I’m going try to do two possibly contradictory things in this post: (1) urge everyone to wish each other merriness and/or happiness in a spirit of joy and celebration; and (2) unleash just a little bit of snark on the whole war-on-Christmas baloney. Here goes.
New rule: No one gets to be indignant when someone else expresses the wish that they be happy or merry. Unless someone is wishing you something truly bizarre like Happy Dog Shit Day,* the proper response is “thanks!” and possibly, “you too!” The following is an incorrect response: “Dude, you just wished me to be happy and/or merry for the wrong reason. You must have some sort of weird political agenda. Let’s bail on this whole joy and celebration thing and really annoy each other!”
For the record, as a half[assed] Jew, I have no problem with being wished a Merry Christmas. It’s not a holiday with religious meaning to me, so I feel the way I felt when my Chinese friends wished me Gong Xi Fa Cai on Chinese New Year. And that feeling is: Happy. Instead of the human interactions that fill up my average day — bizarre italicized accusations from opposing counsel, middle fingers from other drivers,** depressing political commentary — someone is just telling me to be happy. Or merry. Or in the case of Gong Xi Fa Cai, congratulating me and wishing me to prosper. This is all good. All. Good. Did I mention good?
Jewish person: Happy Chanukah!
Christian person: Thanks! That’s so nice of you!
Wasn’t that easy? And fun! How about this:
Christian person: Merry Christmas!
Jewish person: Thanks! You too!
See! Don’t you feel merrier and happier already?
Random person #1: Happy Holidays!
Random person #2: They’re not “holidays.” There’s only one real holiday, that is, MY holiday. Please don’t wish me happiness unless you’re doing it for the right reason.
ZZZZZT! Wrong. Remember the rule: whatever merry or happy you are wished, the proper response is “Thanks!” Seriously, try it. My prediction is: you might actually feel merry and/or happy.
But I do want to say a quick word about the “put the Christ back in Christmas”***/”Reason for the Season” crowd. I’m perfectly fine with putting Christ back in Christmas if that means, on December 25, focusing on the religious meaning of the birth of Christ instead of acquisition of new and better electronic devices and fleece sweaters. Indeed, I enjoy focusing on the Christian religious meaning of Christmas, and each year find myself learning and reflecting on important things from and with my Christian family and friends. And, happily, acquiring cool electronics and fleeces.
But if “put the Christ back in Christmas” means the only merry or happy we all get to say starting after, say, Halloween or perhaps Labor Day is “Merry Christmas,” I’m afraid I have to (merrily and happily) dissent. And because I’m a complete nerd, I have to point out that the “reason for the season” is not, in fact, the birth of Christ, but the need of early Christians to promote their new religion by attaching their observances to existing pagan solstice celebrations.**** So technically the reason for the season is the circuit of the earth around the sun, the beginning of the lengthening of days, and the need of people in the cold and dark to eat fun high-carb foods and drink enough to forget the cold and dark.
Still, snarkiness and nerdiness aside, I really think there should be more merries and happies rather than fewer, and that when someone wishes you a merry or happy that doesn’t line up with your particular views, just go with the merriness and happiness. And feel free to wish others merriness and happiness for whatever reason strikes you.
Or if you want to try for more calendrical accuracy, here are some suggestions:*****
Dec. 1 Rosa Parks Day
Dec. 2 Chanukah
Dec. 3 International Day of People with Disabilities
Dec. 4 National Cookie Day
Dec. 5 First Sunday in Advent
Dec. 6 Finnish Independence Day
Dec. 7 Islamic New Year
Dec. 8 National Brownie Day
Dec. 9 Jeff’s Birthday
Dec. 10 Constitution Day
Dec. 11 International Mountain Day
Dec. 12 Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Dec. 13 National Cocoa Day
Dec. 14 National Bouillabaisse Day
Dec. 15 Bill of Rights Day
Dec. 16 South African Day of Reconciliation
Dec. 17 National Maple Syrup Day
Dec. 18 International Migrants Day
Dec. 19 National Oatmeal Muffin Day
Dec. 20 National Games Day
Dec. 21 Winter Solstice
Dec. 22 National Date Nut Bread Day
Dec. 23 Festivus
Dec. 24 Chinook’s Birthday
Dec. 25 Christmas
Dec. 26 Boxing Day; beginning of Kwanzaa
Dec. 27 St. Stephen’s Day
Dec. 28 Card Playing Day
Dec. 29 Pepper Pot Day
Dec. 30 Festival of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute******
Dec. 31 New Year’s Eve
* There have been circumstances in which that would have been an appropriate greeting in our house, but I’ll spare you the details.
** Unpleasant even when justified.
*** But do remember to “Keep the Han in Hanukkah.” (h/t Laura R.)
**** There are a couple of other theories too. http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/christmas.asp
***** Recipients of our 2006 holiday card will recognize that I’m recycling material here. And yes, Mom, I corrected the typo.
****** Not a lot of documentation for this one, but I really liked it.