Thanksgiving is fast approaching and with it the beginning of the holiday season. My thoughts have turned to all that is encompassed within that statement, “the holiday season.”
The United States is a melting pot of different ethnic backgrounds with just as many spiritual paths practiced by the multitude of people inhabiting not only the USA but the world as a whole.
I wasn’t born a Pagan/Wiccan. I grew up a Christian – baptized Lutheran – who attended a variety of the denominations of that faith. I grew up with the anticipation of putting up the tree and decorating it, sending letters to Santa and awaiting the gifts he would leave under that tree on Christmas morning. I knew about the birth of Jesus and how this day celebrated that birth. I also knew about sharing that joy with others by greeting them with “Merry Christmas!”
As a child, my father had a friend from work who was Jewish and they had a daughter about my age. I learned they didn’t celebrate Christmas. Their beliefs included a celebration called Hanukkah. This eight-day celebration is also known as the Festival of Lights and commemorates the rededication of Temple in Jerusalem. It involves lighting a candle on the Menorah each night – but that’s an over-simplification. To me, as a child, it only meant there was more to celebrate! Their greeting for this celebration is to wish each other a “Happy Hanukkah.”
And then I became Wiccan and learned of another celebration that occurs at approximately the same time…Yule or the Winter Solstice. A time that, as a nature-based religion, celebrates the rebirth of the Sun and the fact that the Sun’s now lengthening rays will warm the Earth and life will begin to grow again in the colder climates. That’s when I learned that many of the symbols used to represent Christmas really came from Pagan origins (for more on this, go to “Journey Log – Day 18” on the drop down menu.) And, of course, this is a celebration with much joy connected to it…after all, the cold days will soon be warming! Our greeting to each other can be anything from “Happy Yule” to “Blessed Solstice” or even (because we can be quite filled with joy and silly) “Have a Cool Yule!”
It wasn’t until many, many years later that it came to my attention that there was still another celebration at this time of year. In 1966, Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa as the first specifically African-American holiday. It wasn’t until the late 1990s when I learned that this week-long celebration is about honoring the heritage and history of African-American people and is celebrated by many in both the USA and Canada. For specifics, I direct you to Wikipedia and a very good article about Kwanzaa. For those who participate in this celebration the greeting is “Joyous Kwanzaa!”
There many be other celebrations that I am still unaware of, so please forgive any omissions and please feel free to enlighten me as I always want to learn and grow.
This holiday season ends with the calendar celebration of the ending of the old year and the beginning of the New Year. “Happy New Year!” So, you can see that in the 40 days that encompasses the holidays this year, there is a variety of celebrations taking place by a variety of people, following a variety of faith. Hmmm…. Didn’t someone once say “Variety is the spice of life?”
Now I shall finally get to the point of all this. I’ve noticed a growing trend, particularly it seems among those who celebrate Christmas, to take offense at the terms “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays”. They seem to feel that anyone using those terms is taking Christ out of their Christmas. This has caused me great confusion and I’ve pondered it for quite a while. It’s made me ask some hard questions, up until now, in my own mind:
Do they not realize that theirs is not the only holiday celebrated at this time of the year?
Do they know but refuse to recognize other holidays celebrated at this time of the year?
Even though they recognize that there are other celebrations, is theirs the only greeting they will accept (expecting those of other faiths and beliefs to be psychic and realize they are Christian)?
Do they not see that those who use the greetings “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” are trying to honor and respect all celebrations taking place now?
As I said, it’s caused a great deal of confusion for me. I don’t take offense when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” or even “Happy Hanukkah” or “Joyous Kwanza”. I rejoice in our diversity and the many ways we express the joy we feel at this time of the year. No one takes the God/Goddess (Lord and Lady) out of my holiday simply by wishing me the joy they feel of their own particular seasonal celebration.
Or is this all really about not having enough faith in their own faith to be willing to share the season with others who celebrate it differently? I truly mean no disrespect. I’m merely trying to understand why there is such an intense insistence that everyone must greet each other with “Merry Christmas.” It almost smacks of fear that acknowledging the existence of other holidays and their accompanying greetings – or even a generic greeting that acknowledges other celebrations – will cause Christmas to disappear, never to be seen or heard from again. Balderdash!
There have been many throughout the annals of time who have tried to crush out of existence the beliefs and practices of others. Wiccans, Jews, Christians and others have been on the receiving end of this type of treatment as the pages of history have been written. The truth is, when you are strong in your beliefs, even if you have to hide them from those who would persecute you, those beliefs are alive and well. They don’t die. They live on in the hearts and minds of their followers.
No one is asking anyone who celebrates Christmas to hide that fact. Greet people with a loud and joyous, “Merry Christmas!” In this season of peace, joy and love, allow those who celebrate other holidays to greet you with their own particular greeting, realizing that they too find joy in their celebration and want to extend it to you. No one’s trying to take Christ out of your Christmas. “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” is merely a way of honoring all who celebrate holidays at this time of the year. In the spirit of the season, accept the blessings that are bestowed upon you, whatever the words of their expression may be.
May you find many reasons to be grateful this holiday season. May your homes be filled with warmth, laughter and love. May we all find a way to come together in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, relishing in our similarities and rejoicing in our differences.