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Small Wonders: Can you tolerate a 'Merry Christmas?'

December 16, 2011

Editor's note: While Patrick Caneday takes some time off, we’re running some of his choices for re-publication. This column was first published Dec. 5, 2009.

Let me say something that may deeply offend many of you —something so insidious and filled with controversy it has the power to tear apart a community and collapse our economy.

Merry Christmas.

That's right. I bid you good tidings of joy in this, the season we celebrate the birth of the newborn king Jesus Christ.

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If you're still reading, take a shot back. I dare you. Give me your best “Happy Hanukkah,” your most heartfelt “Happy Kwanzaa.” Maybe you don't buy any of it, or you buy all of it, and the best you can do is wish me an all-inclusive “Happy Holidays.” Bring it.

The world could use all such wishes of good cheer. I'm not offended when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays. I don't recall ever being wished a Happy Kwanzaa, but the season's young, and it's on my Christmas list.

But my wish to you will always be that you have the Merriest Christmas possible.

There can be no argument that the two primary “holidays” in “Happy Holidays” are Hanukkah and Christmas. The Jewish tradition of Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem in 165 BC; Christmas, or “Christ's Mass,” was a feast day in the Christian tradition celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. In more modern times, it's become the season in which we go broke spoiling our children with new trinkets while feeling pangs of guilt for not getting Joe anything after he gave us a singing mounted fish in the company white elephant gift exchange.

I don't happen to be Jewish, so I celebrate Christmas. Not “Holiday.”

Scholars and laymen alike will argue the actual date of Christmas, quibble about the similar traditions predating Christianity, or point out the simultaneous celebrations of the winter solstice or an ancient Roman holiday. All good points. And all distraction. For most people, the cornerstone of the holiday season is Christmas, in whatever manner they choose to celebrate.

Don't just take my word for it. Trust my insurance agent. Each year he sends me a new calendar. And each year I check to see whether it says “holiday” or “Christmas” on Dec. 25. Guess what it says this year?

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