The Holiday Greeting Wars

It’s the holiday season. Time for traditions of tacky decorations, crowded stores and arguing over the proper way to greet each other during this time of goodwill. We are told we must be sensitive to others who may not share our customs or culture, and so, should rely upon generic terms like “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greeting.”

But now it’s going a step further. The chorus is growing louder, as evidenced by an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer, that we end the holiday greetings war by taking the time to inquire about the cultural preferences of those to whom we plan to offer seasonal wishes. But don’t such suggestions made in the name of tolerance actually pander to perhaps the most harmful form of verbal intolerance?

For isn’t it intolerant to refuse the good wishes of others simply because they weren’t worded precisely the way we would have preferred? And doesn’t that lead us all down a path where we parse our words so carefully for fear of offending that we no longer say what we really mean? And once our words no longer match our thoughts, how can there be any trust?

This issue goes far beyond how we greet each other between Thanksgiving and December 25th. We need candor and honesty if we hope to address the real and perceived issues that exist among the different segments of our society. If we enter that dialogue with our tongues tied, we’ll succeed in nothing but sweeping those differences under the rug, where they’ll remain to bite us another day.

The old adage about sticks and stones was predicated upon the belief that words meant to harm could really do no damage. Today, even words meant with the best of intentions are seen as offensive and harmful. It’s time that we return to that childhood lesson and realize that words can only hurt us if we let them.

So let us simply accept a "Merry Christmas", "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Kwanzaa" as the kind blessing of another, whether we celebrate that holiday or not. And perhaps, if we can stop taking offense when someone harmlessly says the wrong thing, we can start to discuss the real issues that separate us. In the end, that seems to be the real path to tolerance, and ultimately, peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

Posted by Paul Szydlowski at December 21, 2005 2:00 PM