Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can You Say Happy Holidays?

In addition to my urge to work on projects during this holiday season this is also the time of year I start to notice that not everyone is cheerful at this time of year. I don’t mean those people who have suffered a personal tragedy, whether recently or with this season as its annual reminder. To you, I send my heartfelt glow of love in your time of need.

No, I’m talking about the people who are angry about saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Personally, I celebrate Christmas, Christmas eve, Christmas day, “little Christmas” on January 6 and even Christmas holiday events during the whole month of December.

Just today, I volunteered for kitchen duty at a local inter-denominational International Holiday Fair, an annual charity event. There were five of us for our shift and we set it up like zone defense. It tends to work better that way. Otherwise, we’re stomping on each other’s toes and risk up-ending a hot bowl of soup or chili. We had our senior team member at the stove, a lithe junior member at the back of the kitchen with the soft drinks and back up to her friend who was the Mistress of The Chili, the lumpia and banana fritter volunteer and me. I had the veggie lumpia, the coffee, tea and front window coordination. It worked pretty well. No one got trampled. Nothing spilled. We remembered to wear our gloves and practiced good food handling.

One thing I’ve noticed about volunteering for events like this is that people tend to want to be in charge. All of them. This causes confusion, hesitation, sometimes hard feelings and, in the best of times, laughing it off and deference to whatever makes it flow better. Our zone defense system in the meeting hall kitchen plays to this human territorial trait without stomping on toes. We’re each in charge of our little corner of the kitchen so no one gets bent out of shape by someone trying to be in charge of the whole thing. We served a lot of chili dogs, turkey soup and lumpia today. It all looked and smelled delicious.

It’s natural for people to want control, especially of scarce and precious resources. The Four of Pentacles is often portrayed as the miser sitting on and grasping his coins. Meanings traditionally range from the 2-year-old’s cry, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” to merely a prudent use of resources. When I look at the Four of Pentacles, I keep thinking that the miser is going to get an itchy nose any minute now and what will he do if he needs to set one of those coins down to resolve that problem? Will he just sit there and itch? He’s the ultimate, “You can’t take it with you” guy.

Obviously, sometimes it’s right to say, “Mine.” And the prudent use of resources does seem like a good idea. Our world looks so huge to just one person. I flew for a business trip this week and our flight path followed the California San Andreas Fault, that huge rip in the seam of the earth where one tectonic plate is scraping along another causing wrinkles that are mountains and earthquakes that are both feared and taken too lightly. That’s just part of one state and our earth is so enormous. And yet, it is limited in its resources. If we use them poorly, we will hurt ourselves.

Even more fleeting than the riches of the earth is our time. We have these few moments. It seems reasonable to spend them well. And because of that, while I can’t spend too much time on it, I am sad for the people who are cranky when they hear “Happy Holidays.” After all, someone did just wish you well. The words you are searching for are, “Thanks! You too!” But some people are “tired” of saying Happy Holidays and want to say Merry Christmas. To those people, I also say, “Thanks! You too!” The complaint that people are tired of being “pc” means to me they are tired of being kind, considerate and polite. Many places aren’t as diverse in their population as the place where I live. So perhaps people are tired at the thought that they should feel that moment’s hesitation to wonder if saying Merry Christmas is inappropriate to someone who isn’t Christian when the chance of them being anything except a Christian is rare. However, just think about it for minute.  Wouldn’t you feel nice if someone took a moment to care what you thought or how you felt? What a nice holiday gift that would be! For a moment, you were special to someone who took the time to wish you well. That’s holiday spirit.

So to everyone in this holiday season, I wish peace on all the enormous but limited earth and good will to everyone, men, women, children, cats, trees, birds and even chili dogs including the vegan chili and the vegan chili dogs scrupulously kept separate from the non-vegan dishes in respect to those who prefer vegan. I hope you all have a wonderful December, whatever your faith, diet or disposition. If you’re cranky about saying Happy Holidays, please don’t waste your time or mine grousing about it. Just smile, wave and say Merry Christmas. I’ll say, “Thanks! You too!”

Happy Holidays! And that’s something you can take with you.

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