let the holiday battles begin… “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”

Christmas tree of the United States Capitol sh...
Christmas tree of the United States Capitol shortly after lighting ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not even Thanksgiving and the annual set of holiday arguments has begun. Is it “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”? Are nativity scenes on public park land charming and traditional, or are they an affront to the secularly minded? And the list goes on.

In response to the “Merry Christmas” debate, personal choices have no place in a corporate world. In that environment, business has to be considered.

A few years ago, among the hew and cry over the appropriate holiday greeting, an area church called for a boycott of a local, family-owned restaurant, whose employees were wishing folks the more generic “happy holidays.” There was only one problem… the family who owned the restaurant was Jewish, and their employees were of a variety of different faiths. Why on earth should a Jewish business owner be insisting their employees say “Merry Christmas”?

The answer? Jesus is the reason for the season, of course.

Except… he’s not.

He may be the reason for the season to Christians, who can thank a variety of ancient religious leaders for tying their celebration of Jesus’ birth to existing pagan celebrations, but to non-Christians, he has nothing to do with it. They’re celebrating things like the Festival of Lights, Saturnalia (the origin of a lot of Christmas traditions, including the tree) and other winter solstice observances.

And then comes the squawk over nativity scenes.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with nativity scenes as part of a holiday display. For many years, Balboa Park has put up a series of nativity scenes, and started the holidays off with a processional for Saint Lucia.

So long as a public institution is also providing equal time and opportunity to any other religious or secular groups who want to put up a display, or have a processional. If it’s a case of limited time and resources, then there should be some form of lottery that takes the choice out of human hands.

Note I specifically said “public” institution? If a private company, organization, group, whatever, wants to utilize public property for their religious display, and they follow the rules, regulations and processes for securing use of that property, so be it. Once again, so long as there is equal opportunity for any group, religion or organization to do the same and so long as selection methods of who gets the limited slots available are free from human preference.

The trouble comes about when any particular group feels they should have the exclusive rights to holiday expression. Non-Christians complain they don’t want Christ shoved down their throats each December. And Christians complain about the secularization of “their” holiday, as well as the growing lack of acceptance for publicly funded expressions of Christianity.

As we become a more global society, it’s important to remember something. We are all different – with different faiths, beliefs, practices and lifestyles. If we expect others to be tolerant of our choices and our beliefs, then we have to be more accepting of theirs.

Yes, that might mean that suddenly, the park that used to have a gigantic nativity might now have a smaller, more compact nativity so they can make room for the menorah, Santa Claus, and other holiday symbols that are a part of the amazing patchwork that is humanity.

And that is a beautiful thing, and a very, very good reason to celebrate.

And yes, I celebrate and decorate. I love the spirit of the season, no matter what you choose to call it.