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Saturday, November 27, 2010

On the Saying of Merry Christmas

Todd H. C. Fischer, December 2007

Every year around this time we now hear the familiar refrain of “Happy Holidays!” This is usually followed by some people shouting about how it’s “Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!” This phenomena gave me pause for thought.

First I thought about how pompous and self-centered that statement is. People who insist that this time of year should be called Christmas are saying that Christmas is the only name for this season, the only holiday currently being celebrated. However, there are several winter holidays and festivals that occur at this time of year, including Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Yule (which pre-dates them all). To insist that saying “Merry Christmas” is THE winter greeting is non-inclusive and very non-Canadian. Saying “Happy Holidays” allows someone to extend a fellow citizen wishes of good cheer without having to hazard a guess as to their holiday of choice.

However, at the opposite end of the spectrum are those who are ‘offended’ by hearing someone say “Merry Christmas.” Why should this offend anyone? When someone at a store wishes us a good night, or says they hope we have a good weekend, we do not take offence. Why then do some people get angry at being wished a Merry Christmas? The usual reason appears to be a feeling that “Merry Christmas” is an attempt by Christians to push their religion on others. With a few exceptions though, this is not the case. Christmas is celebrated by many, and though it does have strong Christian connections it is practiced by agnostics, atheists and people of other faiths, not just Christians. (Besides which, most of Christmas is actually based on ‘pagan’ practice anyway.)

If someone says “Merry Christmas” to you it should be accepted for what it is: a wish for peace and good will. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then answer back with an appropriate greeting from your holiday. Wish us Christmas-folk a Happy Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, or Yule. Remember, just because we are not all of the same faith or race, it does not mean we cannot enjoy each others’ holidays (thank you for that lesson, Adam Sandler*). Though “Happy Holidays” is a good catch all, I would rather hear ALL the season’s greetings instead of one generic one.

So, Merry Christmas to all of you.

*Watch the film 8 Crazy Nights. Though it does contain crude humour, the message at its core is a good one.

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