Recently I was interviewed for Newsday's "Asking the Clergy" column. The question was "Is it a holiday concert or a Christmas concert? Does the name matter?" The column appeared on Saturday, December 3rd. What follows is my response.
I understand the conflict and appreciate both perspectives. On the one hand, one of the things that make this country great is the inclusiveness. Call it a holiday concert is the most inclusive. That is really wonderful, and I really enjoy that. On the other hand, when we're too generic, we miss out on the strength of each individual religion.
I think that when we say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Happy Hanukkah" or "Merry Christmas," we are missing out on the strength of that greeting. It is kind of funny, but I can be walking down the street wearing a yarmulke and someone will still say, "Merry Christmas" or the generic "Happy Holiday." I don't get offended. It is just odd. If I see someone wearing a cross, I say, "Merry Christmas," not "Happy Holiday."
When it comes to the name of a concert, if it is for a large group and you have many different faiths, and maybe you're at a school and you don't want to offend, then holiday concert is appropriate. But it would be silly for a church or a synagogue to have a holiday concert.
I think it is nice at a public school to be exposed to people of different faiths. I would hear Handel's "Messiah" every year during the concert at my daughter's school. I would still go to hear it, even though she has graduated. I enjoy hearing it. Handel's "Messiah" is a beautiful piece. And, I expect it to be called a holiday concert because it is at a school.