More often than I could possibly care for, seasonal memes or simple status updates on my social network feeds tell me how much of a pain it is to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
I am probably preaching to the choir here, but I’ll do it anyway…for I find myself dazed and confused also too often, when someone wishes me Merry Christmas (as it so happened at a party tonight). All I have to offer on such a short moment’s notice is the numb, “Oh, yeah, and to you, too…”
Actually, I don’t have a problem wishing Christians a Merry Christmas. At all. It’s one of their major holidays, and, putting all historical validity (or lack thereof) aside, it’s a big part of their faith, and I am more than happy to honor that. As a pagan, wishing a Christian a Merry Christmas is what I would want to do from the bottom of my heart. It’s like saying “bless you” to a person who’s sneezing. I say that because I wish something good for someone else even though I don’t have a cold myself. It’s all about the other person, about the recipient of the wish. One would think.
So, when someone lets me know that they would never say “Happy Holidays” because it’s their right to say “Merry Christmas” and that I should get over it, I can only say that a) I am over it and b) that what they are wishing me is kind of meaningless to me. What I will ask, though, is, “What is your motivation here, really? And isn’t it a bit egocentric?” Wishing someone (me, the Pagan) something that you (the Christian) wish to be wished by me (the Pagan) and everybody else is quite twisted. It’s like you are sick with a cold and you sneeze, and then yell at me “bless you” although I am perfectly healthy. Sounds a little off keel, doesn’t it?
What joy the traditional wish in the German language offers. We say “Frohe Weihnachten” to each other. It means “Happy Sacred Nights” (plural!) and while the Christians think of it as their one silent, holy night, we Pagans think of them as the twelve sacred and magical nights after the Winter Solstice. That’s the original meaning of the saying, but let’s not get territorial here. No mention of Christ, though, which makes it so much easier. And for me, it’s like “Sacred Nights” or “Holy Days”…what’s the difference, really?
Let me also be clear about one thing: Dear Christians, I am not offended when you say “Merry Christmas” to me. Your well-wishing just doesn’t hold that much of a meaning to me. Yes, your intent may be integer (if you don’t know me and you just thoughtlessly blurt it out), but you’re wishing me something that I don’t believe in. I, personally, wouldn’t want to be caught dead wishing for example Jews or Buddhists “Merry Christmas”; I would feel rather stupid, quite honestly. That’s why I like the “Happy Holidays”. Not to be not offending, but to be able to express my well-wishes to anyone, all the while making these wishes something that goes out from my heart to theirs. And not from my heart to my own heart.
So, if you said to me “Happy Holidays” I will gladly return that favor. If you were a Christian and said to me “Blessed Alban Arthan”, I would not only be ecstatic about your meaningful well-wish, I would also enthusiastically reply with “And a merry Christmas to you, my friend”. And truly mean it.