Shelley Widhalm

Where’s the “Merry Christmas”?

In Christmas meaning, Holidays, What's important, Writing group on December 26, 2010 at 9:30 am

At my last writer’s group meeting, we talked about our Christmas traditions. Most of them involve opening stockings Christmas Eve and presents Christmas Day and preparing a traditional meal of ham, turkey and, in one woman’s case, seafood pasta.

At my mom’s house, those traditions have been dropped little by little. First went the Christmas tree, because removing it and the ornaments, and then putting them away, takes a lot of energy. My mom, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a cane to get around, tires easily, so she opted for a one-foot tree instead.

Next went the decorations and the tree with miniature ornaments.

This year, we lost the stockings because my brother had plans with his girlfriend on Christmas Eve.

But these changes haven’t fazed me. They reflect my mom’s exhaustion from M.S., along with the altering of family dynamics from a divorce and my brother and I growing up and not having children of our own, at least not yet, to carry on the traditions.

No matter, I love the atmosphere surrounding Christmas. There are Christmas trees on display in stores and the red and green decor. There are Christmas songs instead of top 40. And there are houses and shopping centers glittering with lights, adding joy to the shortening days.

What I don’t like is losing the phrase “Merry Christmas” from holiday cards and interpersonal greetings. Instead, it’s “Happy holidays,” but there’s a holiday practically every month, so which holiday is the happy one?

I understand why my family has to let some traditions go, but I don’t understand why we, as a nation, have to remove the word Christmas from Christmas. We’ve taken political correctness too far, so that even though a sampling from a writer’s group has similar traditions, we can’t say the “Merry Christmas” that reflects those traditions, because we might offend someone.

It’s like words are the wrapping paper that hide so much anger and bitterness, but why so much hostility over words? Can’t words just have their intended meanings without having to be erased, removed and rewritten, so that what is real becomes whitewashed into blandness? The Christmas lights in my town are white holiday lights that don’t offend other religions from the red and green. At least the stores keep the trees up and the Christmas music, even if it’s all for profit.

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