The holidays are here, and not a moment too soon. Although the season has vastly different meanings to different people, it provides us with an opportunity to end the year on a much needed "up" note that appeals to our highest ideals. However, as usual, there is also the usual saber rattling about the proper greetings and semantics to use in our celebrations. This, of course, defeats the entire purpose.
The title of this blog post was chosen very deliberately. As my friends know, I am a Christian with very conservative theological and social views. Yet I have no problem whatsoever with the expression "Happy Holidays." The expression was in use long before it ever became controversial. It simply acknowledges that there are a number of festivals observed between Thanksgiving and New Years. Which, if any, of them a person may celebrate is their decision.
At the same time, those who think "Happy Holidays" is a completely secular alternative to the more spiritually themed days such as Christmas and Hanukkah should keep in mind the "holiday" is a compound of "holy day." It is impossible to completely separate the season from its religious overtones. This is why the often lauded virtue of tolerance goes both ways.
For example, although I am not Jewish, I would be honored, rather than offended if someone wished me a happy Hanukkah. The events commemorated by this noble festival are very relevant to me as a Christian as well. Jesus Himself celebrated it (the Feast of Dedication referred to in John 10:22-23). In fact, followers of all monotheistic faiths owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the courageous stand of the Maccabees.
Similarly, even those who do not believe in Jesus' divinity still benefit from the fact the He walked the earth. Think about the countless hospitals, homeless shelters, rehab centers and other services are ran by churches and groups seeking to live out Jesus' teachings of mercy and compassion.
So wishing someone a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah etc is not trying to force anyone to convert at gunpoint. For most people, it is simply a friendly greeting aimed at sharing the joy of the season with others. But if some constructive, faith based dialogue did come out of it, would that be so bad? Isn't that what an open and yes, tolerant society is all about?
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