Friday, December 25, 2009
Have a Witty Holiday!
In New York City, the vast majority of residents are still largely Christian, but the percentage of non-Christian groups is quite significant and in numbers that translate easily to over one million people.
Outside of the city, (in New England, for example, where I am writing this), meet and greets with family and friends at this time of year always include "Merry Christmas" and a handshake. In the city, I try to be much more conscious of the implications of Christmas in my greetings and the possible religious affiliation of those I greet.
The increasingly secular nature of the holiday certainly makes this aspect of Christmas in the city more comfortable - wishing others a Merry Christmas without knowing their religious background is much less likely to offend. I am often inclined to use "Happy Holidays" in my cards enclosing the numerous gratuities I give at this time of year.
The festive nature of the holiday and time off from work is enjoyed by many. Although this may not be embracing the original meaning of Christmas, it is a reality that most practicing Christians accept in a country founded on religious tolerance.
The non-religious emphasis is particularly noticeable in the holiday window displays. The more traditional displays, such as that of Saks, Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, and Macy's, do show gifts and the occasional Christmas tree. Others, such as Bergdorf Goodman, have windows that are devoid of any holiday or even seasonal themes, using the holiday season as time for an extravaganza.
I had been told that Barney's at 660 Madison Avenue had a particularly creative window display. A trip there confirmed that, however, I was surprised to see such a non-Christmasy Saturday Night Live theme, with the greeting "Have a Witty Holiday!" In its heyday, this TV show was legendary and its relationship to New York City known to everyone. The opening of each show, "Live From New York, it's Saturday Night!" made it very clear. The windows were done by Simon Doonan, creative director of window dressing for Barney's since 1986.
As I write this, I look out to a snow covered landscape - the white Christmas that Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin dreamed of. The day ahead will be one of socializing with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and a holiday dinner.
For those of you who celebrate, I wish you a merry Christmas - for everyone else, have a witty holiday :)