This is re-posted from last year. Not to be boring, but I find that the topic will keep cropping up…
I bought my Christmas tie at Hong Kong’s Stanley Market ages ago for like two dollars, and have worn it to work (in strict accordance with my company’s uniform guidelines, I might add, cuz that’s how I roll) for the whole month of December pretty much ever since. We celebrate Christmas, but I am not a Christian, and my tie, as befits a Christmas tie from China, is very generic; no Jesus, no Santa, just a bunch of snowmen and gold star-topped trees. Mostly I wear a holiday tie because it is my one and only opportunity to vary the uniform that I wear every day. The very same uniform, come to that, that, at my broke-ass company, I’ve been wearing for my entire career. Lots of pilots wear them, too, and it’s fun, for two or three weeks, to start pre-flight briefings with a compliment, even one as bland as “Nice tie.”
When a passenger tells me, “Nice tie,” I used to say “Thank you. Merry Christmas,” figuring that if you were going to take the time to comment on my Christmas tie, then you were probably someone who celebrates Christmas, too. But lately, the Nice Ties have been delivered more and more with a certain sly tone that implies a knowing wink, and I have dropped the M.C., sticking with a bland and pleasant “Thank you.” While I hope the tie is able to impart a small amount of General Cheer on flights at a time of year when travel can be high-stress and hassle-full, I do not wish to be implicated in anyone’s personal, FOX-fueled war on the phrase Happy Holidays.
Not because I think the Annual Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays Debate is a pointless one, but rather because, as someone who has himself a Secular Little Christmas, I find the notion that an inclusive holiday greeting is somehow an attack on Christians and the helpless infant Jesus so petulant and ridiculous as to be offensive. Jesus, we are often reminded, is the Reason for the Season. And to the extent that Christmas is his birthday party, the little rhyme is right. But Jesus is not the reason for December. He is not the reason for winter, and he is not the reason that fall steps aside for it around this time each year, a hand-off that many cultures celebrate. Christmas is not the only holiday that comes around at the end of the year, and to millions (shit, possibly billions) of the world’s people, it is unknown, unimportant or unobserved. I work for a very large international airline that serves dozens of countries on six continents, and even on a randomly-selected flight from let’s say Denver to let’s say Boise, a handful of cultures, languages, and traditions are represented every day. And I don’t know you. By wishing an airplane full of people a “Happy Holiday” over the P.A., I am saying, look, I don’t know if you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwaanza or a holiday I’ve never heard of or a blended family combination of holidays or no religious or cultural holiday in particular, but I do know that for the next couple of weeks, the mall is going to be packed, you’re probably going to go to a few parties, and you might even run into a family member or two. This is a season that we try to associate with brotherhood and fellowship and gift-giving and, whatever that means to you, however it shapes up in your life this year, hey, I hope that, whatever makes you happy, you get a little bit of that out of the craziness. We say “Have a nice day” to people all the time⎯a tradition that is prevalent in cultures all over the world. Nobody gets bent out of shape (I hope) that they are not wished a godly or Christ-filled day by the guy at the bank or their bus driver. If your definition of a “nice day” is one that is godly and filled with Christ, then knock yourself out. How you define “Happy Holidays” is up to you, but the fact that I do not use a greeting that singles out your tradition while willfully excluding all others should not be perceived as a slight. How strong and personal is your relationship with Jesus really if the mere recognition of other belief systems is a threat to yours? No one has ever been able (or even tried) to satisfactorily explain how wishing a Christian a Happy Holiday is an insult. I said, “Have a happy holiday.” The holiday you celebrate is Christmas. Another word for “Happy” is “Merry.” Problem solved. When I say Happy Holidays to you, and you are someone who celebrates Christmas, I have wished you a damn Merry Christmas⎯get a dictionary. And maybe a hold of yourself.
I love Christmas. I always have. I still feel the excitement that waiting for Santa generated all those years ago, and I love the feeling of anticipation. There’s gonna be presents, and probably fudge! I love (good) Christmas music, I love putting up decorations and hanging our stockings and drinking peppermint schnapps and hot chocolate and sending cards and giving little gifties to the people I love and the people who love me; I love getting together with my cousins and with my friends and sending my sister something to put under the tree for my niece and nephews; I love shopping for my husband and I love that we get to wake up and sit around our tree and give each other little tokens of our affection and focus on the ways we are blessed, individually and together as a little family. But that doesn’t mean that you have to love it. You might love different things about it. You might celebrate a different holiday or you might celebrate the wonderfulness of your family or your friends or your cat at a different time of year or, hey, if you’re lucky, all year ‘round. And you may very well feel the Magic of Christmas quite literally and observe a deeply religious and profoundly joyful celebration of the birth of your personal lord and savior. Good for you if you do. But if that’s truly the case, then the fact that a flight attendant in a cheap Chinese tie (or a Wal-Mart cashier, or the guy at the bank) wishes everyone a Happy Holiday will diminish your own celebration not at all, and you might even be moved to wish that person the same.
If you’re flying these next couple of weeks, good luck to you. Flight attendants, look out for those crazy passengers. Passengers, tread lightly around those crazed flight attendants⎯especially the big guy in the Christmas tie. And no offense, but Happy Holidays to everybody.