Today I heard the only argument that could convince me there’s another side to the Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas controversy. As you may know, I’ve come down on the side of Happy Holidays in earlier blogs, more than once.
But today one of the very few people who could convince me of anything spoke honestly, passionately and affectingly of Christmas parades, and the need for America to be an orchestra.
I was at the Tulsa Jewish Federation, making plans for a spring conference event we’re partnering on. Eva, who is not only a survivor of the Holocaust — the Sho’ah, she would say — but also one of the most wonderful people I know, countered my statement of my preference for the greeting ‘Happy Holidays’ when I don’t know the religious beliefs of the people I’m wishing well.
“Yes,” she said impatiently. “But this whole thing about the Christmas parade? It’s a parade. In December. It’s Christmas!” If, she continued, we want to have a parade about the wonderful American orchestra, as she calls it — w/ each different voice playing to increase the beauty of the entire group — then have it on the obvious day. July 4th. But in December, she said, raising her eyebrows…? It’s about Christmas.
“It only dilutes things, this political correctness,” she said. Sometimes we need it, she conceded. “But sometimes it just gets in the way, and messes things up.”
I hugged this amazing woman, who has dedicated her time, energy — her life — to faith and hope and an unfailing optimism in the capacity of the human heart. And left her as she went to yet another planning meeting. I walked next door to see the visiting Warhol & Chagall exhibit at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art.
There’s something about walking through the centuries-old silver religious vessels, the worn wood of a now-closed synagogue’s furnishings, the dark and vibrant and transformative art of Chagall that framed Eva’s comment. I’ve been thinking about it all day. And while I still think December is about more than Christmas, I don’t think I’ll ever say Happy Holidays w/out thinking of Eva. And Chagall. And the silvery blue painting of Esther, another amazing Jewish woman who dedicated her life to her faith and her people. Or Ruth, whose story of great love has always been one of my favourites.
December is a month when many of celebrate our religious and spiritual roots. And whatever your chosen path is, I wish you the best of celebrations. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy Hanukkah! Play your lyric piece in the wonderful American orchestra we share. And Merry Metaphors, for the poets among us.