At the risk of being politically incorrect in the extreme, there’s an old English insult known as “the Chinese curse” – though apparently no one can actually track it back to originating in China. Anyway, the idea is, the most pleasant times in life are often dull and free of drama. So the curse goes, “May you live in interesting times.”

That we live in times more interesting than any in the last 2,000 years was driven home for me the other night when I had post-golf beers with a few friends and our gathering degenerated into hard feelings over one fellow wishing another who was about to depart, “Happy holidays.”

The guy being wished well stopped a step from the table. He made a facial expression like something was putrid. 

“You mean Christmas?” He gave out a theatrical snort. “If that’s what you mean, why not say it? Merry %$*ing Christmas.”

The well-wisher looked one part astonished and one part homicidal. “You’re kidding me, right? You’re bent out of shape because I wished you happy holidays?”

What became apparent from the beery argument that ensued is that – as with everything else in our culture today – Americans appear to be entrenched in several camps over the subject of season’s greetings. 

Towards the more “woke” end of the political spectrum, it’s deemed appropriate to make every effort to be inclusive. Thus, phrases like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” are considered offensive, on the off-chance the person being spoken to does not celebrate the holiday in question. 

Among many conservatives, meanwhile, it appears that sayings like “Merry Christmas” are a badge of honor – sort of like a “Let’s Go Brandon” for the holidays. Despite the fact that some people may be offended when you say it, you say it anyway, and you do so proudly, because saying things that offend some people apparently brands you as a member of the cool kids’ club.

Then there’s the third group of people, to which I belong. My guess is, this group comprises approximately nine out of 10 Americans with an IQ above, say, room temperature – at the North Pole. In an igloo. In mid-winter. 

Members of this group don’t take pride in actively offending people, nor are we offended when people make a sincere effort to wish us a “Merry Christmas” or any other sort of good day. If the holiday in question happens to be one we don’t celebrate, we give the person credit for trying and we say something clever in response. Like, “Thanks! You too!”

We handle situations like this in stride because we prefer not to spend our time on Earth policing holiday greetings, or arguing over minutiae. Not that we’re averse to arguments, understand. 

But we prefer to save our fighting for truly earth-shattering topics, like whether “Breaking Bad” was a better series than “The Sopranos” (by a smidge) or which Valley community has the worst drivers (Apache Junction during snowbird season, hands down). 

In our world, a phrase like “Happy Holidays,” isn’t linguistic code for anything other than a genuine wish that the recipient enjoy the time period between late November (the beginning of Hanukkah this year) and late December to early January (which includes Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s). 

For us, being in the holiday spirit also means cutting our friends and kind strangers a little bit of slack. 

To recap: If we meet each other, feel free to wish me season’s greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or whatever floats your boat. When you live in interesting times, you take your merriment and wishes for happiness wherever you can find them. Because only in America are we cursed to fight over holiday cheer.