Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy/Merry

BeneGram is not even two months old yet, and we already have our first sizable hiatus, the first of what I'm sure will be occasional hiatuses (yeah, that's the correct plural -- I looked it up). Things have been busy and there are a few situations close to me that warrant my concern more than blogging right now. They also serve to remind us that no time of year is joyous for everybody, and we should remember that as we move through large crowds, whether it's during the holidays or not. Everyone has his or her own troubles to bear -- a layoff, a family illness, a recent loss, a divorce -- and they put into perspective griping about mall traffic or the price of wrapping paper.

The following is another column I had published in Press Newspapers of Delaware County (www.countypressonline.com), this one about two years ago, during the normal December blitz. I thought I should get this in before January. The lefties love griping about President Bush's "war on science," and righties love railing against the "war on Christmas." Q.: What do the two "wars" have in common? A.: Neither one actually exists.

Have a safe and happy 2009.

Nothing Wrong with "Happy Holidays"

Several years ago, while toiling away at a local retail establishment, I affixed a few signs to our drive-through windows. Scattered throughout them were the proper names "Kwanzaa," "Christmas," "Hanukkah," "Ramadan," and "Winter Solstice." At the bottom of each sheet, I wrote, "Whatever you celebrate, enjoy the season."

After my day off, I returned to work and was informed by a colleague that one of our customers had griped about my signs, hollering something to the effect of, "Don’t you get it? These other people don’t even care about their holidays! It’s Christmas!"

Evidently, that malcontent was ahead of his or her time, because in 2006 we now allegedly have a "war on Christmas." While I have no personal problem with Bill O’Reilly or any other pundit making this contention – I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it.

Every shopping center I drive by has red-and-green-and-gold decorations up. Practically every sitcom is doing its ripoff of It's a Wonderful Life. At least one major radio station has been hitting us with all manner of yuletide music, 24-7, since mid-November. (And last year I counted three.) If there’s some sort of "war on Christmas" going on, whoever declared it is losing soundly.

Hey, I like getting presents for family and friends as much as the next bloke. I’ve been to a few Christmas parties already this season, and I’ve even performed some of the music myself. But I’m not about to have a fruitcake-inspired hissy fit just because the cashier at Boscov’s wished me "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." (See, folks: Christmas is a holiday. It’s in there somewhere. Relax.)

I wish the people in my family "Merry Christmas" when the time is right. I say "Happy Hanukkah" to my Jewish friends. But I have friends who are dyed-in-the-wool atheists, and I wouldn’t dream of giving them a greeting that doesn’t apply to them and may, in fact, make them feel uncomfortable.

I can hear charges of being "too PC" already. Well, before anyone created the concept of "political correctness" we had another thing going around called "being nice to people" and one called "don’t exclude anyone."

Ah, the "war on Christmas" people say, but Christmas is a time that can be enjoyed by one and all, regardless of religion. Okay, then why does it seem that those making this argument are the same people telling us to "put the ‘Christ’ back in Christmas"?

If you want to argue that Christmas is becoming too secular, and that we’re forgetting the "reason for the season," fine – I won’t disagree. But we can’t have it both ways, gang. If you’re acknowledging that Christmas ought to remain true to the story of Bethlehem, then you can’t turn around and demand that Best Buy employees wish every customer "Merry Christmas," even when said customer is sporting a yarmulke.

So, please: enough of the boycotting department stores because of what you hear as you’re heading out the door with $600 of Salad Shooters®. (You should be nice to store clerks every day, because it’s thankless work, but that’s another issue.) There’s nothing anti-Christmas about saying "happy holidays" or "season’s greetings" or the even more secular "peace." Be nice to the dude at Genuardi’s, no matter which of these he happens to say to you. It’s the Christian thing to do.