December 22nd, 2010
Dear Houston: Merry $!*@#*%^
My friend was pissed the other day when I said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”. She said it was insensitive. Does she really get to have a Yule Tide beef with me?
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a pretty religious guy. My international flair lends itself to a hodgepodge of religious followings. From Orthodox Jews and Roman Catholics to followers of Islam or Joseph Smith, I could go on all day about the different things people preach and practice ‘round these parts. Throw in a few Snake Handlers and those that prescribe to nothing at all and you’ve got yourself an interesting little faith salad to which I’m always down with adding more ingredients.
Now, almost every religion under the Pagan moon the birth, death, reanimation or culinary school commencement of its esteemed leader(s). However, in a society hell-bent on selling its soul to Apple and Proctor & Gamble, the Christian meaning of Christmas is getting more and more convoluted. The true meaning of the holiday has become an afterthought as we hurry to find an oxford without spaghetti stains and the reek of Jack Daniels, already fifteen minutes late to evening mass. A conflagration of Christmas commercialism has certainly cheapened the words “Merry Christmas”, but the intent of the phrase (when not sarcastically interspersed with curse words aimed at obnoxious co-workers) is still intrinsically and unarguably good.
Analogy time: When you ask someone to hand you a box of tissues, a soda or his last chicken nugget, what do you say? And I don’t mean “please”. If you’re like every other blue-blooded patriot that knows their coffee sizes in Italian, at one time or another you’ve probably asked for a Kleenex or a Coke or added “Mc” to various food items not spawned under the Golden Arches. It may be up for a little debate whether using these words interchangeably weakens a brand by social dilution, or strengthens it by keeping it in the public dialogue, but what isn’t up for debate is the end result that using these terms brings about. No matter what you call those items, you still get to blow your nose, still get to slug down some high fructose corn syrup and still get your daily, American dose of trans-fats. (Side note: All I want for Christmas is the dark meat McNuggets back.)
Similarly, while the words “Merry Christmas” may have been cheapened, the intention behind them has not. No, not everyone observes Christmas and it’s important to be reasonably sensitive to the beliefs of others. However, the concept of acceptance, joy, peace, togetherness, figgy pudding, hot chocolate, overeating, eggnog and maxing out the credit cards on crap that no one really needs transcends religious boundaries and the subsequent hyper-sensitivity in America.
Your friend’s mission to promote equality should include accepting your version of winter good graces, because unless you’re actively trying to convert everyone to which you say, “Merry Christmas”, the phrase carries the same, general meaning now as “Happy Holidays”, “Happy Hannukah”, “Happy Kwanza”, “Joyous Festivus” etc. For some, the expression is the last bastion of ‘Good Will Toward Men’ they can muster in this crazy world, and in my opinion, it’s certainly better than saying nothing.
So the next time your friend starts boo-hooing about your use of “Merry Christmas”, be sure to pass her a tissue for me. Better yet, make it a Kleenex.
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