Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

You know what?
I’m happy for you, that you believe in Christ, and understand the true meaning of Christmas. That’s great.

But what really gets my goat is when one of these Christians gets all uppity about the phrase “Happy Holidays”. I can semi-understand them getting offended when people want to call the “Christmas Tree” a holiday tree. Semi, mind you. If these people knew the actual origins of a lot of their beloved Christmas rituals, perhaps they would stop doing them. And maybe that would be for the better. I could certainly think of a few things that would be better than cutting down hundreds of pine trees each winter (hmm, like let them grow and thrive and even produce oxygen).

But I digress. No matter how interesting the origins of the Christmas tree are, I’m blogging to discuss the Christian stubbornness to say “Happy Holidays” to people, instead of Merry Christmas. And I realize not all Christians do this, but there are a certain amount that do.

First and foremost, the actual religious leaders admit that Christ was not born on Christmas Day. Christmas Day was chosen because it’s in the middle of the winter and people needed something to look forward to during those cold, dark nights. And what better way to choose a religious holiday then by stealing one from the pagans? You know, winter solstice. It was celebrated by pagans long before Christmas Day became a holiday.

When I was a child, and still to this day, I watched the original Christmas Eve on Sesame Street movie. Do you remember it? Ernie and Bert exchange presents, and by so doing give away their most prized possessions. Everyone plays crack-the-whip and Oscar goes flying through not one, but two walls (oh, how I remember rewinding the tape over and over when he said, “Let’s go back and do that again!”). Big Bird learns to skate, and then goes in search of Santa, because Oscar said Santa wouldn’t be able to fit down those itty bitty chimneys. Ah, but it was such a wonderful movie.

Now, the one thing in the entire movie that actually speaks to me today takes all of two seconds. Back in the day, it was probably lost on me, but every time I see it now, I kinda feel warm and fuzzy and know that some people out there are aware that there is more than one religion and that we should respect them all.

I’m talking about Bob.

Yah, I don’t know who I’m talking about either. But Bob is a special character. As Bob was walking through the streets, he ran into Mr. Hooper. Does anyone recall who Mr. Hooper is? The man who played Hooper died in 1982, and they never did replace his character. Either way, Mr. Hooper was the corner store owner, and he was on his way over to Bert and Ernie’s (I think) to bring them Christmas gifts.

Bob and Mr. Hooper ran into each other, and as they made some small talk, Mr. Hooper said, “Merry Christmas” to Bob. It was, after all, Christmas Eve. But do you know what Bob said in return? No, he didn’t say “Merry Christmas” back, as is the generally correct response to such a saying. No, Bob respected Mr. Hooper’s own religious beliefs, and said, “Happy Hanukah” instead.

Huzzah! What’s this?! Acknowledging a religion that is not his own?! How dare he!! Well, if you look at it from the other perspective, Mr. Hooper was also acknowledging Bob’s beliefs, and respecting them. One can only hope Bob would return the favour. And he did!! This is probably my second favourite moment in the entire movie (the first being Oscar crashing through two walls and enjoying it), because it shows children that respect is a two-way street, and that we all have remember this when issuing forth holiday greetings. And to think this movie was made in 1978, long before today!

I’m not trying to say that people would be offended by the words “Merry Christmas”. I’m just saying I’d love to see more respect for the other religions. Happy Holidays is just a way to encompass all of the religious holidays that are being celebrated this time of year, and I think that’s a great idea.

Look at it this way:

If I knew you were Christian, I would say “Merry Christmas” to you. But if you knew I was not Christian but say, Jewish, would you give me the same respect, and wish me a “Happy Hanukah,”?

Hmm… food for thought.