There seem to be a number of recent commentaries (see here and here) regarding controversies over Christmas, particularly in public schools. Since I am getting tired of reading all the griping on both sides, I thought I'd draft some rules we could all live by.
1. Don't get offended if someone says "Happy Holidays". There are multiple holidays going on this time of year, so it is a perfectly acceptable phrase to say.
2. The phrase "Happy Holidays' does not strip you of your freedom to practice your religion. It is not the equivalent of the Romans throwing you to the lions. Just accept the good wishes of the person saying the phrase and go on with your life.
3. Don't get offended if someone says "Merry Christmas." Christmas is just one of many holidays going on right now, and acknowledging this is not cause for offense.
4. The phrase "Merry Christmas" does not strip you of your freedom to practice your own religion (or no religion at all). It is not the equivalent of a taliban-esque theocracy. Just accept the good wishes of the person saying the phrase and go on with your life.
5. Don't get offended if someone says "Happy Hanukkah" , for the same reasons as above.
6. When you say "Happy Holidays," "Merry Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah", or any other similar phrase to someone else, be sure you are doing so because of a sincere feeling of good wishes towards the person. Don't say these phrases to make a political statement - that is not their purpose.
7. Recognize and accept that your faith and joy in your own belief system is not contingent on other people's beliefs or their recognition of yours. In other words, I assume you will continue to celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ regardless of what *I* might be celebrating in my house. I can sincerely wish you "happy holidays" and you can sincerely wish me "merry Christmas" and neither of us is required to revise our belief systems. Really.
8. If you want to see a manger scene outdoors, the simplest solution is to set one up in your own front yard.
9. Keep in mind that many symbols and traditions at this time of year have different meanings for different people. You might regard a Christmas tree as a symbol of Christ on the cross (yes, I read that in a letter to the editor the other day - the first time I'd ever heard of THAT meaning) while for someone else it is a cheery reminder of childhood and Santa Claus. For others, it may be a pagan symbol. For still others, it stands as a reminder of non-functioning bubble lights causing parental arguments (ok, maybe that is just me. Bubble lights are a pain, but very cool when they work).
10. Keep in mind that many the symbols and traditions we associate with Christmas predate Christianity.
11. Due to the two preceding rules, keep in mind that non-believers might have Christmas trees and listen to Christmas carols. It would be ill advised to attempt to capitalize on this and hammer these people with obnoxious shouts of "Jesus is the reason for the season!" Trust me on this - you will not get your desired result from such behavior.
12. Regardless of what you believe, try to practice that whole "peace on earth, goodwill towards men" part a little more strongly - and not just on December 25.
For a terrific list of holiday links, see this post at Watermark.