How did a pleasant greeting become a threat to one’s way of life?


I still remember that fateful day during a recent Holiday Shopping Season like it just happened in the not-too-distant past. Visitors from some backward part of the planet were shopping (but not actually buying) in our little gift shop emporium. Oh well. As this group of cave dwellers was leaving the shop, we wished them Happy Holidays. Without a moment’s hesitation, one member of the group turned to us and said rather rudely, and I’m not making this up, “Where we come from, we say, ‘Merry Christmas.’” He made a face as if I’d just told him I had just shot his dog, then turned away and made his exit, knuckles dragging on the ground.

How did we get to the particular place in this day and time where the act of wishing someone Happy Holidays is taken as an insult to one’s particular Lord and Savior? I just don’t get it. It’s like the concept of “peace toward men of good will” that we’re supposed to have in our hearts this time of year just gets trampled by the religiously intolerant. And we know where religious (and ideological) intolerance has taken humanity…

Hindu: I don’t believe in Allah. Muslim (radical): I must kill you.

Muslim: I don’t believe in Jesus. Crusader: I must kill you.

Catholic (N. Ireland): My Jesus is better than your Jesus. Protestant (N. Ireland): I must kill you.

Let’s not forget Palestinian vs. Jew, Shiite vs. Sunni, radical jihadists vs. the civilized world … enough of that; let’s just get back to the holidays.

The Holiday Season encompasses a lot of holidays, not just Christmas. While many people place the beginning of the holidays at Thanksgiving, I prefer to start the Season at Halloween. It’s like the fall kickoff for the rest of the year! Then we’re grateful on the aforementioned Thanksgiving, followed immediately by my wedding anniversary (11/27) and my birthday (12/1). Then, the Holiday Season continues with Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus (!), and the celebration of the New Year.

When it comes to celebrating life and directing good and kind thoughts and acts toward our fellow humans, does one’s religious tradition really matter? I was raised Catholic, in the Christian tradition of this huge one-day event called Christmas. That doesn’t stop me from appreciating that those of the Jewish faith get eight whole days of presents during Hanukkah. Besides, as we all know, Christmas really begins sometime in October with the airing of the first commercial featuring Christmas music in the background for a product that “makes a great gift.” Especially luxury cars with red ribbons on a snow-covered driveway…

Back to the original topic: How I Haven’t Co-Opted Your Religion Or Insulted Your Savior By Wishing You Happy Holidays. The reality is that there are too many holidays in the Holiday Season to celebrate just one. It’s like going to a fancy party with an open bar and a nice buffet and limiting yourself to meatballs and club soda. As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Let’s celebrate it for all it’s worth to all of us, not ruin it with narrow-mindedness and Luddite tendencies.

Let’s also not forget those who are less fortunate, and those who have hit hard times. A lot of people won’t be having the holidays of their dreams this year, thanks to Irma and other circumstances. There are many opportunities for giving during this giving season, plus so many ways to help throughout the year. A great way to start would be Presents in Paradise (look them up on Facebook or email [email protected]). They are a local not-for-profit dedicated to making sure no child in the Keys goes without on Christmas. And there’s no better legacy for the 2018 Holiday Season than a New Year’s resolution to help those less fortunate in the ways that we can.

Now that I’ve gotten all this off my chest, let me close by reminding everyone that Winter Is Here. No! (I have honestly never seen an episode of that show.) What I meant was wishing everyone the Happiest of Holiday Seasons!

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