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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Gray Matters:Holiday no-spin zone

Monday, December 29, 2008

I am beginning to realize that most of us are guilty of putting our own spin on the words we use every day. It recently struck me that the agitation over the use of the term Happy Holidays by some Christians is really about the spin they are putting on those words.

In their eyes, this generic greeting is being used to insure the inclusion of all other religious celebrations and by doing this, people are demeaning the celebration of Jesus' birth. That may be true in some cases, but I have an entirely different way of looking at it. In my younger years we used Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays interchangeably. In a similar vein, I don't object to the use of Xmas which, in many folks' view, is quite offensive. So here's my spin on all of this.

Instead of wishing someone Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, we often used to cover both with Happy Holidays. It had nothing to do with marking observances of other faiths which most of us didn't even know existed. It was just an all-inclusive way of expressing our wish that the blessings of Christ's birth would continue on throughout the entire coming year. It was as simple as that.

The objection to Xmas goes a bit deeper. It actually indicates a lack of knowledge on the part of the objector. This usage goes back to the time when the earliest Christian churches were being established in Europe.

The Greek word for Christ is Xristos. Before long, those worshippers began using the X (Greek Chi) as a sort of short-hand for the Savior's name. Unaware of that fact, many believers have misinterpreted it as a term of disrespect. I don't use it often because of that misunderstanding, but, knowing its real origins, I am certainly not offended by it.

It took a bit of on-line research to confirm the facts about holly and mistletoe. I knew those plants were revered and used in worship by the ancient Druids. It's that spin that leaves some Christian believers a bit wary of their use. In my search I discovered what had actually taken place. During pagan Roman times, when Christianity was first being introduced to those world conquerors, believers were forced to worship in secret to avoid persecution.

The holly and mistletoe, with all of their pagan connotations, had been brought back from far-off Britain and had become very popular in Rome. Cleverly, the Christians began decorating the entrances to their homes, which of course were also their places of worship, with quantities of holly and mistletoe to mislead anyone who might be getting suspicions.

In time, their brilliant true greens came to symbolize eternity; the white of the mistletoe berries was construed to represent healing and purity, and the red of the splendid holly berries stood for the blood of Christ which was shed for our salvation. I love the way those pagan symbols evolved and became incorporated into our Christian observances.

Remembering that we all have a way of putting our own spin on things, I will close with my no-spin wishes for a Merry Christmas, a Blessed Xmas and the Happiest of Holidays for every one of you!