I guess I hadn’t realized how attached people are to their holiday greetings. There are a number of comments that deserve some examination here, at least if you have any interest in living comfortably in a multi-cultural society. Since it’s my blog, I get to yank the comments out of context and focus on some misconceptions.
- “Christmas has become as much a cultural holiday as a religious one.”
That is an opinion that may be shared by many majoritarians. But for many Jews for example, there will never be anything secular about Christmas. Sure, there are Jews who get Christmas trees and give presents as a secular winter celebration, but that’s not the norm. I am not delivering an indictment of Christmas, holiday wishes, or Jews who do Christmas but simply letting you know that not everyone is the same as you.
- “I think I’m beginning to get it. If the majority of people celebrate a cultural thing, it’s bad because it’s not sensitive to those who don’t celebrate it.”
No, that would be stupid, and I suspect that this is a deliberate, defensive posture taken by many majoritarians when people point out that their assumption of a normative status actually has an effect on other people. People who are part of a minority get that they are a minority. We get that most people do things differently and always will. Many of us hope, however, that the majority will try to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is the same. I strongly suspect that most African Americans don’t expect white people to turn black, but would like the majority to recognize that being black comes with a different set of societal assumptions and experiences than being white, and that being white often confers a set of privileges not immediately available to others.
- “I never understood why it would be bizarre or uncomfortable to wish someone a happy [your holiday but not theirs]. If you get a different happy [their holiday but not yours] back, it means you will have been wished an EXTRA happy day…”
Yes, that’s pretty much the point. If you grow up as part of the majority culture, you are unlikely to intuitively “get it”, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s considered a polite part of living in a civilized society to try to “get it”. I hope and suspect that most “Merry Xmas’s” are benign and meant to convey a kind word. I also know that motives are not always benign.
I am trying to help you of the majority understand what we of the minority often understand: that when you assume that Christmas is some sort of normative default, you are implying, whether you mean to or not, that the rest of us are “other” or “abnormal”.
I’m cool with being other. I’m part of a minority and I have no intention of changing that to increase my comfort level among majoritarians. Neither do I expect the majority to stop celebrating Christmas or stop saying “Merry Christmas”. But, as a member of a diverse society, I would respectfully suggest that people try to be aware.