Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

November 29, 2006

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

The Season of Brotherly Shove is, once again, upon us.
Yesterday I was reading an article in one of my hubby's secular humanist magazines about how the Christians are trying to shove "Merry Christmas" down everyone's throats now and how important it is not to let them. As you all know, that expression has fallen out of favor and it's more "politically correct" (if ever there was an oxymoron) to say "Happy Holidays", in order to include all religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), and people.
I realize that the word "Christmas" contains the word "Christ" and not all people believe in Christ, which is totally cool with me. Personally I think Christ was a pretty cool dude who did good things; the son of god however? Not so much. But to me, "Christmas" is just a word. I like saying "Merry Christmas". It feels more, I don't know, festive I guess. It hearkens back to a simpler time when there seemed to be more love, caring and sharing than there is now.
I was raised Catholic, Brian was raised Lutheran. He stopped believing in god long ago and is atheist. He's way too scientific to believe in god!! I was, at best, a "Christmas Catholic" after I got older and no longer had to participate in religious instruction so as to be confirmed. I don't really remember Sunday school, I spent most of the time staring at the stained glass windows and daydreaming. I rarely, if ever, did the "homework" and I memorized the prayers just to get by. But I always enjoyed going to Christmas Eve Mass at 5:00 p.m. My hometown was much smaller in those days, and many of my classmates were at Mass too. My father was well known and respected in town, and therefore, knew just about everyone at Mass. It was fun to see my friends, wish them Merry Christmas, then go socializing afterwards to my parents' best friends' homes (they all had kids my age).
I always associated Christmas with Santa, not so much the nativity story, although I enjoyed setting up our family's creche. I used to put the wisemen far away from the stable and move them closer each day till they arrived on Christmas Eve. My parents thought that was adorable.
Nowadays, elementary schools won't even decorate. I remember how much fun it was to decorate our classrooms with construction paper, have a party on the last day of school, give presents to my friends, see the tree in the school lobby as we arrived each day. Remember how much fun it was, that last day of school and you were ready to get on the school bus, and everyone was saying, "Merry Christmas!!"? Wasn't it exciting? Didn't it put you more in the spirit?

When I was a senior in college, I befriended a Jewish girl and we became good friends. She lamented that, growing up, she'd always missed out on Christmas. I had a key to her room, so one night I decorated it and got her a 12", but live, decorated tree. She was so excited!! And when school got out for Christmas break, she came down to my house on the Cape and helped decorate our family Christmas tree. Meantime, she taught me how to play Dreidl, using Chanukkah gelt for our winnings. She didn't have a Menorah at school, so she bought a set of 8 plastic flower shaped birthday candle holders and each night we lit one of the candles. I had a great time doing that! (She now celebrates both holidays with her children).

I have dabbled in Native American spirituality, but am currently studying Wicca. I respect other people's right to believe what they want. My only problem is with the rampant hypocrisy of so-called Christians. I'm not sure if there's a god or not. I don't believe much of the religious doctrine that I was brought up to believe. I find the Bible stories to be interesting and fascinating, but I don't necessarily take them to be "truth".
The winter solstice holiday, Yule, takes it's roots from paganism. The evergreen tree was the only live, colourful thing in the forest during those dark, winter days and was brought inside and lit with candles on winter solstice to celebrate the end of the dark and the return of the sun. There are many other pagan, solstice traditions from "olde Europe". Unfortunately, Christians decided to take over the Yule/solstice celebration by announcing that the holiday was to celebrate the birth of Jesus, thereby squashing the pagans under the heel of their collective boot.
Brian doesn't even like to say "Christmas Presents", "Christmas Tree", "Christmas Cards", etc. I pretty much type it as "Xmas" when I'm emailing people. We are a secular home, but I don't see what the fuss is about saying "Merry Christmas" to people you know celebrate it, whether or not they are religious. However, when I made a bunch of cards last weekend, I stopped short of using any actual, direct "Christmas" reference, opting instead for "Have a Cool Yule" or "Have a Happy Holiday Season" because I didn't want to offend anyone!
However, where do you draw the line? If you eradicate "Merry Christmas", then does that mean all references to Christmas have to be removed from carols and movies/shows to avoid offending non-Christians? Will we now sing, "It's beginning to look a lot like the last week of December"? "I'm dreaming of a white winter"? "A red ryder bb gun story"? "...then one foggy December 24th evening, Santa came to say...."? "The Grinch who stole December 25th"?
But I digress.
I have friends and family of all faiths and beliefs and I'd like to know what do YOU think? How do you acknowledge the season to your family and friends? Is it more acceptable to say "Happy Holidays" to people you know celebrate Christmas? Is saying "Merry Christmas" really that bad, if one realizes that "Christmas" is just a word? It's not even pronounced "Christ-mas", so I don't see what the big deal is!! Do you have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas? Do my Jewish friends wish their non-Jewish friends "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas"? Let me know!!


  1. As something close to an atheist (I believe that if god exists he must be evil to allow, no create, so much misery in the world) I have to say that it annoys me that all other faiths can be celebrated but NOT Christianity.

    Hey - Wicca? I had a student who was a follower, and I find all things to do with the more occult arts fascinating. (My free choice unit at University was about the history of French Magic and Witchcraft, and the University itself was in Lancaster, which has the castle where the Lancashire Witches were incarcerated in the 17th(?) Century - I should know the date for a fact).

  2. Anonymous2:45 PM

    Oh, touchy subject here! I'm a non-religous sort too - religion has a LOT to answer for! - though I don't happen to believe that makes someone a non-spiritual person. Most Christian holidays were renamed Pagan ones anyway. For example, 'Christmas' was formerly the Pagan festival of 'Natalis Solis Invecta' (birthday of the invincible sun). Marvel please at how much useless information I contain ;-) Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, whatever, I just wish everyone, peace, love, health, happiness (and a nice slice of D'Onofrio!)

  3. Merry Christmas Jo Jo. You sure covered all the bases on your well said posting. AS a person who converted to the Catholic Church, I am far from being a good practicing Catholic but admitting that is ok (it is not an easy thing to be a good Catholic) but as is often said to us who drift away from the church, the door is always left open. Our church has many problems within to deal with. I am one of many who believe that our priests should be able to marry.
    I have a good friend in the Jewish faith and he often seems to drift over to our church during the soup kitchen day. He is as good (or better)a person than any Christian person I know.
    To answer your question, I find it a little disturbing that traditional companies are using the "Happy Holliday" saying. I did see a TV item on a U.S., station that the American Wallmart stores are returning to saying Merry Christmas on their signs as opposed to "Happy Hollidays" Isn't that amazing, the sinical side of me says that it must have effected their bottom line.
    I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and keep up your amazing thought provoking postings, they are great. Cheers DonW

  4. I quite like the concept that you have in America of Happy Holidays to cover all possibilities.

    As you know I am a practising Jew... to my Jewish friends I will say Happy Chanukah, to my gentile friends I will wish them Happy Christmas.

    I have never felt I missed out by not celebrating Christmas... in Judaism we have so many festivals and it is not ours to celebrate. For me it is time off work to relax.

    Everyone should be able to celebrate as they wish... with unfettered delight or humbug.

    A great post JoJo

    lotsa luv ann xxxx

  5. I'd say I was a Christian,but my faith is personal too me,I believe what I want,not what I'm told!!

    I have a bit of a problem when it comes to Christmas,because I think we should be allowed to celebrate it,regardless of how other people feel.Kids in school are taught about every other religious festival,but Christianity seems to be a dirty word.Even school nativity plays are changing so as not to offend other faiths :(

    Eliza xxxxx

  6. I agree with Eliza. Here in the heart of political correctness (N.CA) it is still ok to pick on christians and jews. It makes me mad when I listen to talk radio and hear someone proclaim that crazy Mr. Unpronouncable in Iran has got it right and Israel should be wiped off the map. Say, what??? Like Ann said it would be nice if we could just wish everyone whatever and stop being so freaked out about it.My Italian/catholic mom taught me to be respectful of everyone's religon and that's just the way it should be.