For a season that puts great emphasis on performing acts of kindness and generosity, on thinking of others and being with family, on focusing on peace and love and harmony, well, we sure can find some petty things to squabble over during the holidays.
Fueling the fire at this time of year is always the debate over how we should be greeted by another person – another person usually being a service provider or somebody else being paid to be nice to us.
Should we be told, “Happy holidays,” or must it always be, “Merry Christmas?”
Oh, the latter, I can hear many of you saying, and the majority of Canadians, it seems, would agree. And that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with having that preference. It’s the vehemence that gets tiring.
Yes, this is the Christmas season, but it’s not only the Christmas season. Christmas dominates – commercially, demographically, socially – there’s no question about that. But apparently, the Christmas season now begins the day after Halloween. Diwali was at the beginning of November, Hanukkah at the end of that month. But if we look at the store window displays, we were fully entrenched in Christmas by then.
A full 60 days out from the actual holiday itself, must Merry Christmas still eclipse all else? Is Happy Holidays not acceptable while our neighbours are celebrating something other than Christmas?
And really, does it matter?
Christmas is not the holiday I was raised to celebrate. Yet, if you say Merry Christmas to me, I will smile and respond with, “Same to you.” I may not offer you a “Merry Christmas,” in return, because it is not in my natural lexicon. But I will not be offended. I will not lecture you on why inclusiveness and social sensitivity should prevail on the street or in the store or written on a greeting card, and wonder at the motivations of anybody that might. I will not even think those things. I will be happy that you took the time to acknowledge my existence with words of pleasantry and kindness.
So why do people feel so threatened by the perceived shift – again, taking place mainly behind the counters of the shopping malls, where being nice is part of the job – to a more general seasonal wishing of wellness?
If an enthusiastic “Happy Holidays!” diminishes the personal importance of Christmas that its celebrator holds dear, well then that hold was a precarious one indeed.
This season is supposed to be about more than just a flashy window, or a checked-off list, or a turkey and a proper way to greet a stranger. It is supposed to be a season of kindness, of family, of generosity and love.
Any way we can add tolerance and a healthy dose of perspective to that list?
Image: Scott Beale/Flickr.com