Celebrations started at the beginning of November with Eid al-Fitr, and as we head into December and January, people are readying for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Three Kings’ Day.
What traditions are most important to you and your family? What’s unique about your celebrations? What’s your favorite memory?
Send in essays of 250 words or less by Dec. 1. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (please put “holidays” in the subject line); fax essays to 215-854-4483; or mail them to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Commentary/Holidays, Box 41705, Philadelphia 19101.
For those of you who don’t know, Eid al-Fitr is the celebration of the end of the Islamic fast of Ramadan. Hey, I had to look it up myself!
One of the (few) sites on my blogroll, The Daily Brainwash, has a good article about the silliness of this multiculturalism:
I lead a secular life. Iâ€™m not an atheist or agnostic but Iâ€™m not a member of any church. To tell the truth Iâ€™ve always been wary of organized religion because even as a child, I could see that being active in a church does not make people better people. Iâ€™m a firm believer in separation of church and state, and while I think itâ€™s perfectly OK for religious groups to use public facilities for their activities, I have concerns about organized prayer in public schools.
But lay off Christmas.
There is value in tradition, and Christmas is one of our greatest. Beyond the religious meaning, Christmas in America is a time when we celebrate values like family, generosity, compassion. In our culture it has become something so big that it easily accommodates both the secular and religious worlds. You donâ€™t have to celebrate it if you donâ€™t want to, and are free to give back the federal holiday and go in to work if you feel that strongly about it (hypocrite!), but donâ€™t try to take Christmas from me.
Hereâ€™s yet another attempt to erase the existence of Christmas from our collective memory. Boston renamed its Christmas tree the â€œholiday tree.â€ The logger who donated the tree says he wouldnâ€™t have gone to the trouble if heâ€™d known that was going to happen.
When we try to cleanse every possibility of offending anyone, we leach the color from our world and make it lifeless. Why such a vapid, characterless existence seems to appeal to so many people, I donâ€™t understand. And by the way, where are all these people who canâ€™t handle the word â€œChristmas,â€ because in my life Iâ€™ve only met one person who was offended by it. That was 15 years ago and she was a Jehovahâ€™s Witness. I told her â€œMerry Christmasâ€ and she informed me very sharply, â€œI do not celebrate Christmas.â€ I said, â€œWell then, have a great weekend,â€ but by the look she gave me, I suspect they donâ€™t do that either.
Another time more recently I asked a coworker if he was looking forward to Christmas, and he said, â€œNo.â€ I figured he was in a bad mood but found out later heâ€™s more likely to be looking forward to Hannukah. But he didnâ€™t get his nose bent out of joint by the question. He just said â€œNoâ€ and we both went about our business. He didnâ€™t even sue.
If I wish you a Merry Christmas, Iâ€™m not pressuring you to drop to your knees and join me in a prayer. Iâ€™m expressing a sentiment. Iâ€™m wishing you well. If you donâ€™t celebrate Christmas, discard the words like so much wrapping paper and gracefully accept the gift within – my warm thoughts. Thatâ€™s the adult thing to do. Parents tell children all the time, â€œItâ€™s the thought that counts.â€
Every year I make a point of telling people Merry Christmas, not Happy Holiday or Seasonâ€™s Greetings or any of that twaddle. On Dec. 25, this nation marks Christmas. Thatâ€™s the way it is.
I urge you all to tell as many people as you can â€œMerry Christmasâ€ this year. Make sure your Christmas cards, family portraits, form letters to all your relatives, wrapping paper and house decorations say Christmas and not holiday. When people object, say it louder.
â€œMerry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!â€
Let’s be honest here. The Muslim population of the United States is only a few percent; Eid al-Fitr simply isn’t that big an event. Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday, but as Jews reckon things, one of the less important ones on their calendar. The only reason that non-Jewish Americans pay attention to it (as in: more attention than Yom Kippur or Passover, far more important days in Judaism) is because it occurs in December, making it the Jewish holiday closest to Christmas.
At least Hanukkah is of ancient tradition; Kwanzaa is simply a made-up holiday, a recent innovation to try to celebrate African American pride. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but please, it ain’t the cultural equivalent of Christmas.
We have become so freaking tolerant that we tolerate everything but our own traditions. As the quote from Robert Frost that I posted Saturday put it, a liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel. We have become so embarassed by our own traditions, by the notion that we might see Christianity as a dominant culture in the United States, that we have to downplay it, that we have to have “holiday trees” and “winter break” and crap like that, just because we are so worried we might offend someone.
We are a tolerant society. That means we do not criminalize or penalize people for having views which are different from the majority culture. The majority does not seek to impose its culture on the minority. That’s why we tolerate atheists, people who don’t believe in God.
The problem comes when the minority tries to impose not only cultural tolerance, but cultural silence on the majority, claiming to be offended and in some way (usually a legally actionable way) harmed. That’s why we don’t bother the people down the street who say they are atheists, yet leave well enough alone, but get angry at idiots like Michael Newdow, who tries to use the legal system to require the majority to conform to his minority views.
If people in minority cultures expect the majority to be tolerant toward them, they ought to learn that tolerance works both ways.