Santa doesn’t shout, ‘Merry holidays!’ |

Santa doesn’t shout, ‘Merry holidays!’

Just like everything else in the universe, our languages, and more specifically, our words, evolve.Take the word “privacy.” Two-hundred years ago it was considered naughty, not like a swear word, but one you would not ordinarily say in public, sort of like the slang we use for flatulence today. Our forefathers used “privacy” in reference to going to the bathroom. Whether they went behind a cherry tree in D.C. or a rock in Plymouth, they wished to do so in private.Of course, today the word means much more. So although it is apparent what James Madison et al meant when drafting the Constitution, they never literally wrote the phrase “right to privacy” because it would have meant the right to use the potty. Same goes for the word “Christmas.”What began in 435 Rome by Pope Sixtus III to divert the masses from annual pagan and Wicca festivals celebrating the winter solstice has evolved over the centuries (but especially the past 100 years or so) into an almost worldwide annual celebration of family and life. But “Christmas” itself is just a word. In most of today’s society, it is no more associated with religion than chocolate rodents are with the crucifixion or Wal-Mart is with good taste. It is everywhere, no matter one’s religious affiliation or lack thereof, and is pretty hard to ignore if you own a television or have access to the Internet or the ability to breathe. We say “Happy Thanksgiving” each November, yet 99.9 percent of us (admittedly, an unscientific conclusion) do so without any internal reflection toward Pilgrims. “Holiday” is a simple evolution of the words “holy day,” yet no one I can find considers Labor Day a day of atonement. Shouting “Merry Christmas!” from a rooftop simply sounds better than “Happy Holidays!” But there is nothing wrong with the latter phrase, either. However, referring to a beautifully decorated spruce as a “holiday tree” sounds just plain silly.Did Holiday Inn used to be called Christmas Inn? I don’t think so.Do atheists get offended when someone says, “Merry Christmas?” I don’t think so.Do Jews? I don’t think so.Do Muslims? I don’t care.Anyway, I don’t recall reading about Santa or the Easter Bunny in the Bible, nor do I remember the part where Jesus said, “Go ye into the great Wal-Mart and put thyself into debt, for ’tis the season for financial sacrifice.” And Hanukkah begins on Christmas day this year. How much you want to bet more than a few Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., will be buying Christmas presents, as well?For some it truly is a holy time of year, which I fully respect. But for many of those it is merely because they go to church once or twice and send a card embossed with a picture of their kids while spending hundreds of dollars on gifts for people that don’t really need them and eating enough food over two weeks to keep a Somalian family alive for two months. But a word means whatever we wish for it to mean, and for me Christmas means a time for children, community, sharing, goodwill, friendship, brotherhood, joy, imagination, peace, hope, kindness, bright lights, brilliant colors, heart-warming music, delectable tastes, and the one time of year when most people are nice to each other, at least for a day or two.It means quite a bit more than a simple holiday, and I see no reason whatsoever to change a word that has become as much a part of the American vernacular as baseball or jazz, and conjures up images of little Santas sliding over hills of fake snow on Norelco razors, followed by ads for Dolly Madison cakes. The “Charlie Brown Christmas Special” is over 40 years old, and remember how the focal point was Chuck’s disillusionment with the “commercialization” of Christmas? Well, Christmas is certainly more commercial now, with retailers removing scary pumpkin masks on the last midnight in October in order to display cheery Santa hats the first morning in November, yet it means just as much to my children as it did to me four decades ago.Traditions evolve and words take on different meanings over time. We should quit debating semantics and the minutia of meanings behind what we all really know is just good ol’ Christmas time, and enjoy being nice to each other for a change.Call it whatever you wish, but I will never call this particular time of year anything except what I have for 46 years. One does not have to believe in magic to enjoy the magic of Christmas.Richard Carnes of Edwards can be reached at poor@vail.netVail, Colorado

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