I've been interested to see what goes on in LiveJournal Land around [insert winter holiday of choice here]. Here are some thoughts I have on the subject...
"If you want a card, send me your address."
I haven't sent anyone my address, for the simple reason that I prefer electronic communication anyway. Getting cards is nice, but it's also a nuisance because it creates in me a feeling of obligation, also known as the "Gee, I Didn't Get You Anything" syndrome, which I'd rather not have to deal with. So please don't feel slighted if you wanted me to provide you with an address and I didn't. If you're a good enough friend that I'd want to receive a paper card from you, then I'll be just as tickled to get an e-mail or chat message on Dec. 25th.
I don't have a lot of sympathy for people who hate the holidays, and part of that is because I was one once, myself, and remember the effect it had on people around me. The phrase "harshing everyone's mellow" comes to mind. Don't be a stick in the mud.
"Good Gawd I have so much to DO!"
If you hate the holidays, this may be a reason right here: you're overdoing it! Just because the lemmings of advertisingland go nuts about Christmas starting in early September, doesn't mean that you have to. What you should do for the holidays consists exactly and entirely of what will be fun for you and no more. If your idea of the perfect Christmas is a mug of cocoa with a friend but no tree, go for it and don't let anyone make you feel bad for it!
Giving a ton of lavish presents to everyone and their brother, baking cookies for school, work, the neighbors, and your dentist, and spending four weeks going all MarthaStewart on your house, is putting more importance on your own ego than on what the silly holiday is supposed to be about in the first place. If you're in doubt about whether you should do any given activity, the answer is "no." This includes office parties!
Ecumenical Concerns -- Whose Holiday Is It, Anyway?
Strictly speaking, Christmas is not really that important a holiday, from a Christian P.O.V.; as a matter of fact, Easter is the important one that should (theoretically) be getting all the attention. So why is Christmas the focus of so much attention? Well, basically two reasons:
1) To convert the west European pagans, and
Christmas as we celebrate it is basically the old pagan solstice holiday with the serial numbers filed off and a bunch of quasiChristian mumbo-jumbo superimposed on it in order to co-opt the holiday and make conversions easier. St. Nicholas, patron of pawnbrokers (!), morphed into Santa Claus, and what was once a tradition of family members exchanging small presents has turned into 40% of the annual economy. Go fig!
If you find yourself stressing over the season, strongarmed into the office "Secret Santa" and trying to remember every last cousin, niece, and nephew you owe a card and a check, keep it in perspective: the grand tradition of sleighbells in the snow etc. that you're trying so valiantly to carry on, is largely fictional. Think of the liberating power that has! Keep your holiday small and manageable, and it's amazing how much more fun it suddenly becomes. Just like the rest of life. :)
The Separation of Sense and State
I celebrate Christmas for cultural reasons -- i.e., I was raised by what you might call a lapsed Catholic (mother) and a lapsed Baptist (father), neither of whom are particularly religious people. We put up a Christmas tree because it was the thing to do; ditto giving presents.
So now, on December 25th, I wish people Merry Christmas, even if I am a semi-neo-pagan-quasi-taoist agnostic with tendencies towards pantheism. I don't go around making a point of telling my Jewish friends Happy Hanukah (sp?), and I wouldn't even begin to know what tell my co-worker from India (who I gather is some variety of Buddhist). At the same time, I have no objection if they extend their own non-Christmas holiday greetings to me. On the contrary, I think it's very cool and thank them for it! Given the fact that it's a fake holiday anyway (see above), the genericising of Christmas into "season's greetings" strikes me as extraordinarily goofy.
I know why government institutions do it -- it's a misunderstanding of the First Amendment's clause about not establishing a state religion. That doesn't mean that nobody in the government is supposed to have or observe one, it just means that you can't label one as "official" and outlaw the rest. (It's particularly stupid to see schools and the like banning Christian stuff explicitly in one breath, and encouraging all the rest in the next. Judiasm and Islam are religions too, ya idjits. You're doing exactly what the No. 1 A. is supposed to prevent.) But there's no call for private companies to be engaging in the same muddleheaded goofiness. Filing the serial numbers off of Christmas and having "winter holiday" parties where you give out "winter holiday" bonuses doesn't fool anyone. You mean Christmas, just say Christmas, for crying out loud.
That's my $0.02, anyhow. :) Merry merry!