Season’s Greetings! A Blessed Advent! Hot Diggity December! Belated Happy Chanukah! Stupendous Solstice! (Summer or Winter, depending on your hemisphere!) Glorious Christmas! Cheerful Kwanzaa! A Super-Duper New Year!
It’s the holiday season in much of the world, and I want to wish everybody a heaping helping of festive cheer. However you celebrate, whatever you celebrate — enjoy!
My family celebrates Christmas, and I am delighted when anybody wishes me joy and good tidings. In other words: I have no patience for the faux outrage that’s ginned up in the US around this time of year over the so-called “War on Christmas.” There ain’t no such thing. Moreover, trying to get people angry because someone wishes them Happy Holidays is simply against the spirit of the season.
And, if this story checks out, it led to an un-Christian act: Salvation Army bell ringer says ‘Happy Holidays’ led to assault.
Kristina Vindiola said she was ringing a bell outside the Walmart to raise money for the charity when a woman took exception to her saying “Happy Holidays,” KNXV-TV, Phoenix, reported Tuesday.
“The lady looked at me,” said Vindiola. “I thought she was going to put money in the kettle. She came up to me and said, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And she says, ‘You’re supposed to say Merry Christmas,’ and that’s when she hit me.”
The woman who threw the punch is a lump of coal in human form. She has been encouraged to scowl and rage and hold grudges in her heart, to seek offense where none is intended, to take umbrage at being offered good wishes by a woman collecting for charity at Christmas. She has been prodded and poked and goaded to believe that Christmastime is about tribal anger, so that the response to being wished Happy Holidays isn’t “Peace on Earth” but a punch.
And if anybody out there thinks it’s a good idea to browbeat people and insist that “Merry Christmas” is the sole acceptable December greeting, let me tell you a story. I once greeted a woman with exactly those words, and was resentfully scolded about them. In church. On Christmas morning. In front of my children.
The year my family moved to England, the Husband joined the music group at the local Catholic church. We took the kids to mass on Christmas morning and enjoyed a carol-filled celebration. Afterwards, I wished everybody I saw a very Merry Christmas. I was nearly out the door when one woman I’d greeted marched up and stopped me. She had dropped into a black mood.
“Do you know what ‘merry’ means?” she said.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“It means drunk.”
“I beg your pardon?”
She was fuming. “I’ve heard you wishing everybody ‘Merry Christmas’ all morning. You’re telling people to get drunk.”
“Of course you don’t know what it means. The only people who say ‘Merry Christmas’ are the Irish, and Americans, who are ignorant of the word.” She was rigid. “It’s completely inappropriate.”
I think I just gaped at her, and maybe said, “Oh.” Not just because she wanted me to crumble with shame, or because she wanted my kids to believe that I was unforgivably ignorant, but because drinking on Christmas is a fine old English tradition.
I later asked British friends if I had committed a horrid faux pas. They looked perplexed. They insisted that I had done nothing wrong. Plenty of Brits say Merry Christmas. But Happy Christmas is equally popular. Happy Holidays is fine, too.
Everybody: if someone offers good cheer, accept it gratefully.
Ho ho ho!