As we again approach the end of the year we enter into the notorious “holiday season.”
This year it seems, more than any year I remember, the debate over the appropriate holiday well wishes is front and center everywhere I look. Now maybe it has to do with where I look – Facebook groups, twitter posts, blogs… all those venues for making your opinion known without giving much thought to the statement we are making have become more prevalent and continue to take a more central role in keeping us all connected.
I think it comes down to value. Yes, really, value. If I wish someone a happy or merry anything is my intent to add value for me or for them? Well, I’ll speak for myself (and there is a comment section below for you to do speak for yourself.) My intent is to add value to them, to bring a smile, to lighten a heart, to brighten a day.
So why would I wish them anything that holds no meaning for them?
I have a somewhat unique perspective perhaps. I was raised Christian, in fact, I was raised in a Christian cult that did not celebrate the religious holidays because of their derivation from pagan rituals and traditions. Their teaching was that if you celebrating the birth, death and resurrection of Christ at all then you should celebrate it every day and not by the observance of rituals that had been modified from other religions.
How many of you gasped? What, no Christmas? Nope, and no Hanukah, and we didn’t celebrate the Winter Solstice either. But in the little Kansas town where I was raised everyone wished me a Merry Christmas and expected that I would wish them the same.
And I did, wholeheartedly.
Because it meant something to them. I sang the carols even though I wasn’t allowed to participate in rehearsals for the annual school pageant let alone in the real event, because it brought joy to people to hear them. Although I had no reference for the traditions outside of the books I read I took pleasure in their pleasure.
But what if I had been raised in a community on the West Bank? Or in Tehran? Would I have been inauthentic to offer them the greetings and well wishes that are in keeping with their traditions and the beliefs that bring them joy? Why is it inauthentic if I sincerely wish them joy on their sacred day?
In this part of our world Christians are the majority and a greeting of “Merry Christmas” will add value to many of the people we meet. But not all.
So this season, as you wish a merry, happy season to friends and strangers please ask yourself, “am I wishing them a Merry Christmas because I know it has meaning for them or only to make a statement about what has meaning for me?”
I agree you all have the right to offer your holiday greetings in any format you choose - and so does everyone else. So if you say “Merry Christmas” and they respond with “Happy Holidays” please know that their wish for you is just as sincere as your wish for them.
Let that be the value of the well wishes you give, and those you receive.
Sometimes the greatest gift we can offer is the tolerance and respect that comes from an open and loving heart.
I wish you all a happy, merry, joyful, blessed season – this season and every other.