Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Battle of the Greetings

I stopped by the store to do some Christmas shopping — or was I just picking up kitty litter? — when I witnessed the face-off. It was like watching the climax of a good old clichéd western.

At the front entrance a cute young woman with a big smile was herding a handful of elementary school-aged kids. She had a little name tag that identified her as a local public school teacher. (I hesitate to mention this because the following will reinforce some stereotypes, but what the heck.) They were gathered about the ubiquitous Salvation Army kettle.

The young teacher greeted shoppers with a bright, "Happy Holidays!"

A middle-aged woman leaving the store responded with a bright smile of her own and a firm, "Merry Christmas!" and pushed a dollar bill into the little X-shaped slot in the top of the kettle.

"Thank yoooouuuu!" several children said in unison.

"Happy Holidays!!" said their teacher, a little more brightly and emphatically.

A dark look flickered ever so briefly over the face of the other woman, but she found her smile again and, as she left the store, she said cheerfully and with just a tinge of edge in her voice, "Merry Christmas!!"

I must say (as a practicing Christian type person) I find the Battle of the Greetings trivial and a bit perplexing. Whoever first raised the issue of "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" clearly was searching for a way to polarize people during what is otherwise a time of peace and good will towards each other.

After all, the purpose of both expressions is to wish the other person happiness and even merriment. That's a good thing, right?

This season and throughout the year, I thank you for reading this and wish you all the happiness and joy you can muster this Christmas (or whatever holiday you observe) season.

And to all a good night.

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