First of all, I do wish people a merry Christmas, but usually on Christmas day. I also appreciate Christmas well wishes from others; but, I appreciate pretty much any well wishes: happy Chanukah, cool Yule, or even a plain old “Have a nice day.”
I celebrate a lot of holidays. Being from the middle of the USA, by the time we start saying “Happy Halloween,” Christmas decorations have already leaked into the stores. It’s the part of the year that we race through “Have a good Thanksgiving,” “Merry Christmas,” and end up with a “Happy New Year!”
We traditionally call this joyful part of the year, “the holiday season” and “happy holidays” became a catch all phrase for the season. It’s really handy for people, like me, who have a hard time keeping track of which year to write on your checks. It’s a pleasantry that doesn’t require to reference a calendar.
As I grew up and met more people, I acquired more holidays: Chanukah, Friendsgiving, St. Nichols Day, Diwali, Epiphany, Three Kings’ Day, Boars’ Head, Krampusnacht, Advent, Twelfth Night, Yule — the holidays go on! I have made many generous friends who invite me to celebrate with them. They open their homes, let me join their families, exchange presents and good wishes. We eat special foods, sing songs, and catch up from the previous year. We remember histories and retell ancient stories. We pray for peace and health. We light candles and trees, make loud noises, and put on scary costumes to shoo away the dark and bring back the light.
In each of these wonderful holidays, my friends share the same thread of celebration. They have invited me to their tables. On Christmas, I love inviting them to my table and sharing my Christmas with them.
By saying “Happy Holidays”, Christmas did not get kicked to the kid’s table. My table just got bigger. Along the way I learned that there wasn’t one Christmas for everyone. For many, it centers on the birth of Christ; but, it also includes being thankful for family and friends, remembering people we’ve lost, celebrating traditions, and even just the opportunity to end another year with the people we care about. My Christmas was always my immediate family, dressing up for dinner, a shared meal — most our time together cooking. Some families go caroling or to the movies. Some spend it in their pajamas. Some start it and end it at church. Some visit friends are help out at shelters or soup kitchens. Some spend it at work. But even with “Merry Christmas,” it means different things to different people.
My holiday and how I celebrate Christmas are just that, mine. When someone goes out of their way to wish me a “Merry Christmas,” “happy holidays,” or even just “have a good one” — thank you, and same to you!
It’s easy. It’s nice. It’s fun! I appreciate their kindness.
If you feel attacked by “happy holiday,” then you are missing the point of the season. You can only see your Christmas and how you celebrate it. You have left no room at the table for anyone else. If you bark back “Merry Christmas,” are you wishing them well? Or are you “correcting” someone?
The whole story of Christmas is about a refugee family who had a baby in a foreign land — all because someone made room for them in his stable. The holidays, all the ones I celebrate, are about making room for each other. They are about ancient miracles to guide us and promises we keep to share our warmth and light in times of darkness. Light is one of those things that doesn’t get diminished when you share it. The more we share our light, the brighter the world becomes.
So to you all, Happy Holidays and blessing of peace, joy, and health! May the stories or past miracles and ancient times inspire us all today.