I took Kaylia to get some Kettle Corn (a favorite treat of hers) at the Christmas tree lot down the street from our home. As we were leaving, she wished the woman behind the counter "Happy Holidays", and the woman paused, looked at her, and said "Merry Christmas" with the same tone and inflection with which someone might say "go fuck yourself with a railroad spike."
Ahhh, Fresno, where there are more Bill O'Reilly devotees than there are total residents of the island of Bermuda.
As we walked back to the car, Kaylia and I joked about what we should have said in response. The following scenario played itself out in my head:
Kaylia: Happy Holidays!
Christmas Tree Lot Attendant (CTLA): [a sense of defensiveness mixed with anger in her voice] No. Merry Christmas!
Me: What do you have against New Years?
CTLA: [confused] Huh?
Me: New Years. You know, the second holiday that comes a week after Christmas, making the word "holiday" become plural and therefore require an "s" at the end.
CTLA: Ummm, well, eh....
Kaylia: [to me] I think she wants our New Years to be miserable!
Me: [to Kaylia] Yeah. What's her problem? [to CTLA] What's your problem? Why do you want us to have a crappy New Years?
CTLA: [now confused and uncertain] ...but, I didn't say that I wanted you to have a bad New Years...
Me: Well you sure as Hell didn't want us to have a good one! Otherwise you wouldn't have singled out Christmas and left out New Years!
CTLA: [getting defensive again] This is about you people trying to take the Christ out of Christmas! Jesus is the reason for the season!
Kaylia: Actually, axial tilt is the reason that seasons exist. Don't you remember your high school science classes?
Me: Junior high school?
Kaylia: Hey...and while we're at it, are you saying that you hope that our Thanksgiving was terrible?
CTLA: Who brought up Thanksgiving?
Me: Sure as hell not you, you anti-Thanksgiving extremist! It's this sort of behavior that proves that the War on Thanksgiving is real!
Kaylia and I amused ourselves with such thinking during the drive home.
Look, here's the question laid bare - what the fuck is up with people getting upset when someone wishes them "Happy Holidays?" Are people really so stupid that they are willing to let a bunch of cranks and media opportunists convince that that A) there is a War on Christmas, and B) wishing someone "happy holidays" is somehow akin to attacking their religious beliefs?
Apparently, many people are precisely that stupid.
Look, I don't see anything offensive about someone wishing another person "merry Christmas", but neither is there anything offensive about "happy holidays." Just looking at holidays that the average Christian is likely to celebrate, we have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all in a five-week period. That means that there is more than one holiday, making the use of the plural "holidays" perfectly appropriate. And this extends to other things that fall around this time of the year - vacations, parades, etc. And that's if you only consider Christians. If we consider the fact that there are more than just Christians within our society, then you have a variety of other holidays celebrated at this time of year, making the use of the plural form of the word "holiday" even more appropriate. And when someone says "happy holidays" they are wishing you a pleasant whatever-you-happen-to-celebrate, which is a friendly gesture that no decent person would meet with being offended.
A large enough number of people within the United States celebrate Christmas that there are relatively few who will take issue with them wishing you a merry one. But the insistence that everyone acknowledge Christmas specifically and no other holidays is not about respect, and it's not about defending tradition, and it's not about protecting Christianity, despite what some people claim, but is about domination and bullying other people. It's about insisting that everyone recognize your specific holiday regardless of whether or not they celebrate it, and regardless of whether or not they also celebrate other holidays, and using every form of social pressure that you can to force them to do something that, in truth, it does you no harm if they don't do. It's about trying to shout down anyone who isn't like you.
There is no "War on Christmas," there's just a bunch of people trying to live together and navigate their lives around each other. Sometimes people step on each other's toes, and media figures (looking to line their pockets) and paranoid imbeciles will point to these instances as "battles" when they're really just the normal flotsam and jetsam of living in a community. We have conflicts sometimes, that's normal. But to insist that everyone observe your holiday and nothing else...well, that doesn't make you stalwart or a defender of the faith, it just makes you an astounding dick.
So, happy holidays, whatever you do or don't celebrate. Here's hoping that you've had a good year, and that 2011 will be great regardless of what 2010 was like.