A Love of Hot Chocolate

No matter where we come from, Americans have a love of hot chocolate. Particularly this time of year. It could have something to do with Christmas–or as people so blithely call it nowadays, “the holidays”.

I live in New York City, one of the world’s intersections of cultures, customs, and countries. At the office where I work, there are roughly 28 languages spoken, a dozen countries represented, and about 5 religions observed. The religions include Muslim, Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Falun Gong, Protestant, and even some new age beliefs. There is one self-proclaimed atheist who says he believes in nothing but himself. It is a microcosm of New York City, so many people believing–or not believing–so many things. And trying to live together as peacefully as possible. For New Yorkers, what passes for peaceful might be considered rude anywhere else in the country. But all things considered, we get along quite well.

So when it comes time for Christmas, arguably the biggest holiday of the year in America, why the aversion to saying Merry Christmas? Instead, we get stuck with a friendly but dispassionate, “Happy Holidays”. What holidays? Muslims celebrate Eid a month before Christmas. Jews have important holidays months away from December. Falun Gong practitioners recognize a day of religious significance on May 13. So who are we wishing what?

During this Christmas season, I have said “Merry Christmas” to people whom I know for a fact are Catholic or Christian. Why, then, do they hesitate or refuse to say it back?

Maybe we should think about what we have in common this time of year, instead of what makes us different. Like hot chocolate, warm and familiar and part of the American cultural fabric, most Americans have Christmas memories and wishes.

One cup of hot chocolate, rich and caloric as it is, won’t ruin our girlish figures. One “Merry Christmas” won’t be offensive to whomever we say it to. Maybe it would be a warming, familiar tiding of goodwill that–for most Americans–would remind us of our traditions of generosity, selflessness, cheer, and love of fellow man.

Even if it is only for one month of the year, a little Christmas cheer goes a long way.

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