I grew up in a conservative, Christian state where most people say Merry Christmas. And that’s fine.
I usually say Happy Holidays. I never take offense to a greeting of the season, regardless of how it’s spoken. But something warm and precious emerges when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah.
Let me paint a picture for a moment:
When you grow up as a religious minority, you’re used to society overlooking your holiday. It’s nothing that bothers or insults you. Therefore, you never think twice when someone gives you a Christmas card, or a Santa hat, or an ornament. You appreciate it.
Yet, I’ve never forgotten the boss who bought me a Hanukkah card my first year on the job—accompanied by a bottle of wine—or the friend who texts me the first night of Hanukkah every year. Precisely because I don’t expect it, when someone wishes me Happy Hanukkah, they enter a special place in my heart and mind.
For me, those two simple words permeate deeper than the typical holiday greeting.
They say, “I see you. I recognize you. I understand this is your holiday, and I want to acknowledge that.” They say, “I accept you. I welcome you. And I hope you have a lovely Festival of Lights.”
I make it my mission to wish people whatever holiday they celebrate. For most of my friends or colleagues, I say Merry Christmas. I’ve wished a Happy Kwanza. And I say Happy Holidays when I don’t know someone’s religion.
Rarely, however, do I receive a Happy Hanukkah. When I do, it makes my heart dance. I rejoice in sharing the miracle and delight of my holiday with others, just as so many spread Christmas cheer wherever they go.
I know people do not say Happy Hanukkah for a variety of reasons: they’re shy, or they’re unsure of the correct greeting, or they think I also celebrate Christmas. Some people just don’t know. That’s okay.
But for the occasional person who acknowledges my holiday directly, thank you for making my smile glow just a little brighter.