A Christmas Eve Encounter

JACK to Mac with a big smile — Happy holidays!

MAC, joyfully smiling back — Thank you. Which holiday?

JACK, still smiling — Whichever one you celebrate at this time of year.

MAC — That would be the one which festively observes the anniversary of Christ’s nativity, and all the wonder and awe which surrounded it. Joy to the world! Merry Christmas!

JACK, smile gone — I don’t celebrate Christmas.

MAC, still smiling — No problem, I’m glad we’re both free to choose whether or not to celebrate it. Have a nice day on December 25!

JACK, annoyed — Wait a minute! Don’t you think it’s rude to assume that I celebrate Christmas?

MAC, still smiling — It was certainly not my intention to be rude, but to greet you in the spirit that hopes for peace on earth and has good will toward all. However, I would like to know why you think my greeting was rude, if you’d care to tell me. But it’s OK if you don’t want to discuss it. We both have freedom of speech, right?

JACK, more annoyed — I’m amazed! Don’t you know that in this town there are Atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and others for whom Christmas has no sacred meaning?

MAC, still smiling — Yes I do know that! And its sacred meaning has been displaced in some cases and deliberately erased in others, but that’s a discussion for another day. For now, would you please explain to me why saying “Merry Christmas” to someone who might or might not celebrate that holiday is rude? If I had said, “have a lousy Christmas!” would that be rude?

JACK, set back on his heels — Well, I suppose so…yes…

MAC, still smiling — So I’m dam…excuse me…”darned” either way?

JACK, exasperated — No! Just say happy holidays like I did!

MAC, still smiling — Hmm…insisting that I conform to you seems a bit rude, but I won’t press that. The salutation “happy holidays” has no sacred meaning for me. But if it does for you, that’s fine and I didn’t think you were being rude by offering me your sacred greeting.

That’s because I also know that enjoying freedom of speech means possibly hearing others using their freedom to say things we don’t like. When that happens, we can simply use our corrollary freedom of association, clearly implied by the First Amendment, and walk away or turn the channel as the case might be…

MAC, continuing with a twinkle in his eye — I will admit, though, that my response “which holiday?” was intended to stimulate this conversation!

JACK, smile re-igniting — Aah, I wondered about your curious comeback. I appreciate your candor. And I must admit, we’re getting beyond the superficial here.

MAC, still smiling — Indeed! Wouldn’t the world be a much better place, if people worked harder at trying to understand each other?

JACK, sorta smiling — Agreed. But hold on…I didn’t say “happy holidays” to you because it has a sacred meaning for me.

MAC, still smiling — Then why did you say it? What kind of meaning does it have for you?

JACK, befuddled — Well…it’s just something to be said around this time of year. Like just about everybody else, I use it so as not to offend. In other words, I figure this way I cover all bases, and don’t upset anyone.

MAC, still smiling — But I do find the expression offensive. Wait…that’s a bit too strong. I find it lacking depth of meaning; insipid and devoid of any cheering power. When somebody says it to me, I feel like I would feel if he offered me a lukewarm cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup on a cold day. Nevertheless, when you said “happy holidays” to me, I just took in stride and offered you a greeting that is very meaningful to me in return. Again, no problem if you reject it.

JACK, sheepishly — Well, I’m not saying that I REJECT your greeting, that’s a bit too strong also. I realize that many folks celebrate Christmas. And I don’t begrudge any of you that. It’s just that I don’t celebrate it myself.

MAC, still smiling — So, could you not have simply taken my “merry Christmas” in stride, as I did your greeting? Or could you not have chosen to refrain from responding at all?

Moreover, this season does not contain holidays for all of the groups you mentioned. The word holiday is actually the conflation of two words, HOLY and DAY. A holiday is a day that is considered holy…special or sacred for some reason, usually historical remembrance, for example Memorial Day or Independence Day.

Christmas Day sometimes coincides with one of the days of Hanukkah, but to my understanding no day is considered holy by a-Theists; the concept of holiness is alien to their basic world view (another term for religion).

ASIDE: Mac thinks to himself of the old observation that April first should be counted as a-Theism’s big day, but decides not to mention it  

MAC, continuing aloud — And to my knowledge December 25 is not a holy day for Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims.

Perhaps your “happy holidays” greeting is offensive to some members of those groups. Maybe they think you’re being rude by assuming that they have a special day tomorrow or any day during this most wonderful time of the year!

JACK, stunned — Gee, I never thought of it that way…

MAC, still smiling — Gee is short for Gee Wiz which I’ve heard is short for “Jesus’ whiskers.” But I won’t take offense at your saying Gee. I realize that language changes over time, and that those terms are no longer used as coarse, irreverent oaths like they were used of old.

But every day I do hear people abuse that glorious name which I love with all my heart, Jesus Christ, uttering it like a cheap curse word. And I constantly hear “O my God” spoken carelessly and thoughtlessly. I DO find that very offensive…and sad.

JACK, edging away from Mac — Well, I gotta go. Good conversation. Happy New Year!

MAC, smiling broadly  — Thank you! Yes, we are on the thresh-hold of another year Anno Domini – another year of our Lord. Let us be thankful that He has mercifully preserved us through this one that is almost over. Just as Christmas day exists ultimately because of the birth of Jesus, the years are numbered in relation to His birth as well. Happy New Year to you!

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