I have to say that I was very impressed with how my husband’s office handled their holiday party on Friday. Family members were invited, they had a big potluck, and a charity raffle to benefit the Wounded Warrior program. The neatest part for me, though, was that it was officially billed as a “holiday” party – not Christmas party – and there was no Christian invocation or overt Christian influence anywhere. It was quite a relief, in fact. I wasn’t going to fuss with anyone else’s winter holidays, but if the organizers just assumed that everybody there would be Christian, I was going to point out their incorrect assumption to them. Actually, the colonel leading it specifically said, “I’m not going to say a prayer because this is an official function, but I would ask you to think about all that we have to be grateful for and to think about those who are less fortunate, and how we can help them.”

So all of the people who say it’s unpatriotic to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” They’re saying the military is unpatriotic. If more people would follow the government’s lead in actually respecting the First Amendment and just plain old being polite to others, we’d all get along better.

Tolerance for the win!

2 thoughts on “In Praise of Tolerance

  1. As I sent out my celebratory cards of the season (carefully chosen not to reflect any particular traditions beliefs), I spent a great deal of time thinking about this.

    On the one hand, it seems best to me to wish someone joy in whatever tradition they follow (if known), so I wish Christians, “Merry Christmas!” and pagans, “Merry Yule!” and people whose preference I don’t know, “Happy holidays!” This seems, to me, to be a demonstration of tolerance and respect for each individual’s beliefs. It creates confusion, however, as the Christians assume *I* am Christian and the pagans probably project similar associations and those who follow a tradition I just don’t know about are annoyed that I don’t know them well enough to address them appropriately. It also has the potential to offend those who know that I do not follow their tradition and who may consider my voicing anything regarding it to be blasphemous.

    The alternative, as I see it, is to wish everyone joy in the tradition *I* follow, which will put me at my ease, but seems likely to disrupt others’ assumptions about my religious inclinations and generate discomfort (at best) or conflict (worst case) unnecessarily. This also seems unnecessarily offensive/confrontational when directed toward members of other traditions whose preferences I know.

    In a situation, such as your office party, where the preferences of all attendees are not known (or where there is a known mix of preferences), it makes sense and is reasonable to offer generic wishes. I wish more of the world could be convinced of that.

  2. I admit, I waver between those options as well. I will also admit to “passing” as Christian in certain contexts (in-laws) and justifying it in my mind on two points: one, I’m wishing them joy in their tradition, and two, for me, Christmas is the day we give the little kids presents, and it’s fun, therefore I’m “celebrating Christmas” with them. I wish that wasn’t necessary, but it’s the compromise I’ve ended up with for now.

    I love, love, love the practice of wishing someone joy in his or her tradition when both of you know each other well enough to understand the practice. Maybe, hopefully, even small actions are moving us towards a future where that is more and more possible.

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