Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stop Being Offended by Holidays!

10006073To start off, I want to make my position – and the position of many other atheists – very clear. Last year, in my post titled “Merry Christmas Atheists,” I argued that “the problem of saying ‘Christmas’ vs. saying ‘holiday’ is not an atheist battle, but rather, an inter-faith battle. Just the other day, this was confirmed by a post to  r/atheism, (“the web's largest atheist forum”) asking, “As an Atheist, are you offended when wished "Merry Christmas"?” The response was a resounding “No,” and several expressions of openness to the holiday. “Slacktoo,” a fellow ‘redditor’, responds:

No, in fact I wish others Merry Christmas and celebrate the holiday joyfully. While having origins in pagan and Christian mythology, it has evolved into an exciting festive holiday that can be celebrated by people who have no adherence to such superstitions.

But this openness is not just unique to atheists. It is a quality I have encountered in many religious people and minorities as well. Here is the key to this attitude: not believing the “holidays” are about ONE privileged group. Rachel Olivero, in a news article, says it best when she states:

In 2011, can we celebrate Christmas in our schools? Absolutely — say Merry Christmas!" she said. "At the same time, don't be offended if someone comes up to you at another time of year and says, 'Eid Mubarak' or 'Happy Diwali’.

Whether one celebrates the Pagan ‘solstice’, the Christian ‘Christmas’, the Capitalist ‘Christmas’ (often referred to as ‘holiday’), or any other tradition, is irrelevant! Drop your self-important holiday identity long enough to feel a sense of ‘joy’. But who are these religious Scrooges?

There are two supposed ‘types’: the group labeled “politically correct” who are “easily offended by Christmas”, and the Christians who are reacting to popular use of “holiday”. The first group is said to be composed of minorities who have “taken over” and atheists who are trying to “hijack Christmas,” whereas the latter can be seen complaining on fox news. I claim that the first group virtually does not exist – it is a strawman put into popular discourse by the latter group.

It is ironic that “happy holidays” is considered the politically correct phrase, when it is actually more likely to offend someone. So what is the main reason given by those feeling threatened by “happy holidays”? It all comes down to the argument that Christmas is no longer accepted as politically correct. But this is to deeply miss the point of the word “holidays”.

The use of “happy holidays” is not meant to replace Christmas, but rather, it is meant to include Christmas, along with any other tradition observed around late December. The “offended minorities” and “angry atheists” are but mere fictions. On a private individual level, no one is banning the use of “Christmas” –  or any other tradition title for that matter. The word “holiday” is merely a viable option when talking about the holidays in general, or when governments/ public entities want to send out a festive greeting from all of its groups, rather than just one of them. Notice I use “from” rather than “to”.

Wish me the title of your tradition, and I will wish you the title of mine. Being offended by holidays –  particularity, the word “holiday” itself – is to miss the point. With that being said, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a fantastic holiday season.

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