Tag Archives: Holidays

Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays?)

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I took an extended vacation from work (and blogging) over the Christmas and New Years holidays.    I sincerely hope everyone has found joy thus far in the Christmas Season.   Also, as a reminder, in our Catholic faith the Christmas Season begins on Christmas Eve – and it doesn’t end the next day!

I love Christmas.    I encourage everyone to find time to continue to celebrate this season through Saturday, which is the end of the official celebration of Christmas (the baptism of our Lord).    Keep in mind that we have not yet celebrated Epiphany, which is really the feast celebrating the first time representatives outside of the Jewish world met our new King.

It’s really easy to forget to continue this celebration because we all start off the New Year, we get back to work, and life resumes somewhat back to the normal that it was in the days preceding Christmas.    Keep it up!

Since I took a break, I have not had my follow-up on the Pope and Climate change.   There will be one, if not two, follow ups to that post.    I not only believe it is an important topic, but it has always been a scientific topic of interest of mine, and so I will be spending time on it, both from a scientific perspective but also from a faith perspective.

In the meantime, I wanted to just place a few thoughts down regarding the annual weirdness around whether or not people should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or anything else.

I find the whole thing an odd mixture of political correctness, and also a sincere recognition that not everyone believes all the same things.   So here is a litany of thoughts on the subject:

  • Christmas is on the calendar. To not mention the word at all, or to be unwilling to wish someone else that you know celebrates Christmas is simply stupid.   We wish people a good Memorial Day or Labor Day whether or not we actively celebrate the meaning or intent of that day (most of us really don’t.   Maybe some of us do on Memorial Day, and fewer yet could even come up with an explanation as to how Labor Day came to be and why.   And yet, none of have any issue wishing each other well on those days.   That’s because there’s no religious association attached to it.   Well, for those people who are not believers, it still doesn’t negate the holiday itself, even as a secular celebration.   So there should be no issues with wishing anyone a Merry Christmas, but even if you want to be sensitive to the matter of religious affiliation, if you know someone religiously or culturally celebrates it, just say it.
  • We’ve reached the point where wishing people a Merry Christmas almost feels like you’re taking a stand on something. That bothers me.   I say it because I want to, but I, too, have been browbeat with the political correctness to the point where it somehow feels bold or courageous to wish someone a Merry Christmas.   I hate that feeling.   It’s messed up.    Further, people who read an e-mail that says “Merry Christmas” probably feel like the person sending it just took a risk of offending people.     That’s even more messed up.
  • Having said all that, I don’t have anything really against “Happy Holidays,” under certain conditions:
    1. If someone has no idea whether the people they are addressing are believers, celebrate Christmas, or are Jewish, Muslim, or anything else (and there is a more than reasonable chance that the situation exists) then see nothing wrong with a generic salutation.
    2. If I know with certainty that someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas then I would give them a generic salutation. I would have no issue with talking about my own faith or celebration of Christmas, but in this situation why would I purposely wish them a happy celebration of something they don’t celebrate?   While I may wish in my heart they did celebrate it, it would be somewhat pointless outside of any other evangelization effort.   It would be like wishing someone in another country a happy US Independence Day.
  • If I make the mistake of wishing someone a Merry Christmas who doesn’t celebrate it, the appropriate response is “Thanks.” Don’t be a jerk.    It is also appropriate, in the case of someone you may be running into more often, to clear up the misunderstanding charitably by saying, “Why thank you.   Just so you know, though, I don’t celebrate Christmas but I certainly hope you have a Merry Christmas.”    There’s nothing wrong with that response.
  • If you are a Christian and you know that someone celebrates Hannukah, then wish them a Happy Hannukah, for crying out loud. It is not against your Christian religion to acknowledge someone else’s celebration.   I’d say the same thing about Kwanzaa, but I’m still convinced that’s generally made up and I know of nobody who actually celebrates it.   But for the five people that do, if you find them, then by all means extend a Merry Kwanzaa, or whatever the appropriate greeting, is.
  • The most annoying thing to me in this whole thing is that a number of good Christian people now seem scared to wish anyone a Merry Christmas. It’s one thing to take some precautions around more general audiences, or in uncertain situations.    But if you are a Christian, and I know you’re a Christian, and you know I’m a Christian, and you wish me a “Happy Holiday” then I want to whack you upside the head.   You have now officially conditioned yourself into being in “safe” mode and you aren’t even thinking about it.

 

In the end, does it all really matter?   Well, yes and no.   What clearly matters most is what’s in the heart and what your intent is.    Some people, in my opinion, turn this a bit too much into a war against political correctness, while some do go too crazy on the political correctness.   And there are tons of ancillary issues around Christmas that lead to all of this – arguments about displays on public property, songs sung in schools, etc.    But most people just want to wish people well, and we should recognize that.    But that doesn’t mean we can’t push back when we reach the point of silliness.    It’s good to not get overly dogmatic about things, but it’s also good to stem the tide of cleansing Christmas from Christmas.

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Happy Belated Thanksgiving, and Happy Advent

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Since I don’t blog for a living, I will from time to time take extended breaks, since this isn’t my top priority.

That was the case over the last couple of weeks.    I started an extended vacation from work beginning November 17, and because I was trying to get everything in a place where it needed to be before I left, I haven’t submitted a blog post since a few days before that.

Today is just a check-in as I now begin the task of catching up from my time off!

A quick recap of my time off:

November 17 – My wife and I and a couple friends drove to Green Bay, Wisconsin and listened to Charlie Johnston speak.   I introduced myself as “The Diatribe Guy” after his talk and he was genuinely happy to see me.   It was nice to meet him in person.    He appreciated that I have a bit of a skeptical nature about the whole thing, while also keeping an open mind about it all.    I am respectful and try to provide a different view or insight when I comment on his blog and I think he recognizes that I am not a troll who is trying to play some game of “gotcha” but instead someone who is trying to understand, take it all in, keeping my wits about me, and maintaining prudence.    He didn’t say a whole lot I hadn’t heard him say or write before, but it’s always good to be in a small community with others.

November 18 – my birthday!   Yay me.    And as my birthday present I went to our garden an hour away to spread a mineral mix on it only for 50 mph winds to spring up out of nowhere and make spreading it impossible.   So I unloaded it and came back home.   While I was gone, our oven broke.   Since I have already paid for this oven twice because it keeps breaking down, we decide to get a new one.    My wife and I do a birthday dinner, shop for appliances, and go see a movie.   Jack Reacher.    It was OK – nothing special but a couple hours of mindless entertainment.   Lowe’s is on a two-week delivery schedule, and Thanksgiving is only 5 days away.   We pass.

November 19 – November 27:   Rifle deer hunting season in Wisconsin.    A time where the kids, the father-in-law, and me spend countless hours in the woods and see NOTHING.    Four year drought.   The only thing I got was a cold.

November 19: Appliance shopping – decide to go to a gas stove with a local dealer who can guarantee delivery by Thanksgiving.   but we are not set up for gas, so first need to find a plumber who can get to our house before Thanksgiving.     Vacation is stressful.   Wisconsin Badgers win in football, moving up to 6th in the national playoff rankings!

November 20 – Packers lost again.   Defense is horrible.

November 21:  While we are hunting in spurts throughout this whole week, this was the special day of triumph.   Spend all day at the father-in-law’s land a couple hours away, picking off huge Bucks!    Well, we spent all day there, froze our butts off and finally saw a doe about 200 yards away facing away from us with about 15 minutes left in the hunting day.    Too far to take the shot for my son, who was the only one allowed to shoot a doe in this county.   That’s as close as we got all season to shooting a deer.    My wife actually found a plumber who could come over the next day.

November 22: We have gas in the kitchen!   Well, I always have gas in the kitchen, but I mean the natural kind that runs appliances.

November 23 – Spent half the day in a dentist’s chair.    A crown in my mouth cracked.   That has been drilled out, my nub is now even a smaller nub, and a temporary crown is on. I texted my sister and said that I think my Purgatory will be continued dental work in a confined space with spiders crawling on me.   Her response was “If that is Purgatory, then Hell sounds better.”    I couldn’t even argue.   Our gas stove is delivered!   We can now make a Thanksgiving meal.

November 24:   Happy Thanksgiving!    Great meal with the whole family.   Very nice day, despite my mouth hurting from the dental work.   Despite my wife’s nervousness about getting used to gas and convection oven cooking, everything was awesome.

November 25 – 27: Lots of hunting.    My father-in-law has a habit of picking a spot to park on public land and then walking to the furthest possible point on that land from where we parked.

November 26: Badgers won again – Big Ten East Champions – will play in the Big Ten title game next week against Penn State.   Will likely remain 6th in the rankings, possibly moving to 5th.   Need to finish top four to make the playoff.

 

Looking at that recap is a synopsis of life.    A couple hurdles and unexpected irritations that need to be dealt with – so you deal with them.   You can let it get you down or you can just move forward.   Some things of highest value that bring you joy (God, family, thankfulness, time together), things you try to do but don’t succeed at and you learn from it and move on, some frivolous pursuits that bring some added color and entertainment to life…    If I recapped every week of my life it would probably look something like that.

 

So let’s move on.   It’s Advent.   Life will be busy, but when you look back at each week will you see a lot of pointless busyness at the expense of things that would have been more important, or do you see a good balance.     I look above and I like the balance overall.    In the woods, I even spent some of that time in prayer and contemplating God.

But I was on vacation – toss in my work schedule and suddenly the balance becomes harder to achieve.    I’m going to try my best to maintain a proper balance during Advent – and beyond.