It’s the most wonderful time of the year they say. Recently, one of my children was at work and they wished a departing customer Happy Holidays. The customer replied, “NoooOOOOooo, it’s NOT happy holidays, it’s Merry Christmas!!” Ok, well that’s great IF you celebrate Christmas, but contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the United States celebrates Christmas. There are a lot of people who celebrate Hanukkah, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and a few more many aren’t familiar with. Insisting that people say Merry Christmas is wrong. Now, if YOU desire to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, since that may be what YOU are celebrating, feel free! But know that you might get a Happy Holidays or something else back.
I used to be quite insulted about businesses that were open on Christmas Day. My thought process, indoctrinated in me as a child, insisted that people who were “forced” to work on Christmas Day were the employees of a hateful Scrooge, devoid of any compassion for those who needed to be home with their loved ones. Then, over the past few years and especially very recently, I had a conversation that started opening my mind and making me think differently. This person explained to me that some people actually volunteer to work on Christmas. For example, let’s say that you are Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah. Christmas Day this year was a Tuesday to you. Why shouldn’t you be able to get a coffee or stop in a store to pick up staples? Why is the world tuned to only Christmas?
I started putting a lot of thought into the matter and listened very carefully when the disparity was explained. It sure does upset a lot of people, this whole Happy Holidays thing, but just because a majority of people do something, doesn’t mean we should dismiss the unique differences that exist for others. I even used to get quite upset about people working on Thanksgiving Day and a similar conversation took place where it was explained that many people who worked at this person’s former place of employment volunteered. Some were students here on visas who didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, or people who weren’t interested in celebrating or perhaps were celebrating on another day, like so many have to do.
Truly opening yourself up to diversity and welcoming the thoughts, ideas, concepts and lifestyles of others has always seemed to be quite a difficult thing for us as a species. From people losing their minds over a sailor kissing his husband after returning from duty to watching a video of migrant children being shoved and pushed makes me cringe and feel physically ill to be honest. How can we insist on celebrating a holiday about an immigrant child born in squalor as there was “no room at the inn”, yet be so hateful towards one another as a species? I get that the answer is far more complicated than just that one sentence question, I really do. However, where has our humanity gone? Do we need to keep reading the words on the Statue of Liberty, do we need to keep reminding ourselves that the United States exists due to the escape from religious persecution and the desire to practice as we please?
While I celebrate Christmas and know many others who celebrate other holidays, I don’t celebrate Christmas for the same reasons others do and it’s OK that I don’t. I no longer feel guilty about saying Happy Holidays because I feel like I’m wishing everyone the opportunity to enjoy the season in their own way, whatever that may be. Perhaps we could all do with a little more compassion and understanding and less demanding that everyone else be exactly the same. Maybe?