Wednesday, December 03, 2008

it's okay to say "Merry Christmas"

Yesterday on, there was an article talking about shoppers who were offended when people said "Merry Christmas" to them while they shopped for The Holidays.

The article then went on to ask people to vote about whether or not people should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays".

Um, excuse me?

Last time I checked, December 25th, CHRISTMAS DAY, is a national holiday. It is NOT referred to as The Holidays. While yes, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Diwali, and occasionally Eid (the end of Ramadan) occur in December, the reason people are Christmas shopping is not for those holidays. The reason people talk about Santa Claus is not because he helps to celebrate Africa or the fact that a jar of oil lasted long enough to save people's lives. We don't hang stockings above the chimney to celebrate the Festival of Lights. Merry Christmas does not mean an end to a month of fasting.

I'm so sick and tired of people stealing this holiday away from its original meaning. Like it or not, this is a Christian holiday. About the birth of Jesus. The extreme commercialism that has gripped this holy day in our calendar, which in turn shoves red & green decorations down the world's throat for 2 months, is destroying the meaning of our holiday.

I don't care if you aren't Christian. I don't care if you don't believe that Jesus was born and died the way I believe he did. I don't care if the story of the Three Wise Men or a star that led people to find a newborn baby makes you roll your eyes.

But who in the HELL do you think you are to go shopping for this holiday and complain when people wish you a Merry Christmas???

I can't even imagine this happening to another religious group. People would riot. Yet if we complain about the secularization of one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, we are pushing our religion on you.

How about you taking our religion away from us?

I'm all for tolerance and acceptance. As a teacher, I've made a point of learning about the different cultures here in Canada and can discuss any of the major religious holidays with anybody. It's important to recognize that there are other groups out there who are celebrating things like Diwali and Hanukkah, while others prepare to attend Midnight Mass or open presents Christmas morning.

I have no problem with non-Christian holidays or people who don't celebrate Christmas. It's your religious right.

Where is my right? Why do I have to bow down to people who choose to sing about Santa coming down a chimney, but refuse to accept the actual meaning behind Christmas. Why do they get to complain about us when we have no choice but to accept millions of people celebrating our holiday while scoffing the beliefs behind it?

I knew somebody back in university who complained about how "those Christian people shove their beliefs and holidays in everybody's face". He thought Christmas and Easter were over-done, and couldn't understand why so many people celebrated them. "First it's Santa, then the Easter Bunny - give me a break!"

Who made the choice to show Santa Claus in a commercial? Who decided the Easter Bunny was a great symbol for Easter? You can be sure Christians weren't the driving force behind this.

Just imagine the conversation:

"Oh, hey. You know I was thinking about Easter. It's so solemn and serious. We need something to make people smile. Like a mascot, maybe?"

"Right. I've got it! How about a bunny rabbit?!"

And so it was decided that the symbol of a holiday that honours Jesus dying on the cross and then rising from the dead is a big bunny rabbit who bring eggs and chocolate treats to all of the children. Yep, I'm sure that was the intent all along.

If you celebrate Christmas but aren't a Christian, this is not necessarily a swipe at you. My problem is with people who have stolen this holiday from the people who have been honouring its meaning for centuries. And then assigned a meaning of their own to it. Then turned around and insulted those of us who still believe that the reason for its importance is a miracle birth.

"I'm not Christian, so I don't believe in all of that Jesus stuff. But Christmas is my favourite holiday of the year. Presents, songs, great dinners with family - it's wonderful!"

Yes, there are fantastic things attached to celebrating on December 25th. We all have the right to enjoy family and gifts. But please, I beg you to remember that even as you sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", some of us are singing "O, Holy Night".

Because for many of us, it IS.


  • At 9:10 AM, Blogger Suldog said…


    MY WIFE, who is a lovely and caring person, was working with me to choose our Christmas cards a few years back. When I suggested one that said "Merry Christmas!" inside, she said something about not all of our friends celebrating Christmas. I said that while I loved our friends, and certainly wished them nothing but goodness, what WE celebrate is Christmas, and I would not be sending out cards with my name on them unless those cards included the word "Christmas" or Christ's name in some form or another. Being MY WIFE, she understood, of course, and she has never raised the question since.

    If somebody wanted to send me a Channukah card, I wouldn't expect it to mention Christ. I wouldn't be pissed about it, either. I'd be very happy to have received an expression of love from someone who cared enough to send it. Same if someone wishes to greet me for Ramadan. I have actually received Kwanzaa cards. No problem. More power to you.

  • At 10:23 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    Thanks Sully - I was a little worried that this came on too strong (despite a LOT of editing).

    A little acceptance on everybody's part can definitely go a long way...

  • At 3:31 PM, Blogger Jeni said…

    I agree totally with you, Melinda, and with Suldog! Frankly, I don't see what the heck those who get offended by the words "Merry Christmas" are all about anyway? In this country, the part about freedom of religion, the press, speech, etc., brings with it the freedom then for ALL of us to celebrate -or not -as we wish. And if I wish to say "Merry Christmas" instead of Happy Holidays, so be it! And, how many who gladly participate in the Black Friday and "Christmas Sales" and the like, do so but never give a thought to what started all those events in the first place. It's just ridiculous. I like Ben Stein's essay done a year or two back in which he, a Jew, talks about this whole thing and does it in the most balanced, logical manner.
    Merry Christmas to you - to anyone reading this as well -whether you like it and agree or not.

  • At 3:56 PM, Blogger Jaimi said…

    I loved you post Mel, you're such a talented writer and I can tell you really put a lot of feeling into everything you write. I am not a Christian, but I do say Merry Christmas more than I say Happy Holidays. It never occurred to me until just now that I may be a hypocrite. Am I not supposed to say it then?

    P.S. Your last post about leaving England was top notch too! I read it twice ;)

  • At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Meghan Ableson said…

    It's funny Melinda because as much as I can sense the anger and frustration that you felt as you typed this; it still somehow comes across as beautiful. I even had a tear towards the end. Thank you for being bold and speaking out about this, it takes a lot of courage. Good for you.

  • At 7:18 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    thanks everybody!

    Jeni - I don't usually think of the commercialism while Christmas shopping either. Probably because gift-giving is such a wonderful part of the holiday.

    Jaimi - you're such a sweetie :) I totally don't think you're a hypocrite for saying "Merry Christmas". I said "Eid Mubarak" when Ramadan ends to the Muslims I know. It's just wishing a sentiment to people celebrating. If the intent is good, then people should take it that way. Which is exactly the problem I had with the article: people getting offended by what is supposed to be a friendly greeting. Pretty darn sad if you ask me.

    Meghan, you're so right about the anger and frustration. I re-wrote many sentences over again because I just couldn't get it out right. The ending came naturally though...

  • At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think Happy Holidays is more appropriate than saying Merry Christmas if you don't what the person celebrates. As a Jew, I feel it offensive that people just assume you celebrate Christmas. Hanukkah runs through the same time as Christmas this year so I am doing my shopping during the same time of year.

    Wouldn't you find it odd if someone were to send you a card that says Happy Hanukkah or wishes you a Happy Hanukkah while you were shopping the week of the holiday? Ok so Dec 25th is designated as Christmas day and it supposed to celebrate the birth of Christ... so why isn't the holiday celebrated in the month of June when he was really born?

  • At 4:50 PM, Blogger Melinda said…

    While I appreciate how it must feel, I would never be offended if somebody randomly wished me a Happy Hannukah. I'd smile and say it back, happy that I can show them I appreciate their holiday too.

    As for when Jesus was actually born, there is no way for us to know for sure which month it is. Nor do I really care to find out, since I've always looked at the Bible as a series of stories meant to teach us, not necessarily be taken literally. Frankly, I think celebrating his birth in December is wonderful because it fits in with the themes of light in darkness and hope for a new beginning (i.e. a new year). The theology of this discussion is wasted on me - my church decided centuries ago to celebrate in December, so what's when we celebrate.

    I hope you and others who feel insulted by Merry Christmas greetings understand that we are not assuming everybody celebrates our holiday - I know when I say it, I'm sharing my joy in the season. It's never meant to offend. So I wish you and yours a Happy Hannukah and a Happy New Year too!

  • At 10:53 AM, Anonymous nadine said…

    I'm muslim living in spain, and it really but really pissed me off what happened right now, I've got the impression they're taking away everything, now there is no more carol in the shop and I love shopping with carols, it just put me in the mood. In december, I meet a lots of friends that I don't usually see and there's the family reunions...but I've that here in Spain, if they want to take away everything it's because most of people don't believe in God, so there is no point of showing sign of religion. I think that so stupid, for most of people believer or not christian or not, christmas is about holidays,family, kids and joy why on earth would they take away this holidays in particular


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