In just a few hours it’ll be December first, at least here where I live. So far this holiday season has been pretty good for me, except for that night where I slipped at the top of my staircase and fell down seven steps, sending my Bible, a book, several highlighters, an ice cold bottle of water, three bottles of medication, and a wad of dirty clothes flying everywhere. The four letter words that issued forth from my mouth woke everyone in the house for sure, and probably everyone in a 2 mile radius.
Other than that, it’s been pretty good. I survived the Black Friday weekend at work with only the slightest discomfort, and my boss found some vacation time that I didn’t know I had coming, so I got this week off. Bueno. I’ve even gotten most of my shopping done ALREADY! WHAT?!
Ah, but next week I might end up looking like the little kid in the picture above. Yes, that happens, and knowing that this might happen, I’ve decided to put out a little Public Service Announcement for you Christmasing perusal.
You see, for most of my life I’ve worked in two institutions: retail and the Church. Both of these tend to occupy a lot of your time during December. I’ve been participating in or planning Christmas Worship services for 25 years. This coming year will also mark my 21st Christmas in retail. Wow.
So you might say I’m kind of a veteran at this Christmas thing. I’ve seen it all. One year a customer didn’t like the answer one of my coworkers gave him so he threw a toaster display at her and hit her in the face. Twice I’ve seen parents leave the store with kids that didn’t even belong to them, and not notice until they got home. I’m hard to phase. For me, most of the stuff that goes on this time of year is like water off a duck’s back.
But a couple of years ago, something different happened, something that really sucked. I was ringing up a purchase for a lady at the cash register. She was really nice, and at the end of the transaction I smiled and said “Merry Christmas to you.” Now I was pretty sure I was on safe ground. The lady was buying an ornament that said “Merry Christmas” on it, and she was wearing a cross necklace. She thanked me, smiled, and said “Merry Christmas” back. All was right with the world, as Ralphie said after he got his Red Ryder BB Gun.
Oh, not so fast my friend.
The next lady in line came to my register wearing a horrid scowl and dropped her things on the counter. She then proceeded to tell me how offended she was that I said “Merry Christmas” to AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT CUSTOMER.
Was I not aware that not everyone believed in Jesus? Yes I was.
Did I not understand the origins of pagan celebrations of Winter Solstice? Yes I did.
Was I aware that virgins don’t have children? Yes, m’am.
Did I know that the details in the two stories of Jesus’ birth don’t match up? Yup, sure did.
Was I familiar with the god Mithras? Yes, actually I was. I have an actual college education. Two degrees, actually.
Did I know that my store couldn’t just cater to Christians? Why yes, I did.
Did she care that my line was getting longer? No way.
Did she hear the people in line grumbling behind her? If she did, she didn’t care. Her most important thing in that moment was to let me know that she was offended, darn it!
To quote Charlie Brown: “Good grief!”
These kind of people are why Christian Fundamentalists trot out their “War On Christmas” garbage every year. There’s not really a war on Christmas. Trust me, I’ve interacted with THOUSANDS of Christmas shoppers over the years and the only one that has cared in the slightest was that one lady. Most folks just want to get their stuff and get home.
But alas, don’t think I’m just calling out anti-religious people here. Fellow Christians, we have as much to do with this as they do. Though I’ve never encountered it at work, I’ve seen it a few times when I’m out shopping. You know who I’m talking about, the people that complain when a cashier DOESN’T say “Merry Christmas” or when the company’s marketing includes “Happy Holidays” or god forbid “XMAS.” Yes folks, if that is you, you are just as bad as the lady in my checkout line.
By the way, if you get upset about XMAS or like using it to troll people, I have some news. “X” is what they call a christogram. It is symbol for “Christ.” In Greek Christ is ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, so the Greek letter chi (χ) is often symbolic of Christ.
Look, let me put it to you straight. I don’t care if you’re religious or not. It’s not my concern if you’re a Christian or not. This blog has been going for two plus years, and if you’ve read any of it, you know that I’m not at all about forcing Jesus down anybody’s throat.
Let’s put it this way: If you’re one of those people that gets offended because somebody does, or doesn’t, say “Merry Christmas” to you, you’re not winning any battles or making any kind of points for your side. You’re just being a jerk, and I don’t care what you believe or don’t believe, the Holiday season should not be about being a jerk to anybody, period.
It’s especially not about being a jerk to store clerks or restaurant wait staff, many of whom are spending long hours away from their friends, family, and their own Holiday observances so you can get that last minute gift or have that party in a restaurant. Also, most of them are just saying what their company tells them to say, so it’s not even their choice quite often.
Just don’t be a jerk. It really shouldn’t be that hard. What if everybody tried to make just one other person smile when you’re out shopping instead of getting bent about a greeting?
So as we head into December:
Have a cool yule!
I hope that covers all the bases!