Just Throwing Another Yule Log on the Fire

I feel like Nostradamus.  As if on cue after my most recent blog “Happy Yule” (below) a Merry Christmas e-mail debate broke out among the faculty of the college where I teach.   This yuletide uproar began with the benign announcement of the annual “Holiday Luncheon.”  The first e-mail response was offered with a scowl and a growl.  (Hint:  If you are scowling when you write an e-mail, astute readers will know this.)  The writer was offended that he couldn’t go to a “Christmas” luncheon and opened the door for his opposition by adding, “What other holiday would we be celebrating?  Fourth of July?  Memorial Day?  Martin Luther King Day?”

I’m proud to say that several faculty members returned fire by a) reminding him of what other holidays we could be celebrating, and b) offering reasons why their choices for December observances were every bit as valid as his.

I was discussing this at work tonight in the company of another faculty member and, as chance would have it, the chief of security.  I had just offered my own response to the online debate and was anxious to show it to my colleague.

“Oh, so you’re getting into the Great Holiday Luncheon Debate of 2008,”  Chief said.  And then he added, “You know, this whole thing started because they had to use the word ‘holiday’ since we’re a state school.”

“No, Chief,” I replied.  “This whole thing started when someone who believes he should own the holiday season decided to raise a stink about someone trying to be sensitive and inclusive.”

My friend, Priscilla, (props to Priscilla) offered a wonderful argument that I think I shall adapt for my own, with her permission.  I hope I don’t misrepresent her position, but the way I got it was this:  When the Christians agree to give back every “Christmas” symbol stolen from other traditions, then I’ll agree to give them December 25th.  Lock, stock, and barrel.  (Actually, to be technical, they would also have to give back December 25th since that was stolen from other traditions as well, but I shant quibble in that regard.)

ATTENTION ALL JESUS-FOLLOWERS:  When someone says “Happy Holidays” to you, they aren’t trying to offend you, ignore you, or even de-Christianize you.  What they are trying to do is NOT offend or ignore or inadvertantly Christianize you if you happen to not be a Christian.  When you respond defensively to Happy Holidays, you are, in essence, offended by the fact that other people aren’t getting offended.  How very WWJD of you.

Just be sweet.  Spread love and joy.  If you’ll leave your religious superiority out of the holiday season, I won’t point out that pagan mistletoe you have hanging above your door.

Happy Yule!

Last year about this time I was sitting in the dentist’s chair getting my teeth cleaned.   Or perhaps it should more appropriately be called the dental hygienist’s chair.  I only see my dentist for two minutes every six months when he pops in after my cleaning to ask if I’m having any problems with my teeth.  He’s a jovial kind of guy, a quick hello, a short joke, a few jibs and jabs about current events, and then he’s off to the next cubicle.  I’m not even sure he’s a dentist.  I think he may just network really well and run a teeth-cleaning business.  He’s like a dental pimp with a stable of cute girls with sharp, metal instruments.

Anyhoo, at this particular visit a year ago, something interesting happened.  As Dr. Rodney Dangerfield was finishing his obligatory glance at my pearlies, he stood up to leave the room and gave a cheerful, “Merry Christmas!”  It was so cheerful, in fact, that I think there actually was at least one “Ho” thrown in for good measure.

I smiled back and said with an equal amount of holiday cheer, “Thank you!  Happy Hanukkah!”

The continuous advertisement of his own perfect masticators ended abruptly.  He literally frowned, a playful frown, but a frown nonetheless.   “Uh, . . . well, I’m not Jewish.”

I hesitated not even a second.  “That’s okay.  I’m not Christian, but I took no offense.”

He mumbled something about a root canal and scooted out of the room.

And here we are again, a year later, and here comes the great Merry Christmas debate one more time.   I’ve seen some ugly scenes over the last few years regarding this issue.  A woman at the post office two years ago responded to a “Happy Holidays!” with a venomous “WE say Merry Christmas!”  It was the angriest Merry Christmas I’ve ever heard, and it almost ruined the season for me.  I don’t begrudge anybody their Merry Christmas; I just like to be inclusive.

I have my personal feelings about the religiousness of the holiday season, and I’m savvy enough to recognize that so does everyone else.  Debating the “reason for the season” is rather pointless.  For you, it might be the birth of a baby 2,000 years ago (whom most theologians agree was probably born sometime in August).  For another it might be a Festival of Lights.  For some, it might be the winter solstice and the return of the sun.

Whatever your personal reason, I say offer the greeting of your choice, as long as you do so with joy in your voice, love in your heart, . . . and no point to prove.

Feliz Navidad!