No matter what you believe, or choose not to believe, you are welcome in our home. That is the example we will set for our son.
Some people complain about the phrase “Happy Holidays.” Why not just say “Merry Christmas,” right? While we can’t speak for everyone, here’s why my family says “Happy Holidays.”
If you look up at our window, you will see a menorah, and just past that, a Christmas tree. I grew up Catholic and my wife grew up Jewish. Both religions formed who we are today. And even though we are now both atheist, neither of us sees any reason to exclude or disrespect the traditions and beliefs of our families. We have both experienced too much joy throughout our lives from these belief systems not to do so. And our son deserves these same joys.
Outside of our window the world is in turmoil. In just one day, we have seen the assassination of a diplomat in Turkey; a horrifying mass murder using a truck in Germany, for which credit has been claimed by extremist zealots; and a mass shooting at a mosque in Zurich. All of which happened while America’s Electoral College confirmed the presidency of a man who lost the popular vote after running on a platform heavily trading on fear-mongering, hatred and bigotry.
We will not have this in our home. We will choose peace. We will choose joy. No matter what you believe, or choose not to believe, you are welcome in our home. That is the example we will set for our son.
He will benefit from both holidays. He will spin the dreidel and he will decorate a tree. He will know the rituals of Hanukkah and will sing about Santa Claus. He will have the best of both of our worlds, and that includes the holidays of this season.
Which right now he loves, by the way, because of all the presents!
But will he be Christian? Jewish? Will he be atheist? We can’t say right now. It is his choice. If we are to be good parents, we must present him with all the options for his own life. The path he decides to travel will be his own. Both of us will be happy to guide him no matter how he chooses to live his life.
My wife and I fell in love both because of, and in spite of, the differing belief systems we were raised in. What we’ve discovered is that the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil, the essential morality of humanity, is the same across all religions.
Need a baseline? Sure. If you’re hurting people because of your religion, you are doing your religion wrong. If you’re hurting people because of their religion, you are doing morality wrong as well, and that applies whether you are religious or not.
Everything else — how you choose to worship, how you choose not to worship — is all up to you. Just don’t hurt anyone. And no matter what religion you do or do not worship, this is a season for joy.
So. We say “Happy Holidays,” and it is in no way an insult. Wishing you joy cannot be offensive.
“Merry Christmas” leaves out half of my family. “Happy Hanukkah” leaves out the other half. “Happy Holidays” includes them all. It means Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. It means, “I wish you joy, no matter who you are and what you believe.”
We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Happy Chanukah. We wish you a Joyous Kwanzaa, and we say “Serenity Now” as we air our grievances at the Festivus for the Rest of Us. But most of all, we wish you “Happy Holidays.”
We wish you joy. Because wishing people joy is what the holiday season is actually all about.
All photos: Chad R. MacDonald