Happy Holidays and the War on Christmas
Britton Gildersleeve, A Beginner's Heart
I’ve never understood why wishing people ‘Happy Holidays’ is insulting. December isn’t only Christmas – it’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Ashura. It’s Bodhi Day and Solstice. It’s school break, and winter holidays, and spending time with friends & family. It really isn’t only about Christmas.
My friend Rama says that many Hindus believe all faiths are simply different ladders leading to the same place – God, if you believe in one (or many). That’s kind of what I think: all prayerful/ contemplative intention climbs a ladder of practice. Brings us closer to whatever it is that animates each of us. Buddhists would say Buddha nature, but I’m also happy w/ just thinking it’s the human breath that links each living system to the next.
So I don’t ask people what (or whom) they celebrate. I wish them Happy Holidays – hoping to include them in the happiness I feel at this time of year. Hoping they too are excited to see family return ‘home.’ That smells of special baking and cooking fill their kitchens.
Thus I’m puzzled by people who want to exclude most of the world from December festivities. Here in Tulsa, we now have two Holiday Parades. The newer one sprang up in reaction to making the older parade inclusive. Many Christians – including our US senator – refused to attend if it wasn’t called a ‘Christmas’ parade. Since Tulsa wanted to include non-Christians in the Parade of Lights (as it’s now called), we now have two parades.
Now, I certainly understand why people would want to celebrate their own religion. But I don’t understand why it’s offensive if I don’t want to celebrate in their way, in their tradition. I wouldn’t say ‘Happy Hanukkah’ to a Christian, as neither the Christian nor I are Jewish. So why would I say ‘Merry Christmas’ to my Muslim, Wiccan, Buddhist and non-Christian friends? I do say Merry Christmas, often, if I know what religion a friend is. But sometimes, since Happy Holidays is my default, inclusive greeting, I just forget.
So I don’t understand – again – why some Christians feel the need for a separate parade. Or why it’s hurtful if I try to include all my friends in my winter happiness. In addition to being Buddhist, I’m Unitarian. I don’t expect my non-Unitarian friends (and there are a lot more of them) to know the 7 principles of Unitarianism. Or that they would celebrate my Buddhism or Unitarianism. Why would they?
Perhaps because I grew up overseas, where faiths were like a braided ladder of many colours that led each of us to our beliefs, I want to honour the many faces of religious and spiritual belief. One of my favourite poets was Baha’i. Another was Muslim, a third Church of England, and others Buddhist, agnostic, Hindu, atheist and who knows what else…?
There have been times in my life when I have answered the question What religion are you? and/or What church do you go to? with the response ~ My religion is poetry. I’m only half kidding J. Maybe in this time of winter festival, I will go back to that. Maybe I’ll begin wishing people – Joyous Rhyming! Or Merry Metaphors! Okay – that’s it. I’m sooo going with Merry Metaphors!
Britton offers equally interesting posts at her blog, A Beginner's Heart