Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Random Thoughts on December 24th

For those of you who don't know, our family is interfaith. One of the things we've tried to instill in GK is respect for other people's beliefs regardless of his own or ours.

Which means at some point, the in-laws will find out that GK has declared himself an atheist. And damn, will that be entertaining!

But my in-laws' heads exploding wasn't the point of this post. While getting last minute groceries yesterday morning, I had a lot of folks wish me "Merry Christmas!" I'm not Christian, but I'm not offended. The greetings were sincerely meant.

But a lot of folks get pissed off if someone says "Happy Holidays!" I don't really understand why some people feel this is a personal attack. Christians aren't the only ones that have a holiday this time of year. There's Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, and more that I've forgotten. (My sincere apologies to those I didn't name.)

I name a specific holiday greeting to a person if I know their religion. For example, I wish my friend Kat "Merry Christmas," and she wishes me "Happy Yule."

But I don't always know a stranger's religion, it isn't obvious (like wearing a yarmulke, a hajib, or a cross), and frankly, their religion isn't my business. So I go with my favorite standby, "Happy Holidays!"

And when I did that to a customer years ago at the last Day Job, he went freakin' ballistic and accused me of being anti-Christian. At the end of his tirade, I asked him how I was supposed to know his religion. He blinked several times before he answered, "This is Christian nation!"

"But not everyone in the U.S. is Christian," I said.

That prompted another tirade. Again, I waited patiently for it to end before I asked, "Should there be a law that everyone in the U.S. wear the symbol for their religion?"


"And how did that work out for the Jews in Germany seventy years ago?" I asked quietly.

The blood drained from his face, and he marched out of the store.

I never saw him again, and he never filed a complaint with my manager (I half-expected it). I hope I made him think. I hope he now sees those of us who aren't Christian as people and not enemies. I hope he realizes that a sincere non-specific December holiday greeting is just that--a greeting, not an insult.

Since today's the last day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, I wish everyone a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!


  1. I did a Facebook post the other day about La Befana, an Italian folk tradition about a gift-giving old woman on a broom. It's a tradition firmly rooted in the story of the birth of Christ. The three wise men stop at her house to rest and ask her to join them in their search for the baby Jesus. She declines then changes her mind and tries to catch up, but can't find the wise men or baby Jesus, so now she gives Italian children gifts on Epiphany (January 6) to make up for the gifts she couldn't give to Jesus.

    A family member commented that La Befana was merely a Satanic ploy to take Jesus out of Christmas. Uh . . . seriously? Of course it is a Catholic tradition and in her evangelical world view Catholics are only one step above atheists.

    How fragile must your faith be if you can't even incorporate other CHRISTIAN traditions into your celebration of Christmas? And I remember a time when saying "Happy Holidays" was understood to mean Christmas and New Year's (and where I grew up, Hannukah) and nobody got fussed about it. Since when is even New Year's Day an affront to insecure Christians?

  2. I have a hard time feeling sorry when members of the dominant group in whatever spectrum try to pretend they're all oppressed. Christians are clearly the most privileged group on the religion spectrum in the US, and when Christians try to pretend they're so horribly oppressed, a silent eyeroll is my best response. Sometimes I succumb to the burning need for sarcasm, because seriously, if these people are going to act like they're all persecuted, it's only polite to play along with their delusions, no? :P

    My husband and I are atheists, and we celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Most of Christmas as celebrated in the US is basically secular these days (wow, I actually agree with some of the radical evangelicals, LOL!) and you don't have to be a Christian to think that peace and good will to all are worth celebrating. I'm at my mom's house, and her Christmas tree has a big bow on top instead of an ange. There's a throw over a chair across the room with snowmen on it, and a cloth over the table next to me is covered in embroidered poinsettias. Candles, snowflakes, reindeer, candy canes, toy soldiers, bells, sleighs, Santa Clauses -- Santa comes closest, but none of those things are really Christian. It works, and it's fun, and it's a great reason to be with family and reaffirm how much we all love each other. That's worth celebrating too, no matter what your religion is, or whether you have one at all.

    And yes, "Happy Holidays" covers everyone, and anyone who thinks it's insulting needs to go sit in a corner for a while and do some slow, deep breathing or something.

    Happy Secular Winter Holiday to GK. :)


    1. Wishing for a "Like" button . . . My family member's "Satan Watch" apparently doesn't involve pagan symbols like Christmas trees and secular figures like Rudolph and Frosty. Her house looks like Santa threw up on it.

      Have a holly, jolly solstice!