CULTIVATING LIBERALISM
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Comet McNaught, the Great Comet of 2007, and its tail, shot by Robert McNaught in January.

Saturnalian Wishes
Merry Christmas All
Back in Lebanon, before the years of war and Fox News, I remember that Christians and Muslims mutually wished each other Merry Christmas and Eid Mubarak as each occasion came in turn, never worrying about the kind of trashy disclaimers that attach to so many of our greetings these days (“in case you celebrate Christmas”) or the even worse detergent-water greetings that now dull so much of the season’s colors (“Happy Holidays”). The vapidity of “Happy Holidays” misses the very point of the greeting: we wish each other Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Eid Mubarak not because we’re necessarily Christian or Jewish or Muslim, but even more so because we may be none of those things, and because others are: the wish primarily celebrates the other person, and only secondarily, if at all, the religion itself. It celebrates our mutual basking in the spirit of the season, whatever its religious stripe. It celebrates our willingness to share a planet, to love the pluralism of it all. The less Christian I am, the more I welcome Christmas wishes—or wishes of any hue. It would be supremely stupid of me, as a one-time Catholic, to be offended if a Muslim wished me Eid Mubarak, or a devout Christian wished me merry Christmas, or a Jew, even one who spent part of his conscripted years occupying south Lebanon, wished me happy Hanukah, although it’s just as supremely stupid of the Fox brigades to peddle their verbal pogrom of a “war on Christmas,” whose intention is precisely to impose a creed dogmatically (and disdainfully of others) rather than to celebrate an idea. So whatever your blood type and party affiliation, Merry Christmas and more. It’s been a fun year here at the Notebooks, mostly thanks to you readers and commenters. You make the place much more interesting than anything I write could ever do on its own, and miraculously you keep coming back. Thank you all.

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