Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy holidays/Festivus/Winter Solstice/Chrinukaza

I get the sneaking suspicion that outside of North America simply saying "I am from X country" is enough of an answer to when people ask you "Where you from?" in Canada (and I think the US, though I have less authority on that one) it isn't. You're Irish/Scottish/Lithuanian/German. You're African/Chinese/First Nations. You're what ever bizarre and often convoluted mix you are, as to simply Canadian.

My family, on all sides, has been in Canada for at least 4 generations. As many people who have a blood line that has stayed in a place that has a fair assortment of backgrounds, mine has gotten hilariously mixed up, and I look a little... Exotic? When I'm talking to someone who's Greek, they think I'm Greek. Same with Lebanese, Italians, Ukrainians... The list goes on. Rather than try to go into it all, I just tell people I'm a mutt and hope they leave it at that. They never do. However I'm not joking when I say I can't keep track of my own genealogy, I discovered that my family name used to be a "ski" but was changed when my Grandfather's family first moved to... the US before coming to Canada. The border guard just went "Yeah, you're Smith* now. Welcome to USA". Whenever people start pressing for my family history (this is a totally normal thing here) I short hand it to the two easiest to explain ones. "French Catholic and English Jewish"** they also come from different economic classes, too, for extra fun.

Yeah, I know, I know. I'm sure you can imagine what it's like when you get the two sides of my family together.

They fucking love each other. No, really. I never realized that was strange until I was like, 16. What do you mean people don't ignore each others religion and backgrounds and judge them simply based on who they are and what they do? I miss that delusion. *Wistful sigh*

Although all of this is a very round about way of saying "I celebrate more than on pantheons worth of holidays simply because of my upbringing" and while I am on paper Catholic, I was raised with Jewish traditions, too. So when December rolls around and it becomes polite to tact on some sort of holiday greeting at the end of any conversation, it is a big struggle for me. No, really. Do I wish them Merry Christmas? Happy Hanuka? Do I try to potato masher the two together? Christmkunaka? Is that prefaced with happy or merry? Shit, what about New Years? That's just around the corner, too, right? So instead I just wish people "Happy Holidays".

People for some reason don't like that. Near strangers to good friends will roll their eyes and say "Oh, stop with the PC crap". My Facebook feed is FILLED with "IT'S MERRY CHRISTMAS NOT HAPPY HOLIDAY" venom.

It is at this point that I grit my teeth, fight the urge to launch into a rant about how they celebrate both Christmas AND New Years so "Happy Holidays" is really just a good catch all, and it's dickish to assume that everyone celebrates YOUR holiday. It's bad enough that two months are jacked for it, and people have to listen to Christmas music and see Christmas decorations everywhere. Can you fathom how obnoxious Christmas is for people who don't celebrate it? Are you aware of how big of a jackwagon you're being by policing me for wanting to simplify and be inclusive at a time of year that is very exclusive?

I don't do that, though. I grit my teeth, make deliberate eye contact, smile sweetly and say "Happy Chanukah!"

This ends one of three ways.
1) The person smiles, and graciously wished me a Happy Hanukkah back.
2) They look confused, apparently not totally clear what Hannukah is.
3) They look awkward and guilty.

I'm happy with 1 or 3, when 2 happens I get a little bit depressed.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have no issue with someone saying "Merry Christmas!". I used to wish it to people, and never once was I given flack or an eye roll for it. No, I only get that for "Happy Holidays!" and that, dear readers, is where I take issue.  If someone wants to go around and feel they have the freedom to wish people "Merry Christmas!" they should allow other people the freedom to choose what ever seasons greetings they want to without comment, too.

So, on that note, since Hanukkah started yesterday, Happy Holidays one and all!

*My last name isn't Smith, but something equally generic and simple. 
** I mean Canadian English and French, for the record.


  1. Here in the US, it's even better! No, not better, the other thing... At least for those in customer service jobs.

    There are actually people who will wish a cashier or library clerk or other hapless person "Merry Christmas!" in this really challenging, hostile way that just _dares_ the service worker to answer with anything else, so that they can go off on their rant about PC Bullshit and the WAAAARRR on Christmas. HATE.

    1. Yeah, I've gotten that, too. Doesn't matter to these people that those poor minimum wage cashiers are often told by their managers to NOT say "Merry Christmas" either.

    2. Actually, its my understanding that they're doing it _because_ they believe that the cashiers etc have been told not to say "Merry Christmas." Somehow, they seem to think that mistreating some low wage worker is fighting the good fight.

  2. See, this annoys me too, when customers over the phone tell me Merry Christmas at the beginning of December. Religious beliefs aside, Technically, isn't Christmas on 1 or 2 days? (We call Xmas's eve Christmas, divorced parents, you know...) So, it really annoys me when people say Merry Christmas weeks in advance. I prefer Happy Holidays, because, it politically correct and more polite and a heck lot less annoying too.

  3. I'm a total mutt too! I've been mistaken for Asian, Latina, Middle Eastern, and my Arabic instructor told me I have only a trace of an accent (which isn't necessarily a good thing, meaning that my language skills will be overestimated). My superpower is being able to pronounce anything.

    The whole "Happy Holidays" vs "Merry Xmas" thing is ridiculous. The people who care are those instigating the whole thing. There never was a war on Xmas until the anti-Happy Holidays people brought it up. Last time I checked, Christians were a majority in the USA. I haven't noticed that having changed. My Jewish and Muslim and Christian and Wiccan friends are all cool with wishing a person Merry Xmas. Atheist that I am, I happily return whatever greeting I get.

  4. Felicitations of the Vague Early Winter Possibly Religious Festivals to you, as well. I much prefer a pluralistic society that has many traditions as opposed to some sort of monoculture that has only one religio. Most of the people insisting that there is but one holiday to celebrate also prefer to believe the fiction that there is only one religio as well (theirs, of course, and all the rest delusions or illusions). Seems better to stick pins in their bubble by wishing them happy feast days of all sorts of entities when they refuse your more general greetings. I'm sure they would love a Saturnalia getting, or a warning to stay of of the list of Krampus...

  5. I'm late to this party, and just want to say DAMNED WELL SAID!! So, even though it's summer and 6 months early, I'm gonna sign off with

    Happy Holidays!

  6. I absolutely love that you spelled Hanukkah differently every time! Haha! :D

  7. Also late to the party, but yeah. I had to verbally eviscerate my best friend's boyfriend over this. As an agnostic witch who was raised Catholic, "Merry Christmas" often slips out, but I prefer "Happy Holidays". It is a nice catch all, and I can't help but notice that the only time "PC" is invoked is by someone who's privilege is being challenged. So I'll be as politically correct as I damn well please. I hope the people under 3) felt absolutely ashamed of themselves and examined their privilege a bit.

  8. Oy, yes, Christmas is annoying to those who don't celebrate it. That's mostly because of the songs I can't relate to (that play FREAKING EVERYWHERE!) and the stupid red-dressed, home-invading, fat man with a beard who I have no fond memories of believing in.

    It seems my family has been on this continent for a briefer time than yours, Erika. All sides of my family are Ashkenazi Jewish and my grandparents were all either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants, just for the record. Anyway, as I kid I was kind if a dick around December. When people would wish me a Merry Christmas I would pout and say, "Don't you know I'm Jewish? Gosh, stop assuming things!" I have since come to realize that The Jesus Holiday makes people happy so why the fuck not just smile back and say, "I hope YOU have a very Merry Christmas!" rather than correcting them.

    I do not, however, initiate a Merry-Christmas-ing because I know if I tell them Merry Christmas they will assume I celebrate it and wish me a merry Christmas and what if they don't celebrates Christmas either and... and I don't want to open that can of unspecified invertebrates. So I do often say Happy Holidays and I also run into the problem you have. Frequently. Oy.

    Why must people think I'm trying to kill their holiday? I'm just trying to avoid situations in which I feel awkward and guilty about not being able to share in their Jesus-specific joy. I don't want to have the urge to correct them for an honest mistake so I use a generic greeting. Maybe we should all just say "Happy Winter" and be done with it. It is my favorite season after all.