
P.S. I recognize that “Happy holidays” might be offensive to some atheists and perhaps even to some agnostics, since “holiday” means “holy day,” but again, to me the wintertime “holiday” is the winter solstice, an annual astronomical event (and that’s scientific, not “holy,” if by “holy” we mean the involvement of a deity), and when coupled with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, it becomes “the holidays.” Thus, “Happy holidays.”
*I accept that Christmas is a wintertime holiday celebrated by most Americans. That’s what “Christmas” means to me. (“Christmas” to me does not mean the magically virginal birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ on December 25 or on any other date of the year.)
Even though I’m an atheist or at least atheisty, I use the term “Christmas” myself, such as in “Christmas gifts” (which I give every year) and “Christmas tree,” but I don’t say “Merry Christmas” to those who might not celebrate/recognize the holiday.
Because I try not to be an asshole.
(No, pushing back against the “Christo”fascists, as I have done here, is not to be an asshole myself. Intolerance of intolerance is a good thing, not a bad thing. Jesus fuck.)
And, while we’re talking about fascism, “Christian” or otherwise, Donald Trump is a dangerous fascist who, if he actually became president, probably would require a Second-Amendment remedy.
Again: Happy holidays!