“Happy Holidays”. Can we please deep-six this trite “non-denominational” greeting, designed to alert the world that those uttering the salutation “Happy Holidays” are sensitive people aware that the recipients of the greeting might not be Christians, might be Kwanzans, or Jews or Muslims who have a low opinion of J. Christ and no desire to celebrate his birthday. The Muslims think Christ was not divine and the Jewish sacred writings say likewise, and that for the sin of getting ideas above his station JC is being pickled in excrement for all eternity.
But my Jewish friends say “Happy Hanukah”, with no nonsense about saying “Happy Holidays” out of sensitivity to the fact that the festival of Hanukah derives from the Maccabbees’ triumph over the bestial forces of Hellenism in 165 B.C., said Hellenism being in its neo-Platonic guise one of the central components of the Christian religion. An irony is that there’s no mention of Hanukah in the Torah, but only in the Books of the Maccabees, an annexe to the Bible.
My friend and neighbor Joe Paff tells me he heard Oregon Public Radio harshly criticize Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for daring to utter the forbidden phrase “Merry Christmas”, even though he immediately made haste to light a menorah to show that his “Merry Christmas” wasn’t an eruption of ur-Schwarzenegger, an overture to a volley of Sieg Heils and Aryan paeans to Wotan.
When I lived in an apartment building on the Upper West side of New York, throughout December our elevator rang with jovial cries of Happy Hanukah and Merry Christmas, and Margot Adler who lived in the apartment right next to me wasn’t put out, even though she was a boisterous Wiccan and reserved her enthusiasms for the festival of Beltane, which I vaguely remember involved dancing round some sort of a Maypole. One time Margot, a radio broadcaster of the first quality, was up for a big job at NPR but lost out because NPR big shot was worried about being trashed in the New York Post for hiring a Witch (though a witch who was White in every sense of the term).
So, hear it from a unbaptised, unconfirmed Protestant/atheist, born out of wedlock, albeit raised in a Christo-Commie environment, MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
This column originally ran in the Christmas 2003 edition of CounterPunch.