As we near the end of this, year two thousand and eighteen of the common era, it seems strange that people are still in a tizzy over “happy holidays” vs. “merry Christmas.” But they are, so I’d like to add my buck-fifty (accounting for inflation) to the discussion.
I took last Friday off from work, as is my right as an American celebrating a religious holiday.* As I left, my coworker, who knows I’m Pagan, wished me a happy Winter Solstice. Knowing that this coworker is Christian, I wished her a merry Christmas in return. No fuss, no tears, no one screaming about wars on anything. Just two acquaintances wishing each other the joy of their respective holidays.
See, what Bill O’Reilly, 45, and the rest of the “war on Christmas” crew don’t like to acknowledge is that those of us who champion “happy holidays” over “merry Christmas” don’t hate Christmas. We hate the assumption. I’m happy to wish a merry Christmas to folks I know are Christian, just like I wished my Jewish family and friends a happy Chanukah when it started. Anyone whose religion I don’t know gets a “Happy holidays!” because I don’t know what they celebrate. To say “Merry Christmas” to everyone you meet is to assume that everyone you meet is Christian, either spiritually or culturally, and that we’re all down for celebrating a holiday that, no matter how secularized and commercialized it becomes, is still rooted in Christian belief and practice.
The so-called “war on Christmas” is, of course, actually a war on every year-end religious holiday that isn’t Christmas. In fact, it’s a war on religious pluralism itself, on the very idea that Christians in the US have to rub elbows with folks who might, around this general time of year, be celebrating Chanukah, or Zarathost Diso, or Yule. In other words, people who aren’t Christian.** The “Religious” Right doesn’t like this, and they don’t like to be reminded of it.
But we’re here, we Jews and Zoroastrians and neo-Pagans (and Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Bahá’ís, Vodouisants, atheists, practitioners of more indigenous American religions than you can shake a manger at, and a crap-ton of others). We’re not going away, and neither are our holidays.
So, to everyone reading this: happy holidays, whatever you celebrate.
*If you’re a Christian reading this and thinking, I’ve never taken a day off for my religious holidays! let me remind you that you literally do not have to. Christmas is a federal holiday. Offices are closed on your Sabbath every week (which also takes care of Easter). I even had a job once where I got Good Friday off, even though that is only a Christian holiday, with no secular aspects!
**I suspect it’s mostly rooted in good ol’-fashioned antisemitism and Islamophobia. Chanukah is probably the second-most-celebrated December religious holiday, and though I may be misremembering, I feel like, at least where I grew up, the whole “War on Christmas” thing got really big in a year when Ramadan overlapped December, which led a lot of people who don’t understand how true lunar calendars work to wail that Eid al-Fitr was another “foreign holiday” trying to “vanquish” Christmas.