Christmas greetings a minefield today

Photo by Jim Hendricks

Photo by Jim Hendricks

Thanksgiving is here, which means that for the last couple of weeks there have been a barrage of emails, Facebook postings and other communications focused on one thing:

Merry Christmas.

Oh, I’ve had some about Thanksgiving, too, and its deep meaning and how we really ought to be thankful all year — and I agree wholeheartedly with those wonderful sentiments.

Indeed, having a day set aside to count the blessings we so often overlook and take for granted and for making time to actually be thankful for every precious moment we have with those we love is a fine idea that can’t be improved upon.

It’s unfortunate that Thanksgiving gets squeezed in between Halloween and Christmas, a period that seems to go straight from Jack-o-Lanterns to Santa Claus, with Father Time and his scythe nipping at the jolly ol’ elf’s heels. There’s no rest for the weary once middle to late October rolls around, then some time in January everything comes to a cold hard stop so Americans, wondering where the time went, can collectively catch their breath.

And hold it as long as they can, since that’s when the politicians get back to work, with their primary focus this time being getting re-elected. With all the bovine promises that will be filling the air, it’s not a real good time to inhale if you can avoid it, which you can’t, so the only alternative is to breathe shallow — as shallow as those promises, if at all possible.

But I digress, which is something I seem to be wont to do as middle age takes an increasing firm and annoying grip.

This thing about Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays ... I’ve always had a little bit of trouble wrapping my mind around this particular controversy over proper Christmastime salutations.

I suppose it’s because back when I was a young boy — and routinely started thinking seriously around Labor Day about which particular bike and train set I wanted St. Nick to drop off during his annual nocturnal meandering — I heard, as the countdown to The Big Day progressed, an equally increasing criticism from pulpits in particular and adults in general about how businesses were trying to make a dime at the Baby Jesus’ expense by commercializing Christmas.

The thing about Xmas came up quite a bit then, too, about how folks were trying to “X” Christ out of Christmas. That was a little surprising in that X and XP have been accepted as abbreviations for Christ for centuries. The X and P are based on the Greek letters chi and rho, the first two letters in the Greek spelling of Christ. If there was true intent in the 1960s-70s to cross Christ out of Christmas, its perpetrators certainly failed miserably by any account.

But back, again, to Merry Christmas.

I use that phrase frequently this time of year, along with others. I might follow up a Merry Christmas, for instance, with a Season’s Greetings to the next person, or even a Happy Holiday, which was a wonderful Christmas tune sung by many, but Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme sang it best. Sometimes I will also wish someone a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year, just to change that one up a little.

From what I’ve been reading, however, there is another movement afoot to assign the stench of the Grinch to any individual or merchant who is so crass as to cheerfully greet someone with a “Happy Holiday.” There is an insistence that not only a greeting be offered, but that it come only in the correct form of “Merry Christmas.” Any store, they say, that has signs wishing Happy Holidays and not Merry Christmas should be placed on the shopper’s naughty list.

This has to drive merchants crazy. Before, they were under the gun for commercializing Christmas. Now, they risk coming under fire from largely the same segment for, essentially, not commercializing it enough.

Either way, the driving force behind this attitude seems to me to be at odds with the general disposition of Christmastime, which should be one of celebration and of remembering the baby who would grow up to be crucified. I believe that any expression or gesture of happiness and goodwill at this time of year should be accepted at face value as being heartfelt and sincere.

So, while we’re all still a bit lethargic from the carbohydrates (don’t blame the turkey) and the Mad Rush is a few hours away, it might be good to remember that the reason for the season that will be going full bore tomorrow is giving, not receiving — and certainly not demanding. I suggest taking any gesture of goodwill, however it is expressed to you, in the true spirit of Christmas. Who knows? It might even make you feel ... well ... a little merrier.

Email Jim Hendricks at jim.hendricks@albanyherald.com.