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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth

There are people, and you know who you are, who seem to want to use the Christmas season to get bent out of shape. When I was a kid, the Big Bugbear was using Xmas for Christmas. I can still hear my Sunday School teacher intoning, "X means unknown, and you don't want to say Christ is unknown, do you?" We all solemnly shook our little heads.

A few decades later people remembered that X was the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of Christ, which is why people used it in the first place. You don't see Xmas very much these days, but no one seems bothered by it anymore when it does pop up.

For the last few years the Big Bugbear has been Happy Holidays. "It's a Plot! Leave the Christ in Christmas!" the bent-out-of-shapers are screaming, vowing to get in the face of anyone who says Happy Holidays to them instead of Merry Christmas. What on earth brought this on?

Happy Holidays has always been shorthand for Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, sometimes including Happy Thanksgiving. It's appeared on Christmas cards since their beginning in the 1890s, along with Season's Greetings. It has been most popular after the Irving Berlin song "Happy Holidays," which was released in 1942 and included in the film Holiday Inn. In the business realm, Happy Holidays (spoken or written) or Season's Greetings (usually written) have been considered a polite version when you don't know what religion the person you're addressing is. In a country with over 308 million people and freedom of religion, you've got a lot of different practices. While Protestant Christianity is in the majority, there are upwards of 200 different denominations in that alone, some of which don't observe Christmas. Plus you've got Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, and a lot of atheists. So in a non-religious setting, a generic greeting is used to not offend.

But people being people, some get offended anyway. Frankly, I don't see the point in getting angry at someone wishing me well because I don't like the words used. You can wish me a Happy Thor's Day and I'll say "Thanks! You too!" even though I don't celebrate that. Happy Hanukkah? No problem! Right back at you, and please invite me for latkes. I'll bring chocolate gelt, if I can find it, and get down to play the dreidel with the kiddies. It's a fun game.

Me, I wish everyone Merry Christmas unless I know they celebrate something else. If someone pops back with "I don't celebrate Christmas, I'm a ____", I'll wish them a happy whatever their holiday is, or just "Then have a great day," if I don't know. And smile, because this is the season when Peace on Earth took human form, and getting offended over nothing just isn't Christian. Or human. Or Peaceful, for that matter.

Just my humble opinion.

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