Flying The Christian Skies
I recently returned from a long business trip; the flight wasn't too long, but most of the passengers were grumpy because the flight itself had been delayed several hours. The upshot of this meant that, at least for me, it would have been quicker to drive home than fly... but I digress.
Typically, when passengers disembark a plane they're met by one or more of the pilots or flight crew, to wish them well in the continuation of their journeys, and to express their gratitude for choosing their particular airline. This was the case here: both pilots were standing outside the cockpit, offering pleasantries to the passengers on the way out.
Just before I reached them, one of the pilots smiled at the fellow in front of me, and said, "Happy Holidays!" As I passed by them, the other pilot grimaced, looked over at his colleague, and offered this brief monologue:
"Happy Holidays? I don't think so. It's against my religion to say 'Happy Holidays.' We have rights too, you know."
Given that this particular airline operates in the heart of North Texas, it's a pretty safe bet that the guy wasn't a Jehovah's Witness, or any other religion that looks down on those who celebrate holidays. I don't think I'm being unreasonable to suggest that this fellow was expressing the popular 'War on Christmas' viewpoint perpetuated by cultural conservatives in this country- that saying 'Happy Holidays' is not only a betrayal of American culture, but it's actually a refutation against anyone who wishes to celebrate Christmas as a specifically Christian holiday.
While shaking my head silently as I walked up the gangway, I couldn't help but think of my piano teacher. As a young boy, I took piano lessons from a nice Jewish woman for several years- and every year at the proper time, I would wish her a 'Happy Hannukah.' In return, she'd wish me a 'Merry Christmas.' It seems to me that any well-wishing that's made should be done so in light of the recipient's particular celebration, not the other way around. If you want to give good wishes to a Jew, say 'Happy Hannukah.' If you want to do the same to a Christian, say 'Merry Christmas.' For a Muslim or a Hindu, you can wish a 'Happy Ramadan' or "Happy Diwali' respectively, once the calendar rolls around. But these specific wishes are dependent on knowing the specific religious (or cultural) affiliation of the person to whom you're offering them. In a situation where you don't know those affiliations, or you can count on them being diverse, 'Happy Holidays' is actually the most appropriate thing to say.
What I find particularly disturbing about the current Christian Christmas-warriors is that they've turned such a friendly, generous gesture into a selfish, divisive battle-cry. It used to be that 'Merry Christmas' meant, 'I wish for you a Merry Christmas.'
Now, it means, 'I celebrate Christmas, asshole, and if you don't like that you can go to hell.'
Christmas spirit, indeed.