Sunday, November 30, 2014

Can We Quit Losing Our $#!*& Over Holiday Greetings?!

GloriaI'm Christian. So I celebrate Christmas. If you ask me for the definition of Christmas, I will tell you that it's a celebration of the day Jesus Christ was born into this world.1 I will tell you it's an important day for me and other believers, because we believe that Jesus was born into this world as our Lord and Saviour. I believe Jesus is God, born in human form. To a virgin. In a barn. Fully human and fully divine. That's my faith. And so I celebrate Christmas. And therefore often greet others with, "Merry Christmas!"

To be honest, I do wonder a bit at the masses of people who choose to say they celebrate Christmas when they don't believe any part of its definition. I mean, if you don't believe in Jesus, and therefore have no reason to honour his birthday, then why do you say you celebrate Christmas? I do wish people would be accurate in defining the holiday they believe in and celebrate.

But outside of that semantic detail, I actually have no issue with whatever holiday that is.

I'm not offended if you tell me Happy Hannukah.
I'm not offended if you wish me Happy Diwali.
I'm not offended with a Happy Solstice.
Or Happy Kwanzaa.
And I'm not offended if you greet me with Happy Holidays.

Luminaria III A lot of different celebrations happen at this time of year. I don't know the origins of all winter celebrations, but good grief--Jesus' birthday isn't even in December; we just piggy-backed the timing on a pagan solstice holiday that already existed3. So who am I to get all up in your celebrations?!

As near as I can tell, all these winter celebrations are about peace.

All these celebrations embrace light.

All these celebrations encourage giving.

All these celebrations mean joy!

And lastly, all these celebrations come from a practice of love.

So if we4 are getting our tinsel in such a tangle over what celebration others are sharing with us, that we can't see the intention behind their greeting, then we've missed the point entirely. And worse, we become hypocrites of our own faith. It IS possible to have a strong faith--live it, breathe it, maybe even preach it--without passing judgement on the faiths of others.

In the office small-talk, in the checkout line at the supermarket, or in the parking lot at the mall, I can't tell, just by looking, what you celebrate, any more than you can tell what I celebrate. That being said, when you wish me Happy Holidays, know that I'm not one of those people who will then try and correct your greeting by explaining what 'one' faith this time of year is 'really' about. December is not the time for theological debate. From me, your greeting can be guaranteed a response of, "thanks, you too!"

And all I ask is the same in return.

1 As supported by the following: - the festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus. - a Christian holiday that is celebrated on December 25 in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ - A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus. - annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

2 Which, to be fair, means I should really decorate a palm tree each year, because it would be a more accurate reflection of a true "Christmas" tree. Decorating an evergreen is more in line with celebrating the Solstice.

3 Hear that, fellow Christians? Jesus is not the original reason for the season. He's just the reason for ours.

4 Not 'we' as Christians, but 'we' as society--all faiths are guilty of slamming other faiths at this time of year.

SOTC 134/365

A bit of tropical reprieve on a cold winter day in Edmonton.

Lillies Spilling (SOTC 134/365)
Lillies Spilling, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank.

Friday, November 28, 2014


On August 16, a post weaved its way through my Facebook feed on the effects of a social experiment one individual undertook. Essentially, she decided not to 'like' things on Facebook and see what happened.

She noticed two big changes that affected how she used Facebook. #1, she got more relevant ads and recommendations in her feed. #2, she was able to connect with people better because she was actually saying something in the comments instead of simply giving "the wordless nod of support in a loud room."

I was intrigued.

I decided to take the same challenge.

Four months later, I have still not 'liked' a single post.

I have no idea how this has affected Facebook's advertising on my feed, because I downloaded a nifty little app called AdBlock, so I don't see much advertising anymore.

From a social perspective, however, it has noticeably altered my Facebook interactions. As mentioned in the original post, the 'like' has become the equivalent of the head nod of agreement we would give someone if we'd heard the comment or story in person. Because a screen separates us physically in our Facebook interactions, the 'like' lets others know we are paying attention. It also lets us know we are getting attention. It surprises me how, despite being more intentional about how I respond to other's posts, I still crave a high number of 'likes' on my own.

Choosing not to 'like' has forced me to sit back and reflect on what I really want to say to a person. Sometimes, I do have something meaningful to say, and I will post a comment. Other times, mind you, the head nod or smile stops at the screen. Sometimes it's a tricky decision--sometimes my reaction to someone's post really is just an enthusiastic head nod of, "nice!" So, I have to consider, if I've refused to just 'like' the post, is it worth creating a comment for one word? And if I choose not to comment, then how will she know I enjoyed what she shared?

But why do we need to know? I think this is the overarching question. Why do I still need to know how many likes (and sometimes by whom) my posts receive? And how come I need to make my awareness or approval of a post known to the one who posted it?

If I was interacting with someone in person, not responding to something they said or presented would be socially offensive. If we like what others say or do, we tell them, we smile, we nod, we have an interested look in our eyes. If we don't like what they're doing, we make a statement, we frown, we roll our eyes, we raise an eyebrow. We respond somehow.

So is that all that's going on here?

Is my need to know and be known just the tension that comes from living on one side of the screen?

Or is it more than that?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

SOTC 133/365

Notre Dame Basilica, Side Right (133/365)
Notre Dame Basilica, Side Right, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank

SOTC 132/365

A Bright and Yellow (132/365)

A Bright and Yellow, a photo on Flickr by Gina Blank