Saturday, December 3, 2011

Merry Holidays

I took my receipt from the cashier, white-knuckle-gripped the bar on the shopping cart, cast my eyes downward and muttered Merry Christmas under my breath as I sprinted out of the store.


Because I had this inner battle just before I opened my mouth: should I say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? I know that Happy Holidays is the PC way to go. Uttering the phrase Merry Christmas to someone used to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but nowadays I feel more like I've just delivered an insult than a friendly greeting.

Again, why?

I could comfortably wish the same cashier a happy Valentine's Day, even if I was unaware of her relationship status. St. Patrick's Day? I've wished a happy one to every culture and ethnic group under the sun.

Why then do the words Merry Christmas get so stuck on my tongue?

My questioning is purely hypothetical; I know perfectly well why. We've been brainwashed to believe that the merest hint of anything religionesque is to be stricken from our vocabulary. Now, fear not if your religion is in the minority. If fewer than 50% of the population worships alongside you, you may proudly decorate, sing, and greet others in the manner befitting your respective holiday. Your office manager will hasten to display your religious icons on the receptionist's desk, even while stowing away the two foot plastic Christmas tree in the stock closet with the extra TP and lightbulbs. But if you're Christian? Best to keep your household decorations pared down to some white lights and evergreen branches. Candy canes are iffy, but if you're feeling brazen, I say go for it. No reindeer, no Santas, and God forbid, no lawn mangers. Strike the word "Christmas" from the link with ___cards, ___parties, ___pageants, ___cookies and replace with the more anemic "holiday" and you're politically golden.

Well, call me a rebel if you will, but I'm not drinking that Kool-Aid. While I absolutely 100% believe it is wrong for the majority to force its religious views and practices on those who don't share their beliefs, I also think it is equally wrong to villify those of us who wish to publicly celebrate our religious holidays, just because ours is a majority view. If it is right to not just tolerate but welcome the celebrations of others, it is right to allow the celebrations of the majority, as well.

How can we hope for tolerance and acceptance of all cultures and religions if we try to sweep a selective few under the rug and pretend they don't exist?

As for me, I hope to learn about your religion, your culture, or at least enjoy the ways in which you celebrate what is important to you. I hope you extend the same courtesy to me.

Merry Christmas.......

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Ali said...

Growing up Jewish in the Midwest, I am definitely in the minority. Don't worry about being PC. Whenever a sales person tells me "Merry Christmas" I automatically translate it to "happy holidays" in my mind, and respond by wishing them a merry christmas too. I think many religious minorities really could care less about the PC factor. In fact, I teach in a public school that still has a "Holiday Concert" that is entirely Christmas songs, I even find myself listening to christmas carols on the radio. If I were to be completely honest, when I hear my friends talking about all the stress of decorating, buying gifts (in an economically challenging time), and all the parties they have to attend (even though the don't want to) well I'm a bit relieved that Hanukkah isn't really a big important holiday. So, I say, enjoy your decorations, go all out, and shout "MERRY CHRISTMAS" until your heart is ready to burst!

Anne Kimball said...

Thanks, Ali! Nice to hear someone else's perspective. Sounds like the Midwest is not as PC as the northeast. Living out here, I feel like I've watched Christmas erode away over the years, to the point that it feels wrong to wish someone a Merry Christmas, and I almost never hear anyone else say it. Guess the whole country is not as PC, though, huh?
Anyway, Ali, thanks again for your thoughts. And thank you for being tolerant of my celebrations!

Molly said...

Every year this debate rears its ugly head. It drives me nuts. My theory is as follows: If you want to say Merry Christmas, say it! If you want to say Happy Holidays, Mazel Tov, say that! I'm Jewish, with a dad who was raised Catholic. Christmas is my FAVORITE holiday in the entire universe! But every year people fight over this, and it makes me sad. People get up in arms over companies that use Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas in advertising. It's just silly! Go forth. Wish well to people!

You're wishing someone well! it doesn't matter if you say Christmas or Holidays.

I wrote this post last year about the issue.

Don't hate me for that post ok?

Anne Kimball said...

Molly, thanks for your thoughts. I was interested in reading your blog post, but when I pasted your link into my browser it came back as "not found". Suggestions? And btw, I completely agree with you -- each person should say what feels right to them. I would love for others to say Happy Hannukkah to me or anything else someone celebrates. I just hate that it's gotten to the point I feel like I'm cussin' if I tell someone Merry Christmas. My whole point is NOT that everything should say Christmas all over it, it's just that I should feel comfortable expressing greetings (or decorating for) MY holiday, just as I hope each individual would feel comfortable expressing theirs.

Molly said...

Anne, my blog is all wonky right now :-( But yes, I totally agree with you! There's no reason you shouldn't be able to say Merry Christmas and decorate. Just like someone who celebrates Hannukkah or Kwanza should be comfortable, so should you!

I'm sorry, but Christmas trees are WAY cuter than menorahs. I love seeing everyone's trees. I loooove Christmas decorations. We have the tiny village, the moving people, the snoring Santas.. the works!

Merry Christmas! (I love the concept of Christmas not being a dirty word to say!)

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