Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Happy Holidays"

Since I missed real-time blogging during most of the holdiay season because the laptop was out of service, there are still some things I want to say:
There are just certain things that people do like to go on about and the more trivial a thing is that someone makes a big deal about, the more it irks me. This whole "Happy Holidays" thing is one of them. The overly religious see some sort of giant anti-Christian controversy here and it just doesn't exist. Most people say it as a short way of saying "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year". It is better to get something said before the car door closes and friends drive off than to be iterating specific wishes they never hear, isn't it? Some people say it as a way of not offending. America was build on freedom from religion. Yes, I said that how I meant it. The people who came here were not so much seeking to be able to practice their religion, because they already did that in secret, and doing it in secret ought to mean just as much to your god, but they sought to NOT to have to practice the state religion of the place they were leaving. The reason their religion was persecuted was because the state they came from had an official religion and they did not believe in all or even just parts of it. So they still practiced theirs, but often secretly. What they wanted was freedom from participation in the required state religion. So our country does not and must not ever have an official religion. We must always be the refuge for those who don't fit the mold somewhere and who choose to opt out of the required religion of some country or region. To do that, we must strive to make no assumptions about people practicing what is our majority religion: Some form of Christianity. So out of respect for others, and respect for this founding principle of our country, we are careful. We say "Happy holidays" in case they are Jewish and are celebrating Hanuka or maybe participating in Kwanza or are Muslim and are celebrating Ramadan but certainly, it can be taken by anyone as a simple "Happy New Year's Eve and Happy New Year", can't it? It should be seen by Christians as a kindness we do each other in order that those who wish will always be able to practice their specific brand of Christianity at Christmastime in this country. It should be seen as an annual reassurance that no other specific brand of Christianity will become the official state religion and that each will always be allowed the quirks and details of theirs. No one will tell you if baby Jesus goes in the creche when it is unpacked from the wrappings and set upon the coffee table at Thanksgiving or that he gets placed in the manger only on Christmas Eve. No one will tell you your Christmas tree has to be mounted in water right side up or hung from the ceiling upside down. No one will tell you whether your feast has to be goose or beef or turkey. No one will tell you that you can sing carols all December or only starting at Christmas Eve. No one will tell you what color the candles of your Advent wreath have to be or how many weeks in advance you can start counting down. Because we say "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", we are not only reaffirming that Muslims and Jews and Wiccans and Buddhists and Hindus and atheists have a place in this country, but that Lutherans and Catholics and Baptists and Pentecostals and Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons and Nazarenes and Episcopalians and Methodists can practice their own brand of Christianity and celebrate the birth of Jesus and carry their own Christmas traditions in whatever ways, new or traditional, they see fit. Every Christian should embrace "Happy holidays" for the affirmation of religion freedom that it is.

No comments: