Friday, December 25, 2009

It's OK to say Merry Christmas!

I'm going to take a little tangent from my writing musings to talk about something that really sticks in my craw. Someone told my mom, who works at a grocery store, that she shouldn't tell people Merry Christmas, because it might offend people (I love the fact that she refused to comply and said Merry Christmas to all of her customers).

This is not the first time I've heard this: people are so afraid of offending people that they are ashamed to say Merry Christmas. They say Happy Holidays instead...not that there's anything wrong with saying Happy Holidays, but if you're saying it because you're afraid of offending someone with Merry Christmas, that's just silly.

How is it offensive to wish someone a happy, joyous, merry whatever? What is wrong with inviting someone to enjoy a day, even if it isn't one that is celebrated by their religion? Perhaps it's easy for us Christians, because our holidays are celebrated widely. However, if I walked into a store, school, government building, restaurant, etc and it was decorated for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday I don't celebrate, I would think it's neat. If someone wished me a Happy [insert holiday I don't celebrate], I wouldn't be offended--I would say thank you and return the greeting. I think it's sweet that someone wants to share the joy of their holiday with me.

If you are offended by this, you seriously need to think about why. Is it because it's not politically incorrect? Is it because someone told you you should be offended? Perhaps no one is really offended at all, but so many politically correct do-gooders thinking someone MIGHT be offended has created a problem that doesn't really exist.

I implore you, gentle readers: don't be afraid to be religious in public, no matter what that religion is, as long as you aren't harming anyone or anything (including not mocking or being derogatory toward other groups). Don't be afraid of offending someone with something that isn't offensive.

On the flip side, don't be offended because you think someone should be offended, but don't really have a good reason as to why. Don't be offended by someone else's religion, whether they're wishing it on you or not...just say thank you for the blessing or whatever it is and go on your way. Consider the intent behind the greeting and what it's all about.

OK? Can we do that?


Polymath said...

Wishing everyone you meet a "Merry Christmas" is offensive, because you're assuming that they are Christian or that they celebrate Christmas, which they very well may not. What about all of those people who celebrate Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, or Yule, or people who don't celebrate at all? It is insensitive to assume that someone celebrates Christmas in a country where so many different people live.

Christians are not a persecuted minority who are pushed into the sidelines. Christians dominate the government, the charities, the sports events, and more in the States, and as an atheist it becomes more and more difficult to take.

There's nothing wrong with good cheer and wishing people a good time, but your "Christmas" doesn't have to be shoved down people's throats every chance you get.

Jennifer Walker said...

I'm sorry, but you are choosing to be offended--I am not being offensive. There is a difference.

While I suppose there is a small part of the greeting that assumes you are Christian, it's really more about wishing someone joy on this day. In fact, there are many, many non-religious people (including agnostics and atheists) who celebrate Christmas in a completely secular way. I know people who are Jewish or Jehovah's Witnesses who give out a Christmas present or two.

If I wish you a Merry Christmas, and you actually celebrate Channukkah, and you decide to be offended, you are depriving yourself of joy. I don't think whatever God you pray to wants that for you. Why don't you look at it in the spirit with which it's intended? Why not say, "Well, thank you, but I'm Jewish. Happy Channukkah."

Yes, I suppose I have it easy, being a white Christian. However, everyone has something someone else can discriminate about, make jokes about (do you know how many blonde jokes I've had to endure over the years?), and so on. How you choose to respond to that will determine your happiness in life. How do you want to live? Miserable, taking every offense to heart? Or joyful and loving?

Jennifer Walker said...

I should add: if I know someone celebrates a different holiday than mine, I do use the appropriate greeting instead. i.e., if I know they're Jewish, I say Happy Channukkah and not Merry Christmas.

Paul Graham said...

I only wish people Merry Christmas if I feel it is safe to guess that is what they celebrate. I work in a hospital with people of many religions. So unless I know what they celebrate (if any) I will say Happy Holidays. But if it is friends, family or at a Christmas Party at the mall during a Christmas sale. I used to be a very Merry Christmas type until several Jehovah Witnesses tore me up one side and down the other about respecting their beliefs. I replied with "Ditto".

I tend to err on the side of caution and if someone gets offended because I wasn't 100% s ure of their religious preference- well as my mother would say "They need to put their big boy pants on and get over it". The world is full of different people you are going to be told the wrong thing at one time or other and you should just deal with it.

But, if you want to say Merry Christmas to everyone, I see nothing wrong with that. It's not like you're telling them "You must worship Jesus! You must go to church." Whether they believe in it or not they can still have a Merry December 25th.

Anonymous said...

Personally I celebrate Christmas, so for me to wish someone else a Merry Christmas is simply telling them to enjoy the day no matter what their beliefs. I have friends who are of different religions who celebrate holidays that I don't and I have no problem telling them Happy Solstice or Hannukah, or whatever they believe in. I think we should all respect different beliefs and don't begrudge someone the joy of their holiday.

Greg said...

In my personal life, I wish everyone a joyful Christmas in one way or another, because that is the tradition that I adhere to. I do make exceptions when I know that someone else's religious practice celebrates something else, such as Chanukah or Jule or nothing at all. The wish of a happy Christmas, however, is an invitation to join me in the joy that I find in the season - those who are offended by it are way too prepared to be offended.

And, frankly, Jehovah's Witnesses, with their aggressive proselytization practices, have no room to complain about respecting others' religious traditions!

Rissa Watkins said...

There is a Buddhist saying that I am going to butcher when I paraphrase but here goes...

No offense taken when no offense was meant.

Someone wishing you a Merry Christmas doesn't mean they expect you to participate in your religious holiday. They are simply wishing you good tidings.

Geez, if that is going to offend you then you have more issues than a Happy Holidays is going to fix.

Greg said...

Also. . . I know a number of Witnesses who do not celebrate the holiday, but they graciously accept the joy of the season and return the sentiment.

A seperate but related discussion might be about why so many people in the 21st century are so prepared to be offended at any- and everything.

Randy Inman said...

People just look for reasons to be offended and to attack religious people. And I am not religious myself but I find the attacks on them to be in bad taste.

roxymontana said...

Merry Christmas & a (more) Prosperous New Year!

To All My Democrat Friends:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

To My Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!