Though Christmas is over, the holiday hubbub has irritated me so much, I decided to write about it. I’ve seen so many comments on Facebook about “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and “It’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!” – and they make me cringe.
Full disclosure: I used to be one of those people. When schools renamed their winter programs “Holiday” instead of “Christmas,” it ruffled my feathers. When the focus was on Santa instead of Jesus, I puffed up.
Then, one day, I passed along an email to a woman who was my Lupus mentor (introduced through the Lupus Foundation after I was diagnosed) about Jesus being the “Reason for the Season” and Christians were right and how everyone else could kiss my ass. Yeah, yeah, that wasn’t exactly what the email said, but let’s face it – that’s how it came across. Diane replied politely, something to the effect of, “While I appreciate your views and your beliefs, I am Jewish and do not believe in Jesus the same way you do. I do, however, celebrate Hanukkah in December and often greet both my Jewish and Christian friends with “Happy Holidays” to include both religions. Please do not include me on future emails like the one below. Thank you for respecting my wishes. Happy Holidays.”
Wow. That set me back on my heels.
I had been so self-absorbed, I hadn’t considered the fact that other people – good people – might not feel the same way I do. Up until I got that email, I know I said things like ‘Such-and-such is a good Christian person’ or ‘That’s the Christian thing to do’. After that email from Diane, I realized that there are people I think of as “good Christians” who are NOT Christians. Suddenly, the world blossomed before my eyes as I became aware of other religions.
After being called out by my Jewish friend, I became more cognizant of my behavior and the behavior of others, and how it appears to those who are not Christians. When Christians bluster about the Reason for the Season, it seems to belittle or discount other religions. Insisting that everyone greet friends and family with “Merry Christmas” is ridiculous. Personally, I don’t feel that it is my place to force my beliefs on anyone else. Many of the nastiest, most hateful posts I have seen on Facebook posts and comments on articles are written by people claiming to be Christians. It’s appalling. On the other hand, one of those most spiritual, giving people I know follows a Pagan religion.
And I have to share a little story that made me write a comment, delete it, write it again, delete it again . . . you get the idea. It was a Facebook post covered with red, white and blue and a cross. It said something about being a proud American, Jesus is the Reason for the Season, and then something about “Just like Israel” or something like that. I fought the urge to say, “You know most Israelis are Jewish, right?” (I kept scrolling, afraid my words might not be taken as the lighthearted poke I intended).
Please, before words leave your mouth (or your fingers), give some thought to how they will be heard by others. Consider the elderly woman down the street who may be lighting her Menorah, or the boy who mows your lawn who might be celebrating Yule with his family. How will they hear your words?
What I’m trying to say is, I’m OK with any greeting you choose to use. Just be polite. And thank you for thinking of me enough to greet me pleasantly.