Happy Chrismahanukwanzaaka! Why “happy holidays” isn’t a big deal

Ok, I’ve sat on this post for several years, now, but since it’s the beginning of November and the battle is already raging, I have to ask a question:

What the heck is wrong with saying “Happy Holidays”? 

The memes, the boycotting of stores who say the H word, the sermons, yes, I have heard them, all the “holiday” bashing makes me shake my head in complete and utter confusion. Ya’ll, nobody has “dibs” on December! By the way, Jesus wasn’t even born in December, but that’s neither here nor there. 

It’s called the “Holiday Season” because there are multiple holidays between October and January, and why in the world can’t I hope you enjoy all of them? There are four holidays that we as a family observe, and at least four more that we don’t. So what if they are attached to a specific religion or culture? That still doesn’t give you exclusive rights to any particular month/season. And if you’re still not convinced, let me tell you a little about the word “Holiday.” When you break it down, it’s easy to see the roots. The word literally means “holy day”. It means a break from the everyday, to celebrate something special or sacred. It was originally used for feast days throughout the year in addition to the three months we use (or condemn) it for now. 

Besides, no matter what you call it, isn’t the season all about love and, let’s face it, self-sacrifice? God sent His only Son to die for a world who ignores Him. Do you think, maybe, for a couple months, you could forget that you don’t agree with people who light menorahs? (Do you know why they light menorahs? They are remembering a miracle.) That you could show kindness instead of indignation to those who celebrate Kwanzaa? That you could, gasp, smile at Santa instead of raving at him about the consumerism of Christmas? Maybe you should try celebrating Three Kings’ Day, if you’re so upset about commercializing Jesus’ birthday. 

Now, I’m not saying “don’t say Merry Christmas.” What I’m saying is that, when the cashier who is working 65 hours a week until January 10th smiles at you and says “Happy Holidays!”, don’t scowl and stomp out the door, vowing never to return. Don’t correct them. Don’t complain, in person or on social media. 

Just smile. Reply whatever you feel like replying, but remember, it’s not a competition. Nobody gets a prize for naming their favorite holiday the most times or the most forcefully. 

Because, Charlie Brown, that’s not what Christmas is about. 

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The Curse of Beautiful Children

I have adorable children. 

Sorry, it’s just the truth. They are Pretty. Darn. Cute.

This is a blessing and a curse, because everybody’s first reaction when they see a beautiful baby is to touch it. I was actually guilty of this myself this past weekend at my sister’s wedding, I met my dear cousin’s baby son for the first time, and his fiancee as well, incidentally, and my first reaction was to pet the baby’s soft arms and kiss his little forehead. Bless her heart, the mother seemed to realize this was a family thing and didn’t seem a bit offended, even though this person her fiance had just introduced to her was basically spreading germs on her baby. In my defense, he is a beautiful baby. But because of this marginally acceptable faux pas, I’m forced to look a little more forgivingly on people who walk up and pet or pat my children.
(She later took me up on an offer to hold him while she danced with her fiance, so I guess she forgave me, too.)

At a farmer’s market my mom and I took the kids to, I was reminded how little I appreciate people touching my children. The lady at the soap booth kissed my daughter’s hand, the guy at the windmill table pulled half-dollars out of both kids’ ears and gave them to them, and the lady at the flower booth watched my daughter dance to the street musician’s music and gave her a flower.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the quickest way to ingratiate yourself with me is to be kind to my children. And I smiled and thanked each person for the kindness, but inside I was cringing and snapping, “I don’t know where your hands have been, keep them off my kids!”
I know in some cultures it’s rude or bad luck to admire a child and not touch them, and I get that. I also understand how hard it can be to keep yourself from touching an adorable baby. But let me ask, would you come up and touch a full-grown person that you found beautiful? Ummm, no. You would not. Because that would be creepy. And possibly get charges filed against you. So let’s afford little people the same courtesy we afford big people, and keep our hands to ourselves. That’s what we teach them, isn’t it? 

Politeness, Part 2: Needles and Saws

I’ve been thinking about tact and grace this morning and I remembered last week when I had to dig multiple berry thorns out of Brother’s arm. Poor baby! For larger splinters I sometimes use the tip of a clean, sharp pocket knife, but these were numerous and tiny so I used a needle, magnifying glass, and tweezers. Poor guy was crying because by the time I noticed them the immediate area had already started to swell a little, and it hurt. I tried to tell him that it would stop hurting when Mom could get the “prickles” out and wash it, but logic doesn’t hold much sway over a frightened 3-year-old. Nana finally held the arm while I removed the offenders, all the while feeling like a terrible person because my baby sat so still and sobbed. He sat still because he trusted me not to hurt him more than I absolutely had to, because he’s very used to needles, because at three, he already understands that sometimes the people we love have to hurt us a little bit to help us.

I chose the appropriate tools for thorn removal because I knew it had to happen, but I wanted to make it as easy as I could on both of us. I didn’t want to do more damage getting them out than they were doing all by themselves. But I wonder if we do that with our friends? I feel like sometimes we go after the “thorns” in other peoples’ lives with a bone saw instead of a needle and tweezers. Maybe even a battle axe, sometimes. Maybe we believe that the bigger deal we make about something, the bigger impression it will make on the other person, and the more apt they will be to listen and change. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, though.

Choosing the right tools for the job is crucial to getting it done right, and bigger is not necessarily better.

So what about you? Have you removed any splinters with a tile saw, lately?

The Lost Virtue: Part 1- Politeness

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Ok, maybe “the” lost virtue is a bit dramatic, but lately I’ve noticed more and more that politeness is slowly becoming less and less common. Worse, it’s becoming boring. Sarcasm and snark is the in thing now, and are made worse by the relative anonymity of the internet. It’s like there’s an unspoken rule that if I can’t see your face, I’m allowed to say whatever the bleep I want to and about you, your fashion sense, your parenting choices, your lifestyle, or your hair. This cowardly cruelty is taking over the comment sections of every website available. 
Worse, that snarkiness has started to bleed into our “real” life, and cutting remarks, sarcastic critiques, and downright rudeness has become the norm. 
Think about your activity on social media. “I’m so happy, my marriage/kids/pets bring so much joy to my life!” is going to get a lot less traffic than virulent rants at the lady behind you in line (which get a little less traffic than Frozen memes).
Remember the “What’s Your Excuse?” mom? Or more recently, look at all the flak Princess Kate has taken for some of her mothering choices. Seriously, people? She wiped baby drool on the hem of her skirt. Wow. I’ve wiped noses with the hem of my apron and continued to wear it. I’ve even been known to wipe said noses with my fingers and rub my fingers in the grass if there’s no way to get to a tissue in time. Don’t pretend you haven’t. 
The point is, we all have “oops” or “hope no one is looking” or “do what you have to do” moments, and unfortunately, there’s always someone looking and probably filming. 
In Chinese culture there’s a custom called “saving face”, and it is the opposite of what Americans think of when we hear that term. The custom demands that in social situations that get awkward, you do everything you can to avoid embarassing the other person. What a difference it would make if we could embrace that attitude in our online and offline interactions! The simple act of giving grace, assuming the best, overlooking offenses (that’s in the Bible, y’all,) and good old-fashioned politeness could go miles toward promoting a culture of peace (that’s in the Bible, too). 
Think about it. If a family sitting in a restaurant has a child that is throwing a tantrum, what happens? They get dirty looks, people at adjoining tables have loud conversations about discipline and basic manners. Yes, I understand that you’re inconvenienced. (Let’s forget, for a moment that you chose to eat in a room full of people, big and small.) What would happen if, when that rotten 2-year-old started screaming and the mother started feeling pressure to give in to his demands just to shut him up, we all just calmly continued to eat, pretending he wasn’t there? Or better yet, when we pass by their table on our way to the bathroom or the door, smile at her and compliment her on her child’s healthy lungs. 
The next time someone writes an article or blog or facebook post that you really, really disagree with or dislike, instead of lambasting them in the comment section, try a) stating your disagreement in a respectful, contructive way, or b) approaching them privately and having a calm and grown-up discussion. 
There are two overarching rules that I strive to follow in all my online interactions: If I wouldn’t say it in person, I shouldn’t say it online. And if I wouldn’t say it in front of my grandma, I shouldn’t say it at all.

And in the immortal words of Thumper: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

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