Metro Weekly

Xmas Column

Christmas is nice, but holidays are better

The American Family Association is mad at Banana Republic. They’re also mad at Family Dollar and Radio Shack and a handful of others. Seems these companies are in the AFA woodshed for not sufficiently celebrating Christmas. Ironically, Sears gets a ”Christmas-friendly” pass from the AFA, while also getting a top 100 rating on the latest Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. Amazon, also on the Christmas-friendly list, is a platform for ordering the likes of 1972’s hardcore Behind The Green Door, advising customers on how to get delivery by Christmas.

It’s all hooey, really. If there was a holiday war, it was between Christmas and Saturnalia. Christmas won. Yet we have these Christmas martyrs acting as though the holiday that prompts radio stations to dedicate their entire playlists to Christmas music, Starbucks to break out the Christmas Blend and borderline heathens to head to midnight services is being buried.

Granted, the phrase ”Happy Holidays” has gained some traction. It’s a perfect fit for a society as diverse as America. In this country, we celebrate Christmas. And Hanukkah, Eid al-Adha, Kwanzaa, winter solstice and the new year. ”Happy Holidays” as a seasonal greeting is a good thing (as Martha Stewart might say while arranging some perfectly proportioned cinnamon-scented pinecones).

The sense of entitlement of the Merry Christmas – or else – crowd is akin to those who vote against marriage equality while claiming they’re bullied by gays. ”Bullied” in this particular usage generally means fearing that gay people will boycott your business or otherwise recognize your bigotry once they learn you’d prefer the law to recognize them as merely second-class citizens.

Years ago, at the other end of the spectrum I found myself overwhelmed by Christmas. I’d been raised with the tradition, but felt uneasy with it after leaving Christianity. I hadn’t grasped how utterly Christmas-cuckoo the country becomes until standing outside the red and green bubble. I would give gifts, but they were New Year’s gifts, I insisted. I’d be grateful for the day off, but little more observant than that. I would only wish you happy holidays, regardless of your own beliefs.

I have come to realize, however, that in our beautifully diverse nation, it’s not all about me.

My husband sets up a Nativity scene given to him by his devout mother. That’s just fine with me, reminding me my own mother’s Nativity scene with its ceramic Mary whose broken-off hair was replaced with clay. We even put up a Christmas tree a few years in a row. The year the city neglected to collect our curbside tree – which rolled in and out of the gutter during the weeklong window of possible pickup – was our last with that festive tradition. Still, there’s plenty about Christmas I enjoy, if only for nostalgia’s sake.

And, if I know you are a Christian, I will wish you a Merry Christmas. Similarly, I won’t wish you one if I know you’re Jewish, but I will wish you a Happy Hanukkah. When in doubt, just willy-nilly wishing everyone a Merry Christmas would be like wishing everyone a happy birthday on my birthday. Unless you’re among only your fellow congregants, your default should be Happy Holidays. It’s wonderfully inclusive.

That seems to be the point that drives the AFA nuts: A greeting inclusive of all belittles the rest. It’s the same value system that holds that marriage equality belittles more exclusive marriage laws. In a nation of 300 million people, of every possible background and belief, those are sadly outdated and disrespectful values.

Instead, I’m wishing a warm Merry Christmas to my Christian pals, a Happy Hanukkah to my menschen, and a belated Eid Mubarak to the Muslims I know (all of whom are queer and progressive). To the rest – particularly my fellow non-theists (with a touch of Taoism), I’m wishing you happiest of holidays. Because, unlike the AFA, I respect you all.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.