To me, Christmas is about Hope and the Spirit of Giving. The generosity and mercy that light hope in hearts during the darkest time of the year. I know Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Wiccans who have Christmas trees and wish people Merry Christmas because to them, as to me, generosity and mercy have no religion. For us, the good will represented by the traditional secular elements of Christmas are part of our Western culture.
I find it painfully ironic that there are as many non-Christians and advocates of “political correctness” campaigning to make Jesus ”the reason for the season” as there are hard line Christians. For example, last year I was standing with four other people in the office at my daughter’s middle school when the school counselor said, ”Happy Holidays.”
I smiled and returned a hearty, ”Merry Christmas.” Three people relaxed, smiled back, and returned the seasonal greeting.
In a lofty, educational tone, the counselor informed me, “Not everyone celebrates Christmas.”
Really? And this matters why when it’s clear my intent is to spread good will in the traditional manner of my people? Where’s the tolerance for my culture?
This got me to thinking. . . . If I were a member of an indigenous culture that worshipped water buffalo, and I wished Merry Christmas objectors a Happy Water Buffalo Day, would they inform me that they don’t worship water buffalo? Or would they recognize that I am blessing them with good will and the best of intentions in the manner of my people?
Little girl wishing a baby water buffalo a Happy Water Buffalo Day
To answer this question, I decided I would spend a day greeting people with religious good wishes that were not of Christian origin. There are no water buffalo in the Rockies so in honor of my Wiccan friends who have a holy day this Wednesday (Western Hemisphere), I went around town wishing people a Happy Solstice as I ran my errands. I didn’t mutter it. I didn’t pick and choose who I said it to. I smiled, looked everyone in the eye, and spoke with confidence, just as I would have said Merry Christmas in the middle of a down home tent revival. This is what I found with my limited sampling of approximately 17 people. . . .
- All but two looked at me like I was a talking frog.
- The two who didn’t were people who know me. Hmm.
- Most women recovered, smiled back, and said, ”Thank you,” or “You, too.”
- Men alone also recovered and said, “Thank you.”
- Men in groups continued staring as if I were a talking frog and said nothing.
- And the school counselor? She stopped, pointed her finger at me, smiled, and said, “Thank you.” The next day, she even returned my daughter’s Happy Solstice with a Happy Solstice of her own. . . . Yes, I bribed my daughter to do this.
Interestingly, not one single person became offended or informed me that they do not celebrate the Solstice.
Solstice at Stonehenge – The Beautiful Darkness, the Celebration of Light
This little experiment led me to ponder literal meanings. Christmas originated as “Christ’s Mass” so technically, it is a purely Catholic holiday. Also, “holidays” means, literally, “holy days.” If the argument is that I’m implying everyone I speak to is or should be a Christian when I say “Merry Christmas,” am I not, therefore, implying everyone should have holy days in December when I wish them “Happy Holidays”? Why aren’t Hindus and Buddhists becoming offended by this? Taken literally, Christmas is something Protestant Christians don’t celebrate at all, and “Happy Holidays” is no more culturally sensitive than “Merry Christmas.”
I’d like to know what you think? What does “Merry Christmas” mean to you? Is it a cultural expression, or a religious one?
I’d love it if you would join me in expanding this experiment. Today, I’m asking you to walk through your town wishing people a Happy Solstice. Please let me know how they respond to your warm wishes of the season.
Oh. I learned one more thing with my little experiment. My son might actually be able to die of embarrassment because of the things his mother does in public.
All the best to all of you for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, a Peaceful, Joyful Season, or just a really nice day.
Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse