It’s the time of year for traditional Christmas messages on the opinion pages of The Signal.
But things have changed here in the Santa Clarita Valley. We’ve become a diverse community, full of Christians, Muslims, Hindu, Jews, folks of many other faiths, and a good chunk of atheists, too. Many of our Christians are deep into Christianity, while some are Christmas/Easter/funeral Christians, and others are Christian by birth and are otherwise non-believers.
Back when I was a kid in elementary school, we still did the annual Christmas play. Just like in the Peanuts Christmas movie… with shepherds and mangers and three wise men and all the rest. Fifty-five-years-plus later, I don’t think California public schools still pull that off — as so many of our students nowadays come from different faiths and backgrounds and being a nation with separation of church and state, religious plays in public schools during official school time doesn’t seem to fit anymore.
This may sound like a buzzkill for Christmas, but wait…
We are diverse in our faiths and in degrees of devotion to our faiths, that is, if we hold any religious faith at all. None of this makes any of us bad and may none of it put any of us at odds with one another. Our trick is in threading the holiday needle to sew us all together on what we’ve nowadays allowed to be both a very secular, and religious, holiday time.
None of us chose our faiths when we were born. We didn’t have a choice. Over course of time, some fall in or out of faith and some do switcheroos. But most stick with our birth faiths and run with it.
So here we all are. One big polyglot of Americans, with various cultures, traditions and faiths – often simply by assignment at birth.
And being Americans, it’s our job to all get along. E pluribus unum. To push our common cause of progress and well-being for all, ahead. To, as our Mormon friends sing, “Put our shoulder to the wheel, push along,” to improve our neighborhoods, communities, country and everyone in it.
And, over decades, as we’ve pushed ahead together, we’ve also created a uniquely American holiday time. A time where most faiths have special purpose and meaning but maybe with different names and timing. Most all know and live this time of year as a special time of thoughtfulness, appreciation, gratitude, joy, service to others — and a time of giving a ton of materialistic stuff to those we love. And this, usually regardless of our faith or lack of it.
Some have decried our acceptance of holiday diversity as a “War on Christmas.” There never was a Christmas war and still isn’t. Time has passed, people change, and our preferences for holiday celebrations have naturally changed of our own common will.
Any talk of “War on Christmas” was and still is, a crude political hot poker to gin up viewership and political contributions. Unfortunately, a bad repercussion of ginning up holiday angst is to also gin up animosity toward those unlike us.
But our secular holiday time, in addition to being a faith-filled Christmas for many, isn’t a time for division. It’s the very best time for unity and celebration of the good we enjoy, common hope for our future, recommitment to do good for all, and for many, also a reinvigorated connection to their God.
Our holiday season is a lot of things and all of them should promote our best intentions, behaviors and relations with one another.
The Bible is deep in readings pertaining to what we call Christmas today. Many, as have I, have fallen asleep at midnight services reciting the verses. There’s no space for such verbosity on the left column of this page. Fortunately, we have a shortcut to the most direct seasonal exhortations, courtesy of our modern-culture cinema friends, Bill and Ted, from their adventures together:
“Be Excellent to Each Other.”
Just really be good to everyone. How straightforward: Be excellent now during the holidays, and always. Just be excellent to folks, always.
And during our holiday season, Bill and Ted’s other famous exhortation is especially timely:
“Party on, Dudes!”
Merry Christmas to all! May we all enjoy wonderful, meaningful celebrations and parties and fun from this special time of year!
And may our hearts be lit anew to, indeed, be kind and excellent to one another this holiday season and beyond.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.