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Sunday, December 19, 2010

the language of the Christmas season

Christians usually get upset this time of year not only by the commercialization of a spiritual season, but by the language that removes what spirituality is left almost completely.

However, there really is no need to get worked up.

If people say "happy holidays" you can say "Merry Christmas" (which = Merry Christ Mass, from the days when every Christian went to Mass on the 25th). I do it lots. No one minds. In fact, many times they'll feel free, at that point, to say "Merry Christmas" to me in return (which they often do) because now they know I won't be offended if they use the expression.

But then there is this term "holidays" which seems to be at the center of the controversy. Christians gnash their teeth and put on sackcloth and ashes when they hear the politically correct "happy holidays!" used over and over again.

Again, there is no need to be upset.

This term doesn't rob spirituality from the season. It actually heightens it.

How so?

Because it was, to begin with, a spiritual greeting. It comes from a time in Europe, 500-1000 years ago, when you got days off because of religious festivals and feast days. In that era, the term was "happy holy days." Over a long period of time, the expression was conflated into "happy holydays" and eventually the "y" was dropped for an "i". It still meant "happy holy days" but as Christian Europe became more secular it no longer meant time off for religious festivals. It meant anytime you got a break from work for an extended period of time: your annual vacation, summer away from school, time off at Christmas and Easter (not because you necessarily believed in Christmas and Easter in a spiritual way, but because the days off at those times of year were kept even though the Christian significance of those once-upon-a-time religious festivals was lost or deliberately discarded).

So if someone says to me "happy holidays" they are unknowingly saying "happy holydays" or "holy days." If you respond with the same phrase, albeit with a different pronunciation, "holy" instead of "holi", and they're listening, they'll notice the difference. If they ask, you can tell them, "Hey, I'm just bringing out the full meaning of what you said: holidays means, at its root, holydays. So, yeah, Merry Christ Mass and happy holy days to you too, thanks."

The "reason for the season" is still being expressed by all the politically correct people, and even those who don't believe in anything to do with Christmas, every time they say "happy holidays". They just don't know it.

Until they read this blog . . . or you unpack the meaning of the expression for them.

Happy holydays to you this week - and God bless forever and ever, amen.

How great a fall that merited so great a redemption and so great a Redeemer.

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