It happened, the day before Thanksgiving.
The first of the perennial "merry-Christmas-vs.-happy-holidays" letters to the editor arrived in the inbox.
If you need any more evidence of how the seasons run together, there you have it.
I'm of two minds here. Obviously I welcome and accommodate our readers' comments on all issues, but I have to admit I find this debate a bit overblown.
Personally, I celebrate Christmas with my family, buy a Christmas tree, enjoy Christmas carols, exchange Christmas gifts. As a Christian, I try to make sure to reflect upon what I believe to be the day's spiritual significance. But I also respect the fact that others celebrate the season differently. So I've gotten in the habit of wishing people "happy holidays," especially when I'm not sure of someone's religious orientation. I mean it simply as good tidings, not as a social statement. I've never yet had someone chew me out over it — at least not to my face.
It should be simple, and I wish it were. Sadly, I think this lingering debate persuades no one to change their view, and serves only to divide us. I don't see how that fits in the spirit of the season — however you choose to celebrate it.
In closing, here's the Dec. 3, 2005 editorial we published on this subject. I still think the words ring true — though I'm not sure how many minds they will change:
"In the greater context of things, there are a lot worse things you can say to someone than 'merry Christmas.'
"Or 'happy holidays.'
"It's not just a matter of what we choose to say to each other — although that's where conversations all start. It's also a matter of how we hear these words, how we choose to react. Do we want to hear a friendly greeting at a joyful time of year? Do we want to listen for a slight that we perceive to push a religious belief — or to secularize the season?
"These are loaded questions, to be sure. But doesn't a season of goodwill lend itself not just to charitable giving, but to charitable listening? That's something our world could use more of any time of year.
"Much of our annual angst over holiday greetings is understandable. This is, after all, a time of traditional celebrations that cut across cultures.
"Christmas Day, Dec. 25, celebrates the birth of Jesus, a central event in the Christian faith. Hanukkah — the Jewish festival of lights, beginning this year on Dec. 26 — celebrates the rededication of the temple of Jerusalem after a victory over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 B.C. Kwanzaa, an African-American celebration of family, community and culture from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, was created in 1966 — but it is based on first-harvest celebrations dating back to ancient Egypt.
"To those who devoutly celebrate these dates, the 'happy holidays' greeting can seem inadequate — a pseudo-sentiment that doesn´t connect with a faith. In the effort to not offend, wishing happy holidays can have the effect of offending.
"That can happen. But it need not happen.
"In a smaller community, in another time, perhaps it was easier for us all to connect with each other immediately, and know exactly how to extend good wishes with sensitivity. But perhaps not. The fact is, we don't know a stranger´s religious beliefs on sight — any more than we can divine their politics. What a hollow world it would be if we knew everyone before we even met them. Hence 'happy holidays,' a deliberately generic greeting.
"No, it's not personalized. Nor is it perfect. What greeting is? When 160,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq — and Americans are embroiled in a bitter debate over our mission there — it's not as if the old holiday standby 'peace on Earth' is absent political topspin.
"Ultimately, this comes down to the peril of assumption, that enemy of understanding.
"Don't assume that you know how someone celebrates the season. That's the benefit of wishing a stranger 'happy holidays;' for all its shortcomings, the phrase makes no assumptions of faith.
"Likewise, don´t assume that a simple greeting is a calculated statement on religious values. That's where charitable listening kicks in. A store clerk may simply be trying to be polite by wishing you happy holidays. A co-worker is probably not proselytizing by wishing you a merry Christmas.
"If you must assume anything, assume someone means you well and wishes you no offense. That is probably the safest assumption you can make."