Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Note: If the subject line offended you at all, you should probably stop reading now.  It's about to get a lot worse.  On the other hand, if you stick around, you might learn something.

When I was a kid, I loved the phrase "Happy Holidays".  To me, it was a more efficient way of saying, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year".  Shortly thereafter I discovered that if you use the phrase in mid-November, you can even include Thanksgiving in the mix.  No longer was I burdened with the phrase, "Have a good Thanksgiving, followed by a joyous Christmas, and don't get hit by a truck on New Year's Day."  Some genius had managed to reduce the entire sentiment into two words.  When I got a little older, I realized that I wasn't the center of the universe, and discovered that some people celebrate other holidays instead of (or in addition to) mine.  "Even better," I said, realizing that my favorite seasonal greeting was more useful than ever.  No need to wonder if they even celebrate a specific holiday, I could use one simple phrase and spread good wishes to everyone.

After all, I don't only wish good tidings to those who celebrate the same holidays that I do.  That would be unforgivably self-centered.  And yet, an unbelievable number of pompous jerks are actually offended when people wish them happy holidays.  For the love of Rudolph, why?  "Well," they say, "it's removing Christmas from the Christmas season."  Really?  So Christmas isn't a holiday?  Wait a minute, let me check the dictionary...

Christmas: "The annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and now generally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion for exchanging gifts."

Wow, not only is it a holiday, it's a legal holiday.  Of course, there's some debate over whether it should really be a Christian holiday (just ask any Jehovah's witness), but there doesn't seem to be much doubt that it's a holiday.  So unless that cashier says, "Happy Holidays except for Christmas," it's reasonably safe to assume that Christmas was one of the holidays included in the sentiment.  Seriously, don't you understand the beauty of "more"?  I want you to have several really great days this holiday season, but you're only wishing for me to be merry on one of them.  I feel like I deserve a refund.

Now, those on the other end of the spectrum aren't off the hook... I'm just as disgusted by people who are offended by "Merry Christmas" as I am at those who are offended by "Happy Holidays".  I don't celebrate Kwanzaa, but I'm not going to be offended if you wish me a happy one.  Frankly, I don't even know when Kwanzaa is, but I hope I am happy on Kwanzaa, and it's nice of you to hope so too.  So why should you be annoyed if I request your merriment on Christmas?  Just because you're not celebrating anything on December 25th, that doesn't mean you should be unhappy on that day.  Accept it as a token of good will and get on with your life, you self-centered elbow-sucker.

But that doesn't come up as often, at least not in my experience.  I've known a few people who don't celebrate Christmas, and they never seemed to be as brittle on this issue as the Happy Holidays Haters.  But that's another thing that bunches my boxers - people who call themselves "oppressed" when they're not.  Those who celebrate Christmas are clearly the majority, but they're also the ones whining "I'm sooo oooopresssed!  It's a war on Christmas!"

There is no war, and if there was, you'd be winning.  Yes, some cashiers have been instructed to use broader, more inclusive greetings, but it's not like they're requiring you answer in kind.  If you answer your cashier with "Merry Christmas", the manager isn't going to have you arrested.  The cashier simply wished that you not be miserable on several key days of the season; you're the one trying to start something.

Or to put it another way, one group of people is giving out coupons for free ice cream, any flavor.  Another group of people is giving out free ice cream, but only in peppermint flavor.  The peppermint people are being a little bit arrogant in assuming that everyone likes that flavor, but so what?  Peppermint ice cream is better than no ice cream, especially when it's free.  And yet, it's the peppermint people who are getting the most offended by their competition.  Why?  Because they think everyone should like peppermint, and to them there's no point in the existence of any other flavors.  They find the very idea that someone might want to eat chocolate or strawberry to be an abomination.

But I believe there's room in this country for more than one holiday.  It's not a competition.  I don't think Santa Claus is sending goons to hobble the Easter Bunny so that Xmas can "win" the Holiday race. 

...Whoops, I said the X-word.  That's another thing that bugs people, often the same people.  People who think that "Xmas" means removing Christ from Christmas.  Five minutes of research will tell you that "X" was a well-used abbreviation for Christ long before we had a holiday called Christmas.  But apparently thinking too much gives you wrinkles, so once again everybody has to bow to the most delusional segment of society.  These are the same people who keep spreading the urban legend that you can't pray in schools.  Of course you can pray in school, how are they going to stop a prayer?  You don't even have to close your eyes to pray.  It's not like they have some sort of signal cancelling device that prevents your prayers from reaching the heavens.  The law simply says that teachers can't lead prayers in public schools.  Which makes perfect sense; not everyone in the room is necessarily going to be the same religion.  And even if they were, different denominations might have different rules about what should be in a prayer.

But that doesn't cut any slack with some people.  Some people want everyone to be required to celebrate the same holidays and participate in the same religion.  It's why we have "Under God" in the pledge, and why we have "In God We Trust" on our money.   Bit o' trivia: both of those are Newer Than They Think.  "Under God" was added to the pledge in 1954, more than 60 years after the pledge was written.  "In God We Trust" was added to paper money in 1957.  Apparently both additions were the result of the Red Scare, when Americans were so afraid of "Godless Commies" that we started adding God wherever we could to distinguish ourselves from our so-called enemies.  The obvious problem is that history hasn't been kind to the Scare.  I think most people now realize that our paranoia was unfounded, and that maybe we went a little too far in judging other people's political beliefs.  And yet these relics remain, on our money and in our pledge.  Why?  We know we were wrong, so why not fix it?

The answer is, of course, entitlement.  Please understand, this is not an attack on Christians, or people who celebrate Christmas.  This is an attack on people who are so entitled that they insist the world bow to their lifestyles.  While most of us are content to live our own lives and let others live theirs, these people require everyone to live the way they do.  These are the people who say, "I'm not gay, so homosexuality must be a sin.  My religion doesn't like witchcraft, so the Harry Potter books must be banned for everyone.  I don't enjoy video games, so they must be bad for you."  And if you don't pass their laws banning the things they don't like, they call themselves oppressed. 

“Yes, the long war on Christianity. I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion... perhaps around their necks? And maybe -- dare I dream it? -- maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or, perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively.”  - Jon Stewart

But if you're still upset about the use of Happy Holidays, then fine.  You win.  I hope you have a lousy Thanksgiving, a terrible Kwanzaa, a dreadful Hanukkah, a horrible Ashura, and a sucky Boxing Day.  But by all means, have a Merry Christmas.