Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holiday

"Happy Holiday" was written in 1942 by Irving Berlin for the movie Holiday Inn. The main premise of the movie involves an inn that is only open for major holidays throughout the year. (If I remember right, that includes Presidents' Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. As Martin Luther King was alive and well at the time, his holiday wasn't celebrated yet.) For each holiday, they put on a show appropriate to that celebration. Happy Holiday was the song performed for...get this...NEW YEAR'S EVE!

When it was written, it was a song expressing heartfelt wishes for a happy holiday season, which started with Thanksgiving, and encompassed Christmas and New Years. Like Sleigh Ride, it is not specifically a Christmas song, but it is most commonly associated with Christmas.

As the years have progressed and folks from more diverse backgrounds have joined our ranks as Americans, the list of holidays celebrated at this time of the year have grown, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Festivus and the Winter Solstice (I'm probably forgetting some). The way I see it, diversity is a beautiful thing, and we should celebrate our differences as well as our similarities. I'm not saying we have to celebrate the holidays from other religions and cultures, but we should respect their right to celebrate their holidays. Sadly, the phrase "Happy Holidays" has become a bit of a political statement, as some folks are offended by the fact that we celebrate Christmas and not their holiday of choice (or in the case of some Jehovah's Witnesses, any holidays at all). It seems a sad commentary of human nature that too many Christians are offended when they hear people who want to be inclusive wish them "Happy Holidays!" rather than "Merry Christmas!" Why do we as Christians expect non-Christians to behave like Christians? We don't expect cats to bark (usually). Recently, the American Family Association initiated a boycott of Walgreens because they said "Happy Holidays" with no mention of Christmas. After hearing from many angry Christians around the country, Walgreens pointed out that it wasn't Thanksgiving yet, and they were planning to say "Merry Christmas" as Christmas got closer. The boycott was called off. Just think how many headaches it would have saved if they had asked first before starting a full-scale boycott!

I decided to comment on this song this morning when I saw a comment from my friend Mike Gibson, which said:

With all due respect, saying "Happy Holidays" is not offensive to the cause of Christ. Being loving and respectful to others with different beliefs is not denying Him, either.

I completely agree. Christianity is about what we do believe, not what we don't believe. Being offended that non-Christians may or may not celebrate Christmas, and when they do, they may or may not mention Christ, is not a good witness. I have a feeling it is one of the major reasons we are stereotyped as being intolerant and hateful. I wonder how much hostility toward Christmas would be calmed if we would calm down ourselves. Jesus hung out with people the Pharisees saw as hopeless cases and who they felt we should have nothing to do with. If we don't reach out in love, not anger, to the people who need it the most, who will?

I'm all for keeping Christ in Christmas, but we need to respect the people who aren't. We need to show them love, not offense. Many of them aren't Christians, and we shouldn't expect them to act like it. As Gibson also pointed out, "He told us to remember his death, anyway. Not his birth."

If someone says "Happy Holidays" to me, I will probably respond with a smile and "Merry Christmas!" I celebrate Christmas, but I respect other people's right not to.

I leave you with Straight No Chaser's version of The 12 Days of Christmas, in which Hanukkah and Africa make cameo appearances. :-)