Yeah, I know, I said I wouldn’t post until after the first of the year, but this is important to me, so here you go…
Recently, a woman came into my store asking for some help picking out cigars for her husband, which she informed me would be part of his Christmas present. She was a pleasant, educated woman in her thirties, with red hair and freckles. When it came time to pay, I noticed the name on her credit card was “O’Brien”. Feeling that I was on safe ground here, I wished the woman “Merry Christmas” as I handed her credit card back to her.
From the look she gave me, you would have thought I’d told her to go fuck herself.
What is wrong with people nowadays? Yes, I’m all in favor of cultural sensitivity. There is a time and a place for “Happy Holidays”. Had this woman not been so obviously Irish, (or had not informed me that the cigars were a CHRISTMAS present) I might have retreated to the safety of that vapid phrase.
But when did “Merry Christmas” become the semantic equivalent of an insult?
Sometimes I think it’s just laziness. By saying “Happy Holidays”, people give themselves a cheap way out. After all, taking the time to find out which holiday the person actually celebrates, and then wishing them the appropriate compliments of the season, only takes a modicum of time and effort, and yet even this seems to much trouble in our increasingly impersonal, desensitized world.
And by the same token, what is there to get so uptight about, anyway? If a Jew wished me “Happy Hanukkah”, I know I’m not going to get all bent out of shape over it. I would simply take it in the friendly spirit in which it was intended and wish him “Happy Hanukkah” in return.
I do not know if the man known as Jesus of Nazareth was divine. I do not know if he performed miracles. I do not know if he was resurrected from the dead.
And I’m not sure I even care.
What I do know is that he preached a message of love, tolerance, peace, and forgiveness at a time when his people were looking for a leader who would overthrow the Romans and return Israel to its former glory. I know he was spurned by the religious establishment of his day. And I know that he really, really, pissed off the government. Like so many who came after him, he was murdered because he would not back down from saying things he felt needed to be said, even to the point of surrendering his own life in the process.
Imagine what the world would be like if people really did live their lives the way Jesus of Nazareth extolled us to: love your neighbor, forgive your enemies, judge not lest you be judged.
If one can grasp those ideas, then one has truly grasped the very real meaning of Christmas. And so, whatever your beliefs, please allow me to wish you a very Merry Christmas.
-Stephen P. Smith