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Many Traditions. One Wish.


A few years ago, I changed our annual Christmas photo and letter to say "Happy Holidays". I found myself pausing as I addressed our card to my Jewish college roommate and her family. I'm sure she never thought twice about it or took any offense to our card that cheerfully exclaimed "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!" She and her husband are some of the kindest folks I know, so I also expect they'd never consider saying anything to me about it.

I'm not sure what made me stop and think that year. I thought about her family's Hannukah celebration and considered how odd it would be if she sent my family a card wishing us a happy holiday we don't celebrate. It wasn't a moment of tension or anger or frustration. Just a moment of empathy...of seeing things from another's point of view. That is what choosing the words "Happy Holidays" is all about. But I would also add that the words I choose to discuss the issue are part of the equation too....something I see left out of the memes and social media debate. Empathy and words matter. Always.

So, as being inclusive and saying "Happy Holidays" is an act of empathy and respect, I also believe the discussion of this (and everything, really) should be grounded in the same. Over a decade ago, I moved from a very diverse suburb to a very homogeneous rural area. I can totally see how someone who has grown up in this area, with little authentic exposure to other religious beliefs and customs could be afraid that opening language and public settings to multiple faiths could somehow danger your own. All the while, media is covering the "War on Christmas", which fuels the fear. Most of the memes and posts I see about this topic are not much better... most include a dose of sarcasm and judgment. Those kind of posts don't make me want to change my mind, either.

In closing, words matter. Always. And I think this is something our nation is forgetting. How we say things can be just as important as what we say. For me, choosing "Happy Holidays" over "Merry Christmas" is about respecting all faiths...not disrespecting one. And sharing my thoughts with an emphasis on the facts and not judgment is about respecting all points of view....not just mine.

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