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SANTA FE — Merry Christmas. I hope saying that doesn’t ruin somebody’s day. I realize not all of you are Christians but ours is a diverse society. We should all be willing to appreciate each other’s traditions.
A Jewish congregation down the street places a large menorah on its fence, this time of year, which I always appreciate. Apparently the rest of the neighbors do too because it goes back up every year.
We have a sparkly crescent and star hanging prominently in our house. And we aren’t bothered that to nearly all the world, it is thought of as a symbol of Islam.
To us, it is a reminder of a magical evening, sitting atop the Hotel Conrad on the Asian side of Istanbul, looking across the Bosporus at the European continent and seeing a crescent moon and star above us in almost the exact position as on the Turkish flag.
Actually the crescent and star are not a Muslim symbol. If they were, they couldn’t be on the Turkish flag. The crescent and star were a Turkish symbol long before Islam came into existence.
The Turks quickly became the great power of the Muslim world. When their legions conquered southern Europe, the sight of the Turkish flag they carried caused people to associate the crescent and star with Islam. Eventually Muslims began to make the same association.
But it’s no big deal to us. We have Santos and Bultos all over our house but we’re not Catholic. We have them because we like them. We also have a large cross collection and over 300 nativities for which we had to buy a storage shed to keep them between Christmas seasons.
The point is that people get too serious about words and symbols. As Mike Huckabee said in explaining Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs, it is an individual’s relationship with God, not his church or religion, that defines what kind of person he is. Words and symbols shouldn’t mean that much.
And if they do, don’t sweat it. There’s no law against public display of Christmas, even for government entities. Most choose not to do it for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, but the Supreme Court never has agreed to hear the issue.
Government bodies seem to be moving toward the unwritten “one reindeer rule” by putting something secular in their Christmas display. If I were to move to a country where the predominant culture was other than Christian, I would not expect to see that culture adapt to me.
Some businesses like to play it safe and not lose any customers by mentioning Christmas. But many stores have discovered they can lose more customers by being politically correct.
The Christmas season is a great time to give thanks for the birth of our savior and to focus on peace and good will. But Dec. 25 isn’t that sacred. We should give thanks year round.
It appears very likely that Christ was not born on Dec. 25 because shepherds would not have been in the fields tending their flocks in the middle of winter.
December was a common time for most cultures and religions to celebrate because they didn’t have to be tending their fields at that time. So it was a good time for Christians to have their big celebration.
Nothing says birthdays have to be celebrated on the anniversary of one’s birth. I know people born on Dec. 25, who celebrate their birthday in July.
And by the way, the use of Xmas isn’t too un-Christian. In Greek, the language of many early Christian writings, X (Chi) was the first letter of Christ.
So don’t feel intimidated about celebrating Christmas in exactly the way you want. You get to make the rules by which you live.
And don’t let the blustering Bill O’Reillys of the world get you too worked up either. No one has declared war on Christmas and no one has won it for us. MERRY CHRISTMAS.
E-mail Jay Miller at