A friend was telling me about the annual Christmas parade in a small town in Amish country. He said it was in no way a Holiday Parade. This was Christmas. With a manger, camels, and church choirs singing carols that didn’t include Frosty or Santa.
This is a time when many (reasonably) good Christians work hard to put Christmas back in December. And this often comes out in our response to being wished “Happy Holidays.”
First, let me say that I love working in a place that lets me say “Merry Christmas.” We are, in fact, a Christian organization and have Christian and Wesleyan values (although I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive). We are closed for Christmas, not winter holidays and our party actually has the word “Christmas” associated with it.
But I would never correct a cashier, waitress or even a neighbor who wishes me “Happy Holidays.” Here’s why:
December isn’t just about Christmas. We’re in the midst of Hannukah. Kwanzaa and Boxing Day are in a few weeks. Then we get to the New Year and Epiphany. When we insist that it’s only the Christmas season, we negate these other holidays.
It’s all about the nones. According to the Pew Study there are more “nones” out there than there are Christians. While many of these folks will celebrate Christmas with a tree and presents, it has become a secular holiday for them. To have in-your-face Christians making a scene only reinforces what many of them feel about church folks, that we are self-righteous, judgemental and out of touch with the rest of society. By the way, I have no idea why they think this. I have never once met a United Methodist who exhibited any of these traits.
It’s about tolerance. Many in our churches would not have been open to being wished “Happy Hannukah” the day after Thanksgiving and I can only imagine the response to being wished a meaningful Ramadan. I can only ask others to be tolerant of my beliefs if I am tolerant of theirs.
It’s not about conversion. The cashier at Koh’s isn’t trying to convert me to “none-ism” by wishing me Happy Holidays. She’s trying to be cheerful, stay out of trouble with her boss and move me along so she can get to the next customer in her never-ending line. It really isn’t the place for me to cause a scene. It’s the place for me to be cheerful back, wish her the same and offer a quick, silent prayer that she gets through her shift before her feet and patience give out.
I wish you a very Merry Christmas season, and I wish you the patience and tolerance to work with all of those around you, regardless of their focus between now and the New Year.