Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 2, 2012

HOPKINS: Pulling a foot out of the mouth

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Sometimes after I’ve written a column, I read it the next day and say to myself, “I should have said that differently,” or I realize I neglected to mention something important. Last week’s column offered a little of both.

For those of you who missed last week’s column, I used a little “bah humbug” to voice my displeasure about how the word “Christmas” has become almost a dirty word and instead we seem to being force-fed the politically correct “happy holidays.”

First, I stand by my feelings. In this corner of the world, most people celebrate Christmas. Right or wrong, it’s the predominant holiday in December. On more than one occasion when I’ve wished someone a Merry Christmas that person has replied that he’s Jewish, or of a different faith. I’ve always immediately followed up with a “Happy Hanukah,” or a warm greeting for the holiday that person celebrates.

The problem is that I didn’t mention that in last week’s column, so it came off as a bit of religious arrogance. That certainly wasn’t my intention. I believe in respecting the religion and I simply ask for a little respect towards mine in return.

I received two letters from readers who rightfully chastised me.

The Rev. Patricia Ludwig offered her take on “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” with the following:

“There is so much that is celebrated and honored in December, including but not limited to Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice and Kawanzaa.

“If I know people are Christian, I cheerily say ‘Merry Christmas,’ but when I do not know, like when I ring bells for the Red Kettle Drive, I say, ‘Happy Holidays.’

“To my Jewish friends, and to  part of our family which is Jewish, of course, I always say, ‘Happy Hanukkah.’

“And for my black friends, after I say ‘Merry Christmas,’ I always include ‘and Happy Kawanzaa, too.’

“I do this out of respect for what they believe and how they wish to honor this season. It has nothing to do with being PC but everything to do with respect, acceptance, understanding, compassion and tolerance for the wonderful diversity in our great land.

“So to all those reading this, ‘Happy Anything you may be celebrating this season, and may you know its light and peace in your life and in the new year.’ “

A woman named Lisa took me to task for stirring up a hornet’s nest on “old news.”

“Part of the reason they do that is because America is a place of many religions and beliefs and I see no harm in recognizing all as well as not offending those are of different faiths.I think they have gotten to the ridiculous level with some things myself but it is hardly anything to stir up a debate again, which you know that will only do and solve nothing.

“The importance of this time of year is not how you say it but it should be what is behind it. For those who choose to use Merry Christmas and are religious it is God and Jesus.To those who are fine with Happy Holidays (like me) it should be a reminder of happy memories, the ideal of getting along during this time and what the holiday should include like warm feelings, nods to strangers, enjoying the music, decorations etc.

“I know this is a bit idealistic but why not write about those things instead of strife, hurt egos and whatever else you try to stir? Why not talk about the “magic” of the time of year, whatever you call it. The secret to life is getting along..And along with that is recognizing others. I have no problem seeing signs or wishes, no matter how they are conveyed because I am trying to look for the positive of the season. Not trying to nit pick, encourage outrage over a non issue.

“Why not use your space to write a heart-warming ideal like giving to the food pantry, riding around and enjoying those house and yard decorations no matter what message is on them, the music you hear, the ‘goodwill’ you wish people would at least have once year.”

Lisa wrapped up by wishing me a merry Christmas and a safe and happy holiday season.

Thanks, Lisa. And thank you too, Reverend. Merry Christmas!

John J. Hopkins is the managing editor of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His column appears on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com.