Why I Say “Happy Holidays”

Weihnachtsbaum Römerberg

I’ve always been one who has scratched his beard over the whole “War on Christmas.” Aside from the occasional, rare, and laughable “Really, now?” moments that crop up in the press (like the whole “How the Grinch Stole the Holiday” debacle), Christmas is vibrantly alive and well in the United States. One only needs to walk down a main street to see the festive decorations and lights adorning nearly every storefront and front yard.

Regardless, sometimes when I discuss how I wish people “Happy Holidays” some people get indignant. “What other holidays are there other than Christmas? Especially this year when Chanukah is over and done with!”

As a Christian, when I say Happy Holidays, I am acknowledging my own Christian tradition.

Christmas is but one holiday on the Christian calendar that falls around this time of year, so allow me to show you precisely what I mean. When I say Happy Holidays I am personally referring to:

  • Advent – A holy seasons of 4 weeks leading up to Yuletide, where the following holidays fall:
    • Dec 4th: The Feast of St. John of Damascus: An amazingly educated man and defender of religious art.
    • Dec 5th: The Feast of St. Clement of Alexandria: An early Christian philosopher who focused upon equality among other things.
    • Dec 6th: The Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra <—- This is Santa Claus’ feast day. Has to get his energy up before Christmas, I suppose. 🙂
    • Dec 7th: The Feast of St. Ambrose of Milan: Patron saint of bees, beekeepers, wax, and candles. A neglected saint nowadays in the era of electric light.
    • Dec 24th: Christmas Eve (you probably are familiar with this one). Major holiday.
  • Christmastide or Yuletide – Christmas actually lasts 12 days. Not one day.
    • Dec 25th: Christmas Day! The celebration of Jesus’ birth. Christmas carols begin. Major holiday.
    • Dec 26th: The Feast of St. Stephen. You’ve probably read about him in Acts.
    • Dec 27th: The Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. (Not St. John the Baptist, that’s in June.)
    • Dec 28th: The Feast of the Holy Innocents. The day we remember the slaughter of the children at Herod’s command and celebrate young children in general. With a new baby this year, this feast is particularly important to me.
    • Dec 30th: The Feast of Francis Joseph Gaudet, Educator and Prison Reformer. He’s a more recent saint and a bit obscure despite it.
    • Jan 1st: The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Commemorates the circumcision of Jesus and his naming, eight days after Christmas Day.
  • Epiphanytide – A season that lasts 8 weeks which starts off with:
    • Jan 6th: Epiphany –  The day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus. Major holiday.

So when I say “Happy Holidays” this time of year, as a Christian I am referring to three seasons and over 10 holidays, at least 3 of which are fairly major on the Christian calendar. Christmas is but one of them, and the shortest season of the three. 🙂

Also not in that list are civil holidays like New Year’s Day (which lands on the same day of the Feast of the Holy Name) and Boxing Day (mainly for my friends in the Commonwealth, piggybacking on The Feast of St. Stephen). So there are a few more.

If you want to talk about a more true-to-form “War on Christmas” I personally find it irksome that Christmas music — rather than Advent carols — are played all throughout Advent, and after Christmas Day they simply vanish, as if the other 11 days don’t exist. Episcopalians tend to celebrate all 12 days with fervor, sometimes to the point of odd stares. However, I’ve found that odd stares are best dealt with by means of education. Simply start singing a few lines of “The 12 Days of Christmas” and they’ll say, “Well, I’ve just had an epiphany! That’s what that song is about!”

But then then I tell them that they’re jumping the gun: Epiphany’s the next season. 😉


(PS. It also doesn’t hurt that at around this time of year there are other holidays celebrated by other religions. Just sayin’. 😉 )

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