A Season By Any Other Name Would Be as Sweet

15 Dec

It’s just past Hanukkah, and with Christmas and Kwanzaa fast approaching, many people around the world are getting into the spirit of the holidays.  Today, we celebrate these holidays with increased sensitivity to the diverse population around us; many of us choose to say “happy holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas.”  I mean, how awkward is it to say “Merry Christmas” to someone who does not celebrate it?  At any rate, I never thought “happy holidays,” a solution to holiday bias, could be offensive to anyone–until this December.

Just a couple days ago, I was watching the news, and I saw a report about a pastor who created a website–Grinch Alert–that reports businesses who are “naughty.”  Those businesses, as explained by the website, are those who use “misplaced political correctness to [cough] halt the celebration of Christmas.”  I was also surfing the web the other day, when I came across an article bashing the Florida Everblades’ ugly holiday uniforms.  A YahooNews article commented, about the tacky red and green uniforms, “Oh, and seriously: Just have it read “Merry Christmas.” Holly, lights, glass balls … unless there’s a dreidel on the fighting strap, let’s not pretend it’s a “holiday” jersey, OK?”  Although I understand the uniforms were more geared toward Christmas in design, I was surprised the writer faulted the design for including all religions in the holiday season.  After these two incidents, I began to question–is there something wrong with sharing the holiday season?  And, essentially, have people forgotten why we started saying “happy holidays” in the first place?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never thought anyone had a problem with saying “happy holidays” before this little bout of rage expressed on Grinchalert.  For years, my mixed family (all Jewish except my mom, who is Christian) has always made a holiday card.  Yes, we tend to call it a Christmas card, but many times it says “Happy Holidays.”  And you know what?  My mom designs the card every year.  And she doesn’t mind writing “Happy Holidays,” because she is a caring person and wants to include all of our friends (and us, of course) in celebration of all winter holidays.

Maybe it’s just that–the parents who raised me actually taught my siblings and me to be compassionate.  What’s the point of exclusion?  According to the pastor who founded Grinchalert, Christmas is the most special holiday during the holiday season.  According to him, why else would Dr. Seuss write the How the Grinch Stole Christmas–it’s not How the Grinch Stole the Holidays…Well, you know what?  I seriously doubt Dr. Seuss meant to limit his message to Christmas.  A man who taught the value of accepting differences merely by setting an example (Dr. Seuss never listened when his art teachers told him his work was bad–he believed differences were not “bad”) probably didn’t mean to exclude other religions from his lesson–that the spirit of the holiday is intangible.

Grinchalert has encouraged fundamentalist Christians to put down businesses who want to accommodate everyone in the spirit of the holidays.  Sounds like a lose-lose to me.  What once was a wish of well-being for all is now seen as an insult to many.  Seems like business’s efforts to appease all customers is now losing them traffic.  Some businesses reported as “naughty” on the Grinchalert site could see decreased business this winter.  As the news anchor I saw interviewing the pastor pointed out, this could be a dent in business for many companies just at the time when they expect sales to increase.  Is that nice in the spirit of the holidays?  Even just in the spirit of Christmas, I might add?  If I may point out, I think this pastor belongs on the naughty list for forgetting the true meaning of Christmas–and, essentially, the reason for which society coined the term “happy holidays.”

Following the moral of The Grinch, we all should know that Christmas alone is not about being stingy–it’s about sharing happiness with your neighbors, whether you receive gifts or not.  Well, if you ask me, the creation of “happy holidays” was a valiant effort to share that spirit with all neighbors and friends.  Who cares what we’re saying as long as we are being sensitive to everyone’s differences and uniting in one happy holiday season?

Growing up, I was one of the few Jewish kids in my grade at school.  Because my mixed family celebrated Christmas every year, I never felt particularly left out of the holiday season when Christmas decor and festivities came; in fact, I welcomed them.  However, I once realized, during a Hanukkah discussion at Hebrew school, that some people feel awkward when Christmas is so amped up.  My friend’s mom said that every year my friend asked if they could put up a tree or Christmas lights, but she always felt that just was not a part of Hanukkah.  When I then imagined losing my grab-bag style holiday season for only Hanukkah, I understood how I might feel left out at Christmas.  After all, Hanukkah is generally over by then, and when many Christian and Catholic kids are celebrating with family, well–many Jews are eating Chinese food and waiting for their friends to be available to hang out again.

What I am getting at is this: inclusion.  It doesn’t matter if we’re all celebrating different holidays at different times–it only matters that we all include each other in celebrating a happy time of year.  For me, when someone remembered to wish me a happy Hanukkah, I was always touched that they remembered I was Jewish.  When someone wishes me a happy holiday, I am grateful they are being kind toward all religions, because in an increasingly diverse society, not everyone celebrates Christmas.

The holidays are about sharing and loving everyone–differences and all.  We can all share this holiday season in many ways, even beyond politely using generic phrases.  In my family, we always were happy to invite gentile friends over for Hanukkah festivities.  My siblings and I were always down to teach friends about how Hanukkah came about, and, above all, to celebrate together.  When I was a little older, my sister and I held “Chrismahanakwanzaka” parties.  For us, it didn’t matter that we had to share the holiday season with many kinds of people–our hearts were big enough to know there was enough holiday cheer to go around.  Too bad, these days, certain people’s hearts are two (or more) sizes too small.

Happy holidays, readers, and may you find cheer and happiness among all your friends and family members.

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2 Responses to “A Season By Any Other Name Would Be as Sweet”

  1. Judy Loew December 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    Way to go Shaina!!!I am forwarding this to many of
    my friends..
    Judy

  2. Laura December 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    Here here! and Happy Holidays to all!

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