Earlier this December I was inspired when I heard Rabbi Russ Salo speaking with Jim Brown on CBC’s The 180 about bringing back the Merry Christmas greeting. He and Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka and Imam Jebara believe so much in this that they’ve started a Bring Back Merry Christmas campaign.
I’m not really a religious person, nor do I at all have the attitude that people who come to our country from elsewhere should pick up the common mantle… After all, my own ancestors didn’t exactly (unfortunately) adopt aboriginal traditions when they arrived here in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Personally, I believe that the road to world peace is one where we celebrate each others’ cultures rather than flatten everything down into a common, unoffensive ground where a singular consumer culture can flourish.
So the words of Rabbi Bulka really resonated with me: “It actually goes beyond the issue of celebrating Christmas. It has to do with the authenticity of everyone’s celebration and the idea that if people are celebrating it than we should acknowledge it for what it is rather than skirting around it by making some oblique reference to it with a happy holidays greeting.”
He goes on: “I’m putting myself in the position of a Christian and they’re saying, hold it, this is not happy holidays, this is for us, Christmas, so why are people not making mention of that and what is their discomfort with it, why should they be uncomfortable with it?”
A friend of mine posted a status update on Facebook about the last night of Hanukkah which prompted several heartfelt greetings from non-Jewish friends wishing him a happy Hanukkah.
And yet, I do find myself feeling somehow ashamed to outright say “Merry Christmas.” Even though I am a writer, and specificity is the name of the game. A chair is not a chair, it’s a green chair with wooden arms. A forest is not a forest, but a tract of hardwood where the first spring trilliums are pushing up through fallen, faded leaves. And Christmas is the specific name of this time of year for me. It’s not the vague, washed-out occasion that holiday implies.
So, here it is.
From my family to yours, and with sincerest respect for whatever you celebrate: Have a Happy, Merry Christmas.