Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Blessed Yule! Joyous Noel! Are we having Ramadan around December again this year? Can’t forget Kwanzaa. Hey, it’s almost New Years! And so on, so forth, etc.
You might be able to tell… I’m not really religious. I enjoy the winter holiday season, but not for reasons of faith. My beliefs are eclectic and my own, I just go with the social flow this time of year. But I am very aware of how many groups have celebrations (including just the non-denominational turning of the year) so I generally default to “Happy Holidays!” as my personal mantra. I never take offense if someone wishes me a specific holiday greeting, I enjoy the fact that they went to the trouble to wish me well.
Last year I went to the post office to pick up a delivery, and stood in the long December line of doom for a postal worker. I’m patient with the mayhem, so this all goes fairly well as I get up to the counter. Present safely secured, and while I’m there I pick up some stamps, the only ones they have are religious stamps but I don’t care, they get the mail to it’s destination. The guy behind the counter has been pleasant and cheerful, so as we wrap up our interaction he wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” which makes me smile and offer him a “Happy holidays!”
I’m not rejecting his Christmas, I just want to extend the spirit of the season as far as it can go, including New Years. He takes it with the joy it is intended and smiles back as I turn away from the window. The middle aged white men in line behind me, however, are visibly disturbed. There are two of them, they do not appear to have been in line together, just coincidentally next to each other, but they are clearly sharing the same sense that I have just committed a major violation of some holiday rule. The first one squints and spits out the most nasty “Merry CHRISTMAS,” I have ever heard. Second guy follows right on his heels with “Yeah, it’s Merry Christmas,” in a voice dripping with condescension.
Whoo boy! What a way to spread the good feelings of the holidays, fellas! I mean, I took the high road and just smiled at them as I walked away, but it really left me feeling a bit sour. I can still hear their voices, nearly a year later, taking a greeting of peace and season and turning it into a weapon of words. I got home feeling downright shaken and kind of sad, the sunny day a little less bright for the interaction I’d just had. I can never know what their true intent was, but if it was to take some pleasure away from the non-believer, I guess it worked. It doesn’t convert me to their faith, it doesn’t do more than make me frown for a few moments, but it does have a tiny impact and creates a lasting memory of their Scrooge-ness.
However, no matter what you celebrate (if anything at all) I hope your season is merry and bright! Let the sullen be sulky and find joy with whatever makes you happy! Take a moment to take that deep breath and soak it all in!