I woke up this morning thinking about some friends I haven’t had contact with in a while, and decided to Do Something about that. It being mid-December, my thoughts turned toward an electronic version of a Christmas Card.
Now, I am blessed with friends of many shapes, sizes, colors, and cultural backgrounds. I know there’s some Jews, a couple of Pagans, three First People (each from a different tribe), and at least two atheists. Some of them might be Christians, some might observe Christmas as a secular holiday, and some of them might, in fact, be really tired of having people around them assuming that everybody makes such a big deal about the birth of a Middle Eastern carpenter’s son two thousand years ago.
I appreciate and respect that. So do a lot of people, which is why so many corporations now send out “Season’s Greetings” or some neutral equivalent. Corporations are made up of human beings, and somebody in charge of such things wants to show that they do respect that different individuals may or may not consider Christmas to be A Thing.
However, for me to say “Hello. It’s Winter,” (a ‘greeting’ of this ‘season’) to my friends falls short of the mark. Yes, I want to take this opportunity to re-affirm our friendship, but I also want to give you a gift; I want you to know that I am hoping you will, for at least the next few weeks, have some joy and happiness in your life.
So. “Merry Christmas*” I considered “Merry Christmas†” because the typographic symbol known as the “dagger” is, like the asterisk, used to indicate a footnote; to indicate that there’s some further information available, and I definitely want recipients to be aware of the extra information I’m connecting to that phrase. It’s called a dagger, but it distinctly resembles a crucifix, a specific kind of cross that is an important symbol of Christianity, and thus personally relevant to me and to my relationship to this time of year. On the other hand, it really is more appropriate to Easter than Christmas. The (I think) most significant Christian symbol for this specific holiday is the star, which leads me quite neatly back to the asterisk as the Proper Symbol to tack on the end of my holiday message.
In the Christian tradition, that star was a beacon, a lighthouse, a guide for all kinds of people, from humble shepherds to kings. It was a sign that the entire world had received a gift. In the same way, I invite you to see my little * as the sign of a gift from me to you, a gift that however you might spend the next few weeks, or month, or year, whatever celebrations or ceremonies or rituals are meaningful to you, that you will share some of the joy and happiness that I receive at this time of year.