This week I received several kind Christmas wishes from family and friends that blessed me and my Atheist-slash-Secular Jewish family, wished Our Heavenly Father’s blessings upon us, hoped we found peace with The Lord Jesus Christ, and mercifully came short of praying for our souls in light of our non-believing heathen ways.
I think the only real appropriate response is: Thank you.
(Except the one time it was a really good friend and I thought I had permission to remind her gently that not all of us believe in the same stuff, yo, and she was awesome about it.)
I know it’s complicated this time of year. We want everyone we love to feel the joy we’re feeling. And sometimes we get so caught up in the joy we’re feeling that we want everyone to find it from the same place we do, whether that’s gift-giving, Christmas tree decorating, Menorah-lighting, crucifix-worshipping, carol-singing, or baking irreverent gingerbread men.
I get it.
But while I think it’s my job as a decent human being to be kind and respectful and accept that any sort of Merry or Happy is only well-intended, I think that it goes both ways; well-wishers need to be equally kind and respectful and accept that we don’t all celebrate the same Merry or Happy. That doesn’t take away from what you do celebrate. It simply means all kinds of people are co-existing in this world right now–maybe even co-existing in the same family–and finding our happy from different places. Which, in my world view, is part of the fun of life.
I love my secular Christmas tree (more Washington Redskins ornaments than angels, thanks to Nate), I love the non-stop holiday music on Pandora, although what’s with the muzak version of U2’s With Or Without You? I love our version of lighting the Menorah when we remember to buy the candles. I love our Peaster tradition, and I seriously loved Greek Easter that one year, except for the whole head of the lamb thing which freaked me out a little especially when people started eating the eyeballs.
But honestly, I do get uncomfortable when I receive those highly religious Christmas cards from people who know us well enough to know that it’s not how we roll. Yesterday, after one more showed up, I mentioned it on Twitter. Someone suggested that she wishes everyone a Merry Christmas because that’s what she celebrates.
And I thought hm…isn’t the point to wish people a Merry Whatever You Celebrate?
I will always be delighted to wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa, a Joyous Hanukkah (complete with spelling of your choice), a delightful Yaldaz, a properous Diwali, a peaceful Solstice, and a jolly good Boxing Day. And for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in my children’s school, I will do my best to remember simply to tell you to have a really nice winter break.
The gift is supposed to be about the receiver, not the giver.
So please, allow me to wish you a Happy Anything You Celebrate right now. We all need more happy these days, whatever the reason.
In return, please remember to wish me a Happy Anything I Celebrate.
And if you’re not sure what that is–for me or your cab driver or your mail carrier or anyone else–Happy Holidays is just fine. It doesn’t take away from what you believe one bit. It might just make more people feel…you know. Happy.