What about solstice stamps?

I started this post basically as a shout-out to the post office for doing a pretty good job of covering the range of holiday stamp needs. If you want to honor a major religious or ethnic northern-hemisphere-winter celebration with your stamp choice, the U.S. post office has you pretty well covered.

Jews and African-Americans will find Hanukkah and Kwanzaa stamps.

Christians who want to focus on the religious aspects of the holiday have two choices—manger scene with star, or the slightly more subtle lamb. (Is it the Lamb of God? Is it a reference to flocks watched over by shepherds at night? It’s a stretch, but you could even choose to pretend it’s a secular reference to wool production and the making of cozy sweaters—an option I mention because it’s a real possibility in this household.)

If your winter-holiday celebration has its roots in the Christian tradition, but is a bit less religious-focused, you have several choices. There’s a kid in a snow-suit making a snow-angel, a one-horse-open-sleigh reference, a Santa Claus, and some holiday decorations with Christmas cookies.

There’s even a stamp for Diwali (and the post office always has a stamp for Eid, although I guess this year, since Ramadan was back in the summer, they didn’t see fit to include it with the winter holiday stamps).

But just as I was getting ready to sing the praises of the U.S. Post Office for hitting just about every note, I realized that they’d left me out. There’s no stamp for me to put on my solstice cards. Those bastards!

I shall have to write a strong letter of protest.

A grumble on conditional holiday wishes

I’ve hesitated to write this post, because I don’t want to sound like a right-wing nutjob ranting about the war on Christmas, and because I recognize that I’m speaking with the privilege of someone who belongs, more or less, to the dominant culture.

Even so, here it is: I find it weird and off-putting for someone to go through gyrations to avoid wishing people a holiday that they may not celebrate. Most particularly, I dislike making good wishes conditional.

As I say, I understand the privilege of being able to accept a Happy Chanukah, Eid Mubarak, or Happy Cow Pongal without there being any implication as to my own position within either that or the dominant culture, and I understand that the converse would not be the case. And I’m totally not with the war-on-Christmas folks: I’m perfectly sanguine with generic holiday greetings like “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

It’s the conditional holiday wishes that bug me. Give me a sincere “Happy Diwali” and I’ve got no problem. But it would strike me as odd—even a little disturbing—if someone wished me a “Happy festival of lights, if you celebrate one at this time of year!”

A month ago, the anchor on BBC News America was signing off on Thanksgiving day and went through some such circumlocutions to wish everyone who celebrated it a Happy Thanksgiving. Is that is really necessary? What could possibly be the harm in wishing someone from Europe or Asia or South America (or Canada, for whom it would be a month late) a “Happy Thanksgiving” even if they don’t celebrate it?

Now, I certainly don’t want to suggest that members of the non-dominant culture should be obliged to keep track of the dominant culture’s holidays and cough up the appropriate greetings: Quite the reverse.

I’m glad to be given holiday best wishes for whatever holidays you celebrate, and, as I say, I’m perfectly happy with generic holiday best wishes. If you happen to know that it’s some local holiday, and feel moved to do so, you can wish me a good one of those holidays too, but don’t feel obliged on my account. (And if you want to snub one of my holidays, for whatever reason, that’s fine too. I probably won’t even notice. That’s what the privilege of belonging to the dominant culture is.)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!