What’s in a name (redux)

I originally posted this 2 years ago- I think it still applies, maybe even more with the current divisiveness in American civic discourse and the “war on Christmas” perceived by some on the right.

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukkah’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!’ — Dave Barry

(Thanks to @Mamacita for the quote!)

Does it really matter what we call it when people just aren’t as quick to be an A-hole to other people?

People like to argue. I know, it surprises you.
They’ll argue about whether it’s cold when it’s 60 degrees out (at least here in California, they will). They’ll argue about politics. They’ll argue about which is the better pet, a dog or a cat. They’ll argue about which football team deserves to, but won’t make, the playoffs. They’ll argue about just about anything.

Like whether we should say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!”

Both sides have a point: Saying “Merry Christmas” presupposes a belief in Christianity, which, in our pluaralistic, multicultural, melting-pot-type society is not a given. Saying “Happy Holidays!” discounts the influence the Judeo-Christian tradition has had on the culture of the United States and secularizes what many see as a religious holiday. Saying “Back at ‘cha!” just doesn’t seem to acknowledge the significance of the season itself.

So, why are we so focused on this?

The one thing I think many of us can agree on is that, at this time of year in particular, people try to set aside their A-hole-istic tendencies and be nicer to one another. Well, maybe not so much in the parking lot of the mall or at the counter of the Honeybaked Hams store, but, by and large, we do try to be less of an A-hole to other people during the late-November-mid-December season.

And, can any of us say this is a bad thing, no matter our motivation? Does it really matter if I, in the course of being less of an A-hole to you, say, “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” Do you, on the receiving end of my less-A-hole-like attitude, really care what words come out of my mouth as I hold a door open for you while you carry $1500 worth of junk to your car? I think not.

What you really care about is the fact that I didn’t just let the door close in your face because I was already through it. What you really care about is the fact that I waved you into the parking space we were both trying to get, even though I was there first. What you really care about is the fact that I didn’t shove ahead of you in line at the JC Penny’s while you were holding your fussy 2-year-old and trying to buy gifts for your friends and family.

The words don’t show holiday spirit. The actions do.

So go ahead and say, “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” or “Feliz Navidad!” or “Joyous Kwaanza!” or “Happy Chanukah!” or “Peaceful Winter Solstice!” or “Enjoy your days off!” Whatever you want to call it is fine with me.

Just be less of an A-hole for a few weeks, and I’m happy.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] What’s in a name (redux) (middleschoolap.wordpress.com) […]


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