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I Believe in “Merry Christmas!”

It’s essential to be aware of religious and cultural differences, but must we water down who we are?

Prayer blogger Rick Hamlin

I believe in saying “Merry Christmas.” Not the bland “Happy Holidays” or even blander “Season’s Greetings.” To my Jewish friends, when it’s Hanukkah (and it’s coming up soon), I happily say “Happy Hanukkah.” If I knew someone who celebrated Kwanza, I wouldn’t mind saying “Happy Kwanza.”

I understand the urge not to offend. It’s very well-intentioned. It’s essential to be aware of religious and cultural differences, but must we water down who we are? I’m not talking about the public expressions of religion. This is personal.

For instance, I live in a neighborhood with a significant Orthodox Jewish population. On Saturdays they observe the Sabbath with rigor and gusto. They don’t work. You see them on nice days taking walks in the park with their families or the young adults in groups. Some stores are closed. You can’t buy bread in the kosher bakery on Saturday.

Do I take offense? On the contrary; I take notice. Thanks for the reminder about observing the Sabbath, I think. Last weekend I was trudging up the hill at the end of my Saturday run and I jogged by a well-dressed couple coming from services. It made me think about what I would be doing on my Sabbath on Sunday.

In fact, I ended up singing Christmas carols with friends from choir, wandering the blocks close to our church. I would venture to say that a good share of our listeners were not Christian. Did we change the lyrics to “Silent Night” or “Away in a Manger”? Did we modify “Good Christian Men Rejoice”?

I like people who are honest about what they believe. I learn from them. Would that people say the same of me.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. They are blessings, prayers. Say them with kindness, sensitivity, generosity, enthusiasm. No apologies necessary.

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