The politician’s favorite season’s greeting in the yuletide? Hands down the winner in this week’s e-mails from left, right and middle is “Happy Holidays!”
We got a “Happy Holidays” from politicians ranging from Gov. Martin O’Malley to Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and his hopeful challenger, conservative Republican Dan Bongino. The same greeting also came from our web hosting company and PR agencies. From Progressive Maryland, champion of liberal causes, and from the National Newspaper Association, champion of Saturday mail, subsidized postal rates and mandated legal ads.
At the State House Thursday, “Happy Holidays” was on the lips of many, but “Merry Christmas” was not to be denied on the stadium shuttle and elsewhere.
Del. Kathy Afzali, the Frederick County conservative, championed “Merry Christmas.” In a holiday e-mail, she included a fantasy column she wrote for the Frederick News-Post in 2005 describing her arrest and charging for wishing all at the mall a Merry Christmas.
Former U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz offered both a “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah.” A Jewish colleague sent a “Season’s Greetings” card with a snowman and winter scene.
A foundation that supports this website sent a card featuring a bulldog in a Santa hat “wishing peace, joy and government accountability this holiday season.” Indeed, if it weren’t for enforcement of that government decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be counted, Jesus might have been born in lowly Galilee rather than Bethlehem, in fulfillment of the prophecies.
Oh, did I mention Jesus? Even those who seem almost evangelical about “Merry Christmas” don’t seem to get in your face about the birth of the Christians’ savior, but I could be wrong about that.
Maryland, after all, is home to an estimated 241,000 Jews, making up 4.3% of the population. We’re tied with Massachusetts for having the fourth-highest percentage of Jewish residents in the country, behind New York (8.8%), New Jersey (5.5%) and D.C. (4.8%), according to figures from the North American Jewish Data Bank.
It is, of course, no secret to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and nonbelievers among us that while Hanukkah may be the feast of lights, this “Happy Holiday” is at its core a “holy” day. Christmas commemorates the birth of someone the Christian majority has embraced as the Messiah, the Anointed One (Christos), Emmanuel come to ransom captive Israel.
No one thinks that’s a Hanukkah bush in the State House rotunda and that the wreaths with red bows on the façade are decorations from the Second Temple. The official ornament atop the pole for the Maryland flag is a bottony cross that is repeated in the red and white of the flag itself. And the red and white clerical robes of a bishop named St. Nicholas have been transformed into a rather buffoonish cartoon figure.
You get the picture. Scratch the surface of the season, and you find a religious holy day. “Happy Holidays” is a mild concession to our religious diversity, but we can all embrace the values of the season – not just its best buys – in an inclusive way: peace, love and joy, light and rebirth.
Peace and blessings in the New Year,
Editor and Publisher