We are now in the final month of 2012. As the old year winds down, we are well into the “Holiday Season,” which began with our day of Thanksgiving on November 22 and ends on New Year’s Day, January 1. It is a happy and festive time for all of us.
For the rest of this old year, however, I am going to try very hard not to say “Happy Holidays.” Why, may you ask? Patriotism, I reply.
On December 2, the first Sunday of Advent, Christians lighted the first candle of their advent wreath: the candle signifying hope. Four more candles will follow, in succeeding weeks leading up to Christmas. Saturday evening December 8, our Jewish friends will mark the first of Chanukah’s eight days when they light the shamash, the menorah’s “server” candle, which they will then use to light the other eight candles. Christians are preparing for the birth of their Savior; Jews are commemorating the re-dedication of the temple after fighting to secure their religious freedom.
The reverence for tradition and the celebratory spirit that we find among Christians and Jews at this time of year should not be, in my opinion, a reverence and spirit that is limited to homes and houses of worship, or shared only with those of one’s same faith. Rather, it ought to shine forth from every household, burst forth from the hearts and lips of every man and woman in America, whether they practice a religion or not. These holidays are quintessentially American holidays.
Yes, July 4 is rightfully regarded as America’s biggest day. It celebrates the birth of our nation. But I suggest that the Christmas and Chanukah holidays are just as important. They remind us why the birth of America even took place.
Here is how the Bill of Rights commences: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” Only after the people’s religious rights and liberties were addressed did the Founding Fathers go on to add freedom of speech, of the press, of the right to peaceably assemble, of the right to petition for redress of grievances.
The longing for religious freedom brought people to America. The securing of the right to that freedom was the very first building block of the Bill of Rights.
This is the time of year that we are – or should be – remembering and celebrating that freedom. And to me, “Happy Holidays” just does not do an adequate job; it is a bland and artificial substitute that purposely avoids any religious impulse or feeling. “Merry Christmas,” or “Peace of Christmas,” or “Happy Chaunkah” or “Chanukah Sameach” are so much better, and so much more American.
And so, here’s my Old Year’s resolution. For the rest of December I’ll do my best to eschew “Happy Holidays.” But I will be wishing happiness for those I greet, while keeping in mind the blessings we all enjoy in our lives in this great and noble land. My words of greeting: “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Chanukah.”