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Blessed New Year

by Angela Lindsay

January 5,2006

The holiday season culminates with the ushering in of the New Year. It is a time for making resolutions and hoping for a prosperous future. It is also a time of reflection.  As person after person wished me a semi-spiritual ‘blessed new year’ during the week leading into 2006, I thought back to how public displays of the Christmas celebration have invoked the ire of so many over the past few holiday seasons.

Due to what some would describe as political correctness gone wild, religious-tinged slogans such as ‘Merry Christmas’ have been reduced to less offensive phrases like ‘Happy Holidays,’ and there were countless stories in the news this past year about “Christmas” trees being stripped of angels, ornaments, and even pairs of mittens that could even loosely be associated with the celebration of one religion over another. Maybe it’s because the presence of all things associated with Christmas is so ubiquitous from October to January or perhaps the commercialization of it all can be suffocating to those who do not recognize the holiday.

But this year, the faithful fought back by boycotting retailers from Walgreens to Wal-Mart that took ‘Christmas’ out of their holiday greetings and all but yelling at passers-by to have a Merry Christmas. There were a few ‘Happy Hanukkahas’ and ‘Happy Kwanzaas’ sprinkled throughout, along with every conceivable variation of the three greetings. (‘Happy Christmakwanzakah’ is the most interesting one I have heard to date.)

The Queen City is located in what is commonly known as the “Bible Belt.” Rarely a Charlotte street corner is passed without the sight of a steeple piercing into the air. The city is home to legions of southern Baptists, those of various other faiths, and is the birthplace of that evangelical saint, Billy Graham. We’ve even begun to mirror the expansion and popularity of mega-churches in other cities such as those led by Bishop T.D. Jakes and Pastor Joel Osteen with the relocation of the 8000-member University Park Baptist Church to the mammoth Merchandise Mart on Independence Boulevard.

This year, New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday and many local churches held ‘Watch Night’ services on New Year’s Eve—a church service that typically starts around 10 pm and ends shortly after the stroke of midnight. I decided to attend one for the first time at Silver Mount Baptist Church and, as I expected, there was no shortage of spiritual well wishing—a full chorus of ‘Have a Blessed New Year’ and ‘May God bless you this year’ from complete strangers.

As we worshipped in 2006 at Silver Mount, I wondered if the antics of the offended would ever carry over into other holidays. I wondered if, for instance, even though it’s not a religious holiday, anyone would be offended by my offering to them a ‘blessed new year’ like so many others did me? I’m inclined to think not, being raised in a place where the tradition of religion and spirituality is as much a part of daily life as, well, breathing—whether it’s muttering a benign ‘bless you’ after someone sneezes or the leading of a non-denominational invocation before a corporate black tie banquet.

Still, I understand the objection of those who may be offended and realize they have every right to feel as they do. Fortunately, in my personal experience, I have yet to encounter a blank stare or be greeted with accusations that I’m unfairly imposing my beliefs. It seems around here that considering the sincere intent of such good wishes outweighs the quest for political correctness. I might be offended if it didn’t.

There are many new and exciting ventures on the city’s radar for 2006—the CIAA tournament, the surge in Uptown high rises, the possibility of a baseball stadium, playoffs for the Panthers, Neiman Marcus in South Park (fellow shop-oholics, rejoice!), changes in CMS, the lottery. Whether one believes this good fortune is the work of a higher power or not, the future of Charlotte seems as bright as the Duke Power crown that dropped in Uptown on New Year’s Eve. And I hope that this city and all its residents will have a blessed (yes, a blessed) 2006.

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