After spending over 15 years within the confining walls of Christianity, one day I ventured outside … and found the weather delightful. Unfortunately, certain individuals (well-meaning as they may be) are trying to drag me back inside — especially during this yuletide season.
To Christians, the last month of the year signifies only one thing: the birth of Christ. Facts be told, the date of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Scholars who have studied Jewish history believe it was more likely in the springtime, but this matters little to the faithful. For them, it’s not about facts or history. It’s about tradition. And it’s often about ostracizing those who refuse to go along with tradition, including using a holiday greeting other than “Merry Christmas.”
There is no disputing that Christianity is the dominate religion in the U.S. However, to use this majority position to try and force others to conform to Christian practices is simply wrong. Included in the makeup of this country are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, not to mention smaller religions such as Ba’hai, Deism, New Age, and others. There are also a growing number of atheists.
Many of these non-Christians, including myself, prefer to use the term “Happy Holidays” because it is more religiously neutral. Moreover, since this time of the year includes another holiday — New Year’s Day – the greeting becomes more inclusive.
In 1865, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem entitled, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Eve,” which included the words, “peace on earth, good will to men” (most likely taken from Luke 2:14). I was particularly moved by the third stanza where he wrote:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Each of us needs to remember that we are all part of the human race — and our beliefs should never define how we treat one another. To allow hatred or enmity to take the place of good will to men during this (or any other) time of the year is, well, not very Christian-like.