Happy Holidays

You know, the current kerfuffle of the season (or currfuffle in the lingo of those who need kerfuffles to survive) revolves endlessly about the de-Christianization of Christmas. As every year, groups of aggressive atheists file suits to prevent governments from putting mangers on their properties. Since not everyone can involve themselves in the constitutional litigation and legislation, a lot of common folk have decided that saying “Happy Holidays” is the contemporary equivalent of throwing Christian believers to the lions. Remember the reason for the season, they shout, ignoring the fact that the season occurs because Persephone ate six pomengranate seeds while in the underworld, whereas the anniversary of Christ’s birth provides only the reason for one of the holidays in the middle of winter.

I’ve participated in a holiday program that wished consumers “Happy Holidays” and have seen the instant backlash produced, wherein previously loyal customers threaten to go elsewhere because the company used the inclusive turn of phrase. I’ve seen reasonable people in the blogosphere sputter their indignation. And when it comes time for my company to send out holiday greetings, I send out something that says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

I use the “Happy Holidays” professionally, as I assume many commercial people do, when I address people whose faith I don’t know. I do wish my family and my Christian friends a Merry Christmas because I know what they celebrate, and I don’t want to be an oaf and ask them to enjoy a holiday they don’t celebrate. I would never say “Happy Independence Day” to a Canadian on July 4. I think the “Happy Holidays” captures the spirit I would like to share with everyone, regardless of creed, during late November and all of December. Come January 2 or 3, though, it’s back to curses for everyone.

Some of the commentariat argue that “Happy Holidays” is disingenuous because it doesn’t recognize the clean-up batter of the holiday lineup, and that political correctness has run amok. James Lileks, columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, says:

Am I offended that they name the other holidays by name? Of course not — no more than I’d be offended if a practitioner of those creeds wished me a happy whatever. This is America. Come one, come all. Frankly, I look forward to the day when the Mexican Day of the Dead is a national holiday; having a picnic in honor of departed relations is an improvement on, say, Arbor Day. Fifty years from now, we’ll all drive hovercars right up to the grave and grill some steaks. In any case, if someone wished me a Happy Whatever tomorrow, I’d be honored that they cared to include me. Why some companies are terrified of this idea I cannot imagine.

As though those who say “Happy Holidays” avoid the word “Christmas” because they don’t want to offend minorities. Instead, I think people who use “Happy Holidays” want to include as many as they can., instead of because they want to include. Two separate sentiments entirely, I say.

Virginia Postrel, author and former editor of Reason magazine, says:

I can’t blame Christians, who are the vast majority of Americans and the ones whose religion is celebrated in all those carols at the mall, for wanting their holiday acknowledged in public. I don’t get offended when Dallasites assume everyone, of course, celebrates Christmas. (Everyone they know does, after all.) And I hope to have a happy, though not necessarily merry, December 25. But I wish good-hearted folks like Lileks would consider that Christmas greetings don’t make everyone feel good.

Once again, she’s focusing on the predicate that people don’t want to offend instead of the impulse to include. I think they both misunderstand the impulse to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas or Happy Winter Solstice or any particular holiday in this period of increased brotherhood among men and sisterhood among women and consumerhood among consumers.

But what really twists my valve is that the most vehement of the anti-Happy Holidays crowd demonstrate the impulse to exclusion that they project upon everyone else. That if someone wants to wish you well during December, that that person must say, “Merry Christmas” or the sentiment won’t stick. Plainly and simply, some Christians won’t accept the good tidings of others unless it acknowledges their particular tastes in good tidings, that heathen beneficience is the work of the devil. It stems from the retake-the-holy-land impulse in some strains of Christianity, not the brotherhood-of-man strain, and it’s particularly odious given the spirit of the Holidays. I rankle, and I refuse to let others exert their self-imposed authority over my holiday greetings.

So I bid you happy holidays, whether you like it or not.

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