Happy holidays, everyone! Oh, wait... excuse me. Which holiday do you celebrate in December; Christmas? Chanukah? Yule? Maunajiyaras? You see, there are so many holidays this month that it's easy to get confused. And I don't want to insult anyone.
Only one holiday this month, you say? I do apologize, but beg to differ, as do many others of different faiths. There can be as many as 17 or more holidays that fall during the 12th month of the Gregorian calendar, depending upon both the solar and lunar calendars.
Maybe you are a Baha'i. If so, then you celebrate the start of two months of your year in our December; Masa'il and Sharaf. The Baha'i calendar consists of 19 months of 19 days. They even out the years by adding a leap year, much as we do every four years.
Perhaps you are a Muslim. Some years, the month of Ramadan ends about now which means that Eid-al-Fitr, the Breaking of the Fast, will occur in December. If this happens then Laylat al-Qadr will also fall in this month. On this day, the Muslims celebrate the first revelation of the Qu'ran to Mohammed.
If you are Jewish, you may be celebrating Chanukah this month. The Festival of Lights commemorates the miracle of the Temple and lasts eight nights. It is not, as some believe, as "Jewish Christmas" but a holiday all its own which has been celebrated for hundreds of years by Jews the world over.
December marks the coming of the Winter Solstice. There are two religions which hold this day as sacred. The followers of Shinto call it Toji-Taisai and for them, it marks the return of their Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. To Neo-Pagans of all stripes this is Yule, and marks the turning of the Wheel of the Year and the sun's rebirth. Even non-religious people observe this day as a secular turning point - the longest night of the year.
Maybe you follow the Jain religion. If so, this is a quiet holiday for you. Maunajiyara is a day of fasting, silence and meditation. This day honors the monks, teachers and religious leaders of Jainism.
If you are Sikh, you honor the birthday of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the Ninth of the Ten Sikh Gurus and a devout defender of religious liberty.
Rohatsu, also known as Bodhi Day, is December 8th. Buddhists celebrate it as the day the Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting in meditation under the bodhi tree.
Zoroastrians will remember the founder of their faith on the anniversary of his death on the 26th of December. You will also celebrate Ghambar Maidyarem from December 31 through January 1 as the time of the creation of earth's animals.
If you are African-American you may have adopted the relatively new holiday of Kwanzaa. While it is a recent arrival to the list of December holidays, it honors the ancient heritage of your people.
Catholics remember many Saints this month; St. Nicholas, St. Francis Xavier, St. Lucy (if you're Scandanavian, this is St. Lucia's Day), and two Johns (St. John of the Cross and St. John the Evangelist), among many others. Latin Catholics honor Our Lady of Guadeloupe. And among the most important of Catholic holidays, the Feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of The Holy Family fall in December.
So, you see, the best way to greet people you do not know in this crowded month of holidays is "Happy Holidays!" But, many of you may be thinking, can't I tell by looking? Isn't a turban or yarmulke obvious? Perhaps, but it's certainly not foolproof. Not all Jews wear yarmulkes outside of Temple. Not all Latinos are Roman Catholic. Not every covered head means a Muslim.
Let's pretend for a moment that everyone will get insulted when not given the "proper" holiday greeting (and what a horrible world that would be to live in). What if, seeing no yarmulke, I wish my Jewish acquaintance a "Merry Christmas"? Or my Zoroastrian friend a "Happy Chanukah"? Should I presume that my African-American postman celebrates Kwanzaa? Shall I assume that every white Anglo family I see is Christian? They might be Neo-Pagan. Or atheists. Or even converts to another faith. That would certainly create a lot of bad feeling in this most happy of months, wouldn't it? It would be so much better if everyone would accept any and all well-wishes with grace. You can accept them and reply as you like: if you want to wish me "Merry Christmas" even though I'm not Christian, I think that's wonderful and I thank you. Can't we all do this? Is it really so difficult in this season to spread good feelings? Of course not.
No, the best greeting for this time of year is "Happy Holidays." That way, you're pretty much covered and everyone spreads the cheer. And as for this so called "war on Christmas:, it behooves us to remember that it in no way belittles nor degrades our own holiday to acknowledge others. When you say, "Happy Holidays!" you are saying, "we all celebrate something this time of year; may your holiday be as wonderful and joyous for you as mine is for me." And I so wish it. Happy Holidays, everyone!