I was advised by a fellow writer at The Statesman to preface this argument by saying that half of my household growing up was Jewish, therefore giving myself some sort of religious immunity to any part of this article sounding racist. Sage advice I thought at first, but after some thought, I realized not only that this perpetuates the idea I am attempting to dispel, but also that the audience I am trying to reach here will find this offensive no matter what.
I find the politically correct atmosphere placed around the holidays utterly abhorrent. In pressuring Americans to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” we have inadvertently placed all of our interest into words rather than the meaning behind them. Whether you like it or not, we live in a country of normative Christian faith. That means throughout the years around the holiday season, while out and about, we hear our local Salvation Army ringer or cashier say something along the lines of “have a very Merry Christmas.” In certain instances, people of other faiths shoot back, “I’m ‘insert religion here’” in a disparaging tone and walk away. I am sure in the same way that, nine times out of 10, when someone asks you how you are at the grocery store, they could not care less. The person offering this gesture of good will did not literally mean they wish a holy day of worship commemorating Christ’s birth upon you.
It is not that I take issue with the utterance of “Happy Holidays,” a more inclusive term that serves its purpose well. I just do not like the offense people take when they are not automatically assumed to be their particular religion, ethnicity, sexuality, etc. People of any minority group tend to dislike labels, so the expectation for someone to peg you as one seems a little ridiculous. Just accept the kindness and go.
It reminds me of the time I got to know a pair of Korean twins who went to my middle school. After talking to them for a while, I asked them what their ethnicity was. Immediately, both of their faces registered a mixture of disgust and disbelief as they exclaimed, “What, do we look Chinese to you?” Well, I don’t know, that is precisely why I asked, and excuse me for my lack of geocultural context that would allow me to pick up on the different variations of Asians. They reacted as if I had asked out of spite or ill will. I was merely asking for deeper insight into them as people, and out of genuine curiosity.
The best part of the holidays is the kindness that is forcefully squeezed out of us like a glass of fresh orange juice, and the reception of that kindness as well. For people to get caught up with what is being said rather than what is being given, you miss out, and you come across as a big old Scrooge. No one likes a Scrooge on Christmas, I mean, the holidays.