1. Stick to Happy Holidays
By Shaelyn Barber
The semester is wrapping up and finals are upon us. In just under two weeks, we’ll be free for the winter break. Skiing and snowboarding, hot chocolate, books by the fire, time with family and friends, good food and holiday spirits await. I’m sure I’m not alone in my excitement. There’s finally a light at the end of this long tunnel of a semester and I can’t wait for good times, cozy fires and Christmas lights.
Along with that excitement comes a little bit of caution. Amid all the holiday greetings, Merry Christmases, Santa songs and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, there’s a significant portion of the population that is forgotten, erased and silenced. We live in a nation that places a huge emphasis on Christianity and Christian religions, and we often forget that there are people who don’t celebrate Christmas. The United States is a place of supposed religious freedom, but the culture and government often restrict that right. There are a plethora of different holidays celebrated throughout December, but we typically only hear about one in particular. Yule, Hannukah, Bodhi Day and Pancha Gapati are just a few more, but many people don’t know what they are or even recognize their existence.
The holidays can make people feel excluded, saddened or misunderstood because of the lack of representation and misunderstanding of their religions. This ignorance is everywhere from friends, family, neighbors, stores, radios and the government.
Without even knowing it, you could be making someone feel uncomfortable or excluded by overzealousness when this Christmas holiday comes into town. The littlest of things can make the biggest difference. Thus, I have a challenge for you. One of the easiest things to do is simply change your everyday language. During this holiday season, most people who celebrate Christmas will greet others with the phrase Merry Christmas. Instead of that typical holiday greeting, I encourage you to say Happy Holidays. It may seem small and insignificant, but the wording acknowledges that not everyone is Christian or celebrates Christian holidays. It can help make those who are parts of other religions feel more included during this time of year.
A lot of people argue that it’s important to them to be able to wish people a Merry Christmas. Maybe you’re very faithful to your religion, or maybe Christmas is something that makes you feel joyful and excited; however, I would argue that this is even more of a reason to wish others happy holidays. A Biblical demand of Christianity is to love your neighbors, so when your neighbors follow a different faith, you should love them and give them your respect, despite it being unfamiliar to you.
The most important thing is educating yourself and being open to differences in beliefs and practices. Religion is extremely important in communities and the world, and it influences people across the globe. Given the passion of many for their own faithfulness to Christianity, we should try to step into others’ shoes and realize that people experience these same feelings for their own religions. Research other religions and holidays so that you might understand other people and their faiths better.
In this time there are dozens of holidays to celebrate and practice in your own way, but don’t forget that your way is not the only one. Wish your neighbors, acquaintances and loved ones a Happy Holidays this year.
2. Stop Politicizing Holidays
By Nicholas Coleman
Once again, the Christmas season has arrived and with it arrives the insatiable American desire to politicize every holiday. Should Columbus Day be renamed? Does St. Patrick’s Day alienate any individuals of an Irish descent? Will expressing the saying “Merry Christmas” result in eternal damnation? These questions are among the many feuds that individuals actively encourage, thereby missing the intent of a national holiday. Rather than focusing on the differences between members of society, striving for a middle ground is a worthy initiative.
Those interested in politics will distinctly remember President Donald Trump reigniting the “war on Christmas,” promising a crowd in Wisconsin that he would bring back the forsaken phrase. Months later, when speaking to another audience in Washington, D.C., Trump argued that political correctness has altered the holiday season. “We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. [Individuals] don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct,” Trump said during the conference.
Of course, the concept of an outright war on Christmas is particularly misguided; rather, the issue is two-fold. First, Americans have largely lost their appreciation for the inclusivity which is at the center of the discussion. While saying Happy Holidays might include all individuals regardless of religion, it seems to almost shame the majority of Americans for participating in the Christmas celebration. Chastising those who earnestly express Merry Christmas — instead of simply informing them of a cultural difference — is quite ludicrous and certainly an extension of unwarranted political correctness.
Subsequently, there is an obvious affront to the religious nature of America that few enjoy addressing. Those with liberal beliefs tend to believe in a thoroughly secular society which neutralizes all language. Perhaps that is why saying Merry Christmas has created such a stir in the last several years — the phrase is a reminder of the religious aspect of America. Dennis Prager, a Jewish conservative speaker, once wrote, “Here’s a safe prediction: the ACLU and other secular activists on the Left will eventually move to have Christmas removed as a national holiday.” Even if that does not occur, how does one delineate between which side to choose?
Simple: say Merry Christmas if you recognize the holiday, but practice some good ol’ fashioned empathy during the season of merriment.
The war on Christmas is a tiresome feud that politicizes an otherwise joyful period of time. Yes, there is a host of other holidays being celebrated during December. And no, not every American recognizes the Christian nature of Christmas. Nonetheless, it is ludicrous to shame those who do celebrate Christmas with an equivalent obligation to be mindful of others’ beliefs. Correcting slight miscommunications with some patience will alleviate a tremendous amount of angst throughout the ensuing season.
Christmas is celebrated by over 90 percent of those residing in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. While many see Christmas as a day for holy celebration, it is ultimately an established American holiday. Denying the use of the phrase Merry Christmas loses sight of the jubilant spirit of the season, which borders on mean-spiritedness. Saying Happy Holidays will not make you an altruistic individual; instead, simply recognizing the differences amongst individuals will go a long way towards healing an already divided nation.