It’s December 16 and I am sitting in front of my Mac Book, planning on what kind of holiday message I’ll be sending my LinkedIn and Facebook friends and colleagues. Some of these people I’d consider very close friends indeed; I can swear creatively in their presence and they won’t care. They will join in. They will one-up me. Others, I know only through work or school. I might have a cocktail with them, but I would avoid saying anything less than charming. I would be a perfect gentleman. I’ve read about them in books.
OK, so my holiday greeting will be very general and all-encompassing. I will save the draft and send it on December 25. “Happy holidays to you and yours,” I type. “Travel safe and stay warm!”
Just so. I hit the save icon. I tap my fingernails against my desk. I reread, reread some more. It’s not right, I decide. By sending the message on December 25, I am implying that this is a Christmas message, and I don’t want my Jewish friends and colleagues to feel left out. I should send the message now. Then I’ll be covering all the bases.
Wait, when is Hanukkah this year? I look at the calendar. I’ve missed Hanukkah by a mile. Being semi-Jewish (we think) I feel a little guilty.
Right. So I can’t send the holiday message to everyone now that I’ve missed Hanukkah. I rewrite the whole thing: “Happy holidays to all, and I hope you’ve had a wonderful Hanukkah.”
I look at the sentence critically. It implies that everyone who receives the message has already celebrated Hanukkah. I revise: “Happy holidays! And to those of you who’ve celebrated Hanukkah, hope it was a good one!”
Wait, is Hanukkah one of the happy Jewish holidays? Or is it one of the fasting ones? Is it inappropriate to call Hanukkah “good”? I Wikipedia it. It appears I’m in the clear. I heave a heavy sigh of relief. I hit save.
But wait. Are we still acknowledging Kwanzaa? Is that something we still do? I Wikipedia Kwanzaa. I learn some stuff. I wonder if my black friends and colleagues celebrate it. I feel it would be gauche to inquire at such a late date. Maybe I should just throw it in there just to be safe.
New revision: “Happy holidays! To all that apply, sorry I missed Hanukkah but I hope you had a fun festival of lights. For those gearing up for Kwanzaa–”
Okay, now I just sound sarcastic. And if I’m mentioning Hanukkah and Kwanzaa by name, my Keep-Christ-In-Christmas friends and colleagues might get their Good Samaritan panties in a twist if I don’t mention IT by name.
Another revision: “Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Belated Hanukkah to all!”
Well, that just sounds dumb. And it looks like Hanukkah is getting the short end of the stick. Which my people are used to (we think), but it makes it no less rude. Everyone’s going to think this is political correctness gone mad, when really I’m just trying not to leave anybody out! I reread my latest version.
If I wanted to be completely honest, I could just say, “Thanks to your various religions, atheists like me get some awesome deals at the store this time of year. Your people’s struggles were totally worth it. Hooray!”
But that message even leaves out my fellow going-to-hellers. Gah! I erase everything I have so far. I write: “Have a wonderful winter season!” I stare at it. It’s the worse one yet, not only because it makes it sound like I’m obsessed with weather, but because it implies I don’t have the cojones to say “Christmas” or “holidays.” What do Buddhists usually do in this situation? Something universal like “Peace!” maybe. But that sounds even more political! My simple, sweet holiday greeting has become an existential exercise, a minefield fraught with the danger of seeming either crass or mealy-mouthed.
I delete everything. I start over. I write something and I send it. It’s perfect. The sentiment we all agree with.
“Hey guys!” (It says.) “Can’t wait to grab a drink with you in 2011.”
God bless us. Every one.