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I have lived in three distinct parts of the United States:  Southern California (ahhhh – Home Sweet Home!); the South (Atlanta and its ‘burbs) and now the Midwest (although it is still curious to me that Cleveland is the Midwest!).  In each of these parts of the country, when December arrives, this argument begins.  There are those who are offended when the Target clerk wishes them “happy holidays” while are others who are offended when someone wishes them “Merry Christmas.”   What is a person of faith to do? 

A church in our community has produced yard signs that say There are no Happy Holidays without Merry Christmas.  I understand what they are trying to do – really I do.  We have a beautiful nativity placed on the lawn outside our church but there is no way I would put such a sign in my yard.  Here’s why:

  • tone:  when I saw the mock-up of these signs for the first time I cringed. What would the Hindu woman that walks past my house twice a day think?  How would that change the brief conversations we share?  I think it would be more likely to close the conversation rather than open it.  A sign like that is just not my way of sharing the good news.
  • demographics of the faith community:  off the top of my head I count 3 Jewish communities and 10 or so Christian communities within our city.  I am grateful for the diversity (limited as it is) that my daughter experiences and I don’t think it harms her faith – or mine!  Instead, we’ve found it a great way to learn more about our own traditions  by learning those of other communities.  What would my rabbi friend say to such a sign when she sees it? 
  • I am not shy about sharing my faith but I don’t think this is the way to do it.  Nor do I need the Target clerk to wish my Merry Christmas!  And, they’ll stop saying that on December 26th anyway!  It isn’t even Christmas yet friends!  I haven’t heard an uproar to wish people Advent Blessings rather than Happy Holidays and that would certainly be more accurate! 

So, happy holidays it will be for me – until after the Christmas eve service, when the candles have been lit and we’ve sung Silent Night then I will wish those who are Christians a Merry Christmas. 

Now I’m climbing down off my soapbox.  Feel free to respond!