I try to keep out and out rants off this particular blog, because that’s not what I want this blog to be about. In this case, however, I think the subject fits the scope of this blog.
As you may or may not be aware of, I work in retail. Happily, it’s a drug store, not a department store or a grocery store — and my heart goes out to those of you working in said stores this time of year, because I cannot imagine what it must be to work in those types of stores this time of year. Working at the drug store is bad enough, but at least I don’t have to worry about riots.
Still, working in retail makes the ranting that folks do regarding upcoming Christmas a subject I have to deal with every single day, and while I realize that, considering my likely blog readership, I’ll be preaching to the choir here, there’s two things I want to talk about.
First: the worry of the meaning of Christmas being lost in the frenzy of consumerism. This utterly baffles me. It seems straight forward to me. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do give gifts to friends and family, and for a long time now those gifts have been simple, hand made things. Stories exclusively for my friends and family, or knitted items, or baked goods, etc. Nothing ever elaborate — no matter how elaborate the plans start out (you laugh, but we’re talking “oooh, I’ll supply everyone with a complete set of handmade bathroom linens! Or a complete set of winter woolens! Hats, scarves, mittens, and wool socks for everyone!!”) — but home made. Items assembled or crafted over the course of half a year in the comfort of my own home, and half the time while in pj’s. So, the mad-crazy-frenetic buy buy buy rush that the majority of people experience is removed from my life.
Considering the religious significance of Christmas that Christians have, I can fully understand the ‘coming together with loved ones and be warm and cozy and share with each other,’ mindset. Like with Easter, even as a pagan (possibly especially as a pagan? Certainly, especially as a member of the not-dominant religion) I am astounded by the secularization of this holy day of theirs. And my bafflement in clearly not aimed at the Christians who are taking steps to bring back the meaning of this holiday into their lives. I’m speaking specifically of the people who hobble in on Black Friday, after having been shopping for thirteen hours straight, who’ve been up all night, and who are complaining about how the meaning of Christmas is lost, and it’s ridiculous what we as a society has done to it, and it’s a shame, and so on. This is how you want to honor the birth of your lord and savior? By turning into a zombie and competing with other people in their mad dashes for the newest electronics? If you’re so miserable doing it, stop doing it! Don’t support it! Remove yourself from the problem as you see it, and then at the very least, you won’t have to deal with the problem any longer.
Second, and more dear to my heart: before you start going on about this ‘War On Christmas’, stop and think, eh? We started playing Christmas music after Halloween this year. This a new early-record. Half our store is transformed for two solid months with Christmas merchandise. What other holiday does that happen for? Oh, right — none. Mostly, though, I dismiss this from my mind. It’s absurd, obviously those who feel it is happen (it sort of goes hand in hand with my above comments — if you don’t like what you see, stop adding to it! Be the change you wish to see in the world, right?) aren’t going to be willing or able to consider another perspective.
But the one that really gets my goat is the “Merry Christmas” rant people indulge in. “I’m going to say Merry Christmas, I’m not going to worry about being all PC, it’s ridiculous how overly-sensitive people are!” (and yes, that’s a direct quote). I’ve heard this from people who I otherwise believe are quite compassionate and worldly, not just small town folks who haven’t ever had the change to interact with people who aren’t exactly the same as they are. (And before you get on me about slightly small town people, I grew up in one of those small towns, so I’m speaking from experience!) The truth is, such an attitude is hurtful. It causes anger and strife, to be sure, but for me, most of all, it causes pain. It discounts immediately the beauty, the joy, the peace, the comfort, strength, and love I’ve found with my gods, the better person I am because of my faith and my religious devotion, and it makes me hyper-aware of the potential pain that other non-Christian people may be experiencing because of the same situation. The attitude that this sentiment fosters does not come across as ‘we’re persecuted and so I’ll stand up for my faith come hell or high water,’ but rather as our own, authentic, non-Christian experiences are to be bulldozed over and pushed out.
I don’t know if the feelings would be the same for more secular-minded folks, but I’m deeply religious. Since I have such strong devotion to my gods, and such a love for my holy days, I am able to understand why other religious folks who are not of my religion but who are also deeply religious might find beauty and strength and joy in their religious paths — including Christians. But not exclusively Christians, you see the difference? Living in a multi-religious society, I really wish folks spent more time focusing on what could unify us, and allow us to have common ground with each other and less attention on divisiveness. And insisting that everyone acknowledge Christmas is an act of division.
My personal rules for holiday greeting etiquette goes as follows: I don’t assume people are Christian. Why should I? For all that there are more Christians than anything else in our country, in my daily life they are in the minority. I’m not, I’m certainly not going to assume others are. I do wish folks a happy holiday season. It covers a nice assortment of holidays (though admittedly completely glossing over the fact that many religions have no winter holiday.) and is open-ended enough. If nothing else, many people get days off from their job, and that can be a holiday without being a holy day. If I’m greeted with Merry Christmas, I return it. I echo whichever greeting I’m given, in fact — because it’s polite. Because the wisher is telling you what they themselves celebrate, and in that case, no, I do hope they have a happy celebration of their choice. It’s what I do to keep sane during these four weeks of madness. It helps.