Happy Christmas, Merry Holidays

The fight is still raging–angry, defensive people snarling about the “right” greeting for the winter holidays. Christians insisting on “Merry Christmas” in defense of American Christiandom, everyone else wanting to feel included with “Happy Holidays.”Angry accusations on all sides.  Could we all just take a deep breath, here? Perhaps put down the idea that this is even worth being angry about, that everyone who doesn’t say the thing you want to hear is personally against you, your family, your nation? Because it’s getting out of hand.

I don't believe fighting is what the season calls for.

Just for the sake of opening up perspctives, let’s take a look at how the winter holiday is celebrated in different times.  I know you like your own, and are snarling primal anger at everyone else, but while you are doing a little deep breathing to yell at the next person, let’s take a look:

1. The bible–any copy or translation (and there are many)–doesn’t tell us how to celebrate Christmas. Nowhere is the word “Christmas” used, nor is the greeting “Merry Christmas,” so let’s put down the idea that there is a divine directive for any greeting.

In fact, in Jeremiah 10: 2-4 there is a directive against having a tree: “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, for the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” Whether you say this is about idols or not depends on your interpretation of the bible, which is another argument altogether.

2. Pagan  Solstice celebrations existed a long time before Christians invented themselves. Chinese, Semites, Druids and Egyptians all celebrated the Solstice. Pagans are not atheists or heathens–pagans celebrate nature as holding the wisdom of life.  The Julian calendar named December 25 as the winter solstice in 45 BCE and celebrated it as the shortest day. After that, the days got longer, but the time from January to April were called famine months. More people died during that time than any other. On the shortest day there were celebrations that each day following would be longer. Food animals (cattle, sheep, hogs) were slaughtered because the meat would freeze (at least in Northern climates) and the animals would not have to be fed and protected during the long winter. So much for “feasts.” Evergreen were considered special because they still had green leaves in the desperate winter months.

The Christmas tree was probably invented in the 16th Century by the Germans, and Martin Luther added candles as decorations. In America, there was a lot of controversy about Christmas trees. They were introduced by German immigrants, and there was grumbling about that. President Teddy Roosevelt banned them from the White House for unclear reasons. Most often it is said he was against it for environmental reasons. The acceptance of a decorated tree in American houses didn’t happen until about 200 years ago, so let’s not get all historical over trees or the greetings that go with them.

3. The bible doesn’t mention the date of the birth of Jesus. Most biblical scholars set it sometime in Spring. Using a major Pagan holiday and time of year to put a stake in for their own holiday was a smart marketing move, and started the whole “who’s right here?” mess.

4. I might be totally wrong here, and I am not speaking for any Christian, just setting out an idea–that the birth of someone very important to your religious beliefs should probably not be celebrated with anger and violent arguing over the only correct and cheerful seasonal greeting.

5. In the big view of things, perhaps what we say is not as important as what we think and how we act. Getting angry at a greeting meant to be inclusive (Happy Holidays) or at one meant to celebrate Christians (Merry Christmas) is contrary to the whole idea of Peace on Earth. I’m quoting Gandhi, here, who was neither Christian nor Jewish:  “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Want more acceptance? Be accepting.

So, I have a suggestion–say whichever warm, loving greeting you want to use and accept what is said back with the same enthusiasm. All animosity ends right there.

Personally, I don’t believe there is a magic man in the sky who frowns on, and punishes, people for eating bacon and ham, or smiles on people who want to display plastic people and animals standing around a  lit-up baby. I think there is something much bigger at stake here–how we treat people who don’t think the same way we do. I think that counts. In fact, I think that’s why we are on earth. To learn how to do that.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who would like a little more peace on earth, good will toward all.

Note: I will no longer allow Anonymous comments. They will be deleted.

46 thoughts on “Happy Christmas, Merry Holidays

  1. I love it! That is going to be my greeting next year and I might even put it on my cards. Happy Christmas and Merry Holidays! Peace on Earth


  2. thank you thank you thank you, quinn! i’ve been trying to tell people this for years. and, to be honest, i’ve never, ever, spoken to anyone from any other faith who has objected to a “merry christmas!” greeting. nor do i know anyone who has wished someone a merry christmas and been chastised. it’s always the omnipresent “they” who have made angry objections.
    my understanding is that “they” didn’t call for this in the first place – it was governments and organizations wishing to be inclusive that began the campaign to change the greeting.
    i am not an adherent to any religion but it feels very personal to me… every time i get an email or see another story somewhere about how we are taking christ out of christmas for “them”, my heart sinks a little and some of the joy of the season is tarnished for me. and, even more sadly, my estimation of those bemoaning this so-called political correctness drops a bit.
    so i wish you and everyone a merry, joyful, happy holiday season!
    vicki 🙂

    • Hi vicki! So good to see you here. I really think that a little tolerance and kindness is called for this time of year. It’s very family-centered, and so many are alone. It’s a hard time for many. Let’s just cut others a lot of slack, shall we?

  3. For me personally, a Merry Christmas means the same to me from someone who is a Christian, as a ‘Happy Holidays’ means from a non-Christian. Why people are all of a sudden standing up for their right to say Merry Christmas is because, well, it is their RIGHT to say it. I am not one to believe in demeaning any one’s religious beliefs. But don’t demean MINE either. Political correctness? How about PERSONAL correctness and leave politics OUT of it?

    • No one wants to stop you from saying Merry Christmas. Seriously. No one. But we don’t want to *have* to say it back, or be made to feel that “Happy Holidays” is a lesser saying. It’s just a different wish. For happiness. And I’m not demeaning your belief, whatever it is. It would be wonderful if we all behaved so well that no laws were needed. But, alas, we do not behave well when left to our own devices. So there have to be laws. I’d love an ideal world, too. That’s why I included Gandhi quote and added “Want more acceptance? Be accepting.” I really do believe that.

  4. Having just celebrated the Solstice with a new group of friends this past Saturday- I can tell you- the season is about love- it is about celebrating life, relationships and fellowship. Who cares how you greet someone, when you greet them with a smile, a hug and a genuine caring attitude. Give them a piece of fruit and wish them a prosperous life- Dance with them, even if you don’t understand their language, Sing with them,even if you don’t understand the words. You understand their hearts-when they open them wide up for you and surround your small mind with things you weren’t really sure existed. Love- every day- not just “the” holiday that has been more commercialized for profit and consumerism that any other country in the world. Stop the madness- spread the most cherished gift of all- relationship. naked.
    Go Quinn! Thanks for having the courage to post on such a controversial subject!

  5. Just an additional comment for others to think on: here in Australia, carols, nativity plays and Christmas trees have been banned in some government schools, pre-schools and kindergartens for several years. This is because our beliefs and practices may upset those who do not believe as we do. Is this tolerance for others or PC gone mad?

    • I’m not sure about Australia (see how badly educated I am?) but we have a separation of Church and state, and I’m for that, because it clearly isn’t working the other way. I’d have no problems with winter (or in your case, summer) holiday celebrations in school, but one religion shouldn’t dominate at the expense of others. Not in a government school. It’s easy to want those Christmas carols, because you are comfortable with them, but I didn’t want to sing them when I went to school, because I wasn’t, and I got knocked around plenty because of it. I was told that I was going to hell, and I wasn’t allowed to eat the Christmas cookies that other children were given by the teacher. In a public school.That wasn’t tolerance, either.

  6. Quinn, I had not seen your response saying this post was in response to an odd person in a retail setting when I wrote my first response. With that bit of important information added I do indeed understand your emotion of anger. I would hope you would understand that crazy behavior does not represent Christianity.

    As a home school mom I always cringe when the wacky cases of people who abuse their children under the guise of home schooling them is splashed across the news. I want to shout to everyone, “Those aren’t home schoolers, they are nuts.” I have the same reaction to your Merry Christmas woman. Wacky is as wacky does.

    Just as you would be appalled if some art journalist went on a rampage of great terror and the news or others only identified that person over and over as an art journalist gone mad, so am I appalled when someone who apparently doesn’t have a full picture of who Christ is and what he means decides to go on a self righteous word rampage. Fooey on her, says I. I’m so sorry for your encounter with that woman and her nonsense.

    • There are wacky people in every religion, every profession, every group, if it’s big enough. I didn’t think she represented all Christians, I’m old enough to know better. [Heh=heh]. And actually, the fact that I’d had a bad experience didn’t really change the story. The struggle over being right is one that leads, eventually, to war. It always starts with anger and “being right.” It escalates to “God is on our side,” and then you are in the badlands.

  7. I tend to agree with Yvonne, above, who suggests that perhaps the media has contributed to creating a controversy that doesn’t really exist among a substantial number of people. Now that we have this 24/7 media, and so many competing “news” providers, and no more standards regarding objectivity, the American public is being fed all kinds of controversies, arguments, conspiracies, and debates that may or may not have any other participants than the folks sitting around the table on TV.

    • I’m afraid you are right. I used to be a journalist, and I’m ashamed of some of the opinionated viewpoints I’m seeing reported. Unfortunately, I am also reading reports of people fighting over creches on town hall lawns, and that’s an issue that needs some fresh air blown over it. Some calm, fresh air would be helpful.

  8. Oh, I love you so much Quinn! You have just said exactly what I have felt and thought for years. You always put things in perfect perspective!

    I abhor people pushing and forcing their beliefs (religious or otherwise) on other people, acting as though they know the truth, THE one and only truth, thereby insinuating everyone else doesn’t have the inside path or inner knowledge. I hate prejudice views being forced on anyone. So many people claim to be Christians but don’t conduct themselves in a “Christ-like” manner. They rail against homosexuals, holiday greetings, political viewpoints and on and on and on. It’s all so tiring. Instead of wasting energy spewing hatred and animosity, we would all be much better served embracing others and all their differences. Embrace whatever loving greeting someone bestows upon you and accept it for what it is, a message of kindness. Period.

    I know I’ve gone off the subject here but it all works together. Like you said Quinn, “Want more acceptance? Be accepting.” Many people cross our paths throughout our lives and I believe each and every person can teach us lessons; lessons of understanding, love, grace and, acceptance.

    • You are so right. I love this sentence of yours: “Instead of wasting energy spewing hatred and animosity, we would all be much better served embracing others and all their differences. Embrace whatever loving greeting someone bestows upon you and accept it for what it is, a message of kindness. Period.” I so agree–holding onto all that anger fills your arms and doesn’t leave room for hugging.

  9. I cannot agree with you more. This is a country founded on free speech and freedom of religion. I don’t think this “political correctness” crap that was started – when, 20 years ago or so? – has done anyone any good. We need to accept each other as we are and respect each other’s beliefs.

    • I think political correctness made us more aware of words that were hurtful. I grew up at a time when people in power used hate to rule, when there were separate water coolers for people of different colors. My parents were immigrants from a country that was also run on hate, so getting people to watch their speech made sense in some cases. On the other hand, a little intelligent tolerance would cover a lot of ground.

  10. Thanks for putting it all so nicely Quinn. I too have been wondering lately when the word ‘holiday’ became a bad word. So many people complaining about having to say ‘happy holidays’ instead of ‘merry christmas’ just seems a bit silly to me. I for one love Christmas, and I say Merry Christmas to people or Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings and I don’t like to feel that it makes people unhappy. I find it all inclusive to say ‘happy holidays’, which for me covers everything from Thanksgiving to New Years and all that is in between.

  11. Not an issue in Ireland either, largely bacause it is still a not a very multi cultural society.

    But two recent media surveys caught my eye.

    58% of parents in Ireland are anxious that their children will be disappointed in their presents

    The average date and time people start to enjoy Christmas is five to two in the afternoon on Christmas day.

    Sad to reflect what our choices and thoughts have turned Christmas into. And I am not a Christian ( althiugh catholic by birth), but I do believe a time of quiet reflection and connection and celebration with others is vital around the winter solstice.

    • Yeah, Shari, I liked writing #4. I had to re-write it about six times to get it right, but when it was done, I smiled. And saw that it was good. Uh-oh, soon I’ll be sitting next to you on the heretic pew!

  12. I am a strong follower of Jesus and I also think a lot of hoopla is going on over a couple of words. A greeting! Good grief. Really? Say “Happy Holidays” and cover everything! It’s really such a petty thing. It seems to be, one more way people use something to make themselves prideful…. which is also sinful. All the “keep Christ in Christmas” stuff… as if by not saying that word, Christ can be taken out of Christmas. It’s just all so ridiculous. What a stupid thing to be focusing on when we are suppose to be celebrating love of a mighty God. So sad, really.

  13. What a thoughtful and insightful way to express what I also believe to be truths about this silly controversy. A whole lot more tolerance for others and their beliefs is what is needed today, and the sooner we all learn this, the better for all. Happy holidays to all! (whatever you are celebrating!)

    • Tolerance is hard. We have to give up being the only ones who are right. We have to give up feeling superior for nothing we have done, but over making others wrong. It’s far more tempting to be right than to be tolerant, because tolerant looks weak to a lot of people.

  14. We don’t have this problem either. When it comes to New Years greetings there is a knot for those who have decided that their way is the right one. Let me just greet you all in my language : God Jul!
    That greeting leaves it up to you what it means. God means well and what’s well for me need not be as well for you. Therefore it’s ones own decicion.

  15. Speaking as a Christian who isn’t angry about the greeting, who knows full well that Jesus was more than likely born in the spring, that the winter solstice was celebrated for years by people who knew nothing of Jesus or his (either true or immensely crazy) claim to be the Son of God, who understands the Jeremiah 10: 2-4 passage to be a warning against false gods (idols) not trees – I love the celebration of Christmas.

    I wonder if the media isn’t at least a wee bit guilty of making people think there is a huge controversy over holiday greetings which doesn’t exist among the vast majority of Christians. As you say, Quinn, this holiday, this celebration of the birth of Jesus should not be “celebrated with anger and violent arguing over the only correct and cheerful seasonal greeting.”

    Feliz Navidad (wink, wink)

    • The whole root of the problem is over “them” and “us” as defined by “there is only one right way, and it’s mine.” Sigh. There is pretty much no one right way for anything philosophical. Religion is what we choose to believe, that what defines it as religion. As a Seeker, I have a lot more questions. But as someone living in tough times, I think any happy reason for celebrating is one to join in on.

  16. wow! I never realised that this made people angry, what a strange thing to be angry about. This doesnt happen in the UK. My mother is a Christian, and even though she loves the holidays and enjoys all the things around it (decorating her home etc) she spends the day alone as she celebrates and loves Jesus everyday. Becuase like you say, christmas is not mentioned in the bible and no one knows when Jesus was born. Also, to ‘make merry’ used to mean basically to get drunk, now the meaning has changed slightly but it surprises me that anyone would put so much enphasis on a word as the English language changes all the time.

  17. I am so very grateful Quinn to live in the UK where we haven’t tied ourselves in this particular knot. (We do of course have plenty of others!). Happy Christmas doesn’t have baggage attached – it basically means hope you have a peaceful few days with those you love, if that’s possible, and enjoy the midwinter celebration that’s been marked for centuries with lots of rituals that we love, and quite a lot of pressure and expectations that make us feel low, so hope you have a good time anyway.

    So I’ll wish that to you and all of your readers 🙂

    • Here’s to rituals of joy and happiness, of love and cheer in a dark time. I wrote this blog post after a serious clash with a store employee. I generally return the wish people extend to me, if they say “Merry Christmas,” I say that back to them adding, “to you.” This woman said something quite specifically religious that I could not, in good faith (pun unfortunately intended), repeat back, as I didn’t believe it. So I smiled and said, “Happy Holidays to you, too.” She said some pretty sharp things to me, and after listening to them, said, “God sees us all for who we are,” and left. I didn’t peek over my shoulder, but I have to admit to pride to remaining calm and loving. I think that daily writing is working.

      • I would have found that situation challenging too, and hard not to get despondent about afterwards. I’m glad the daily writing is working. And your words shared calmly here – surely have ripples (positive ones).

      • Oh, I would have had to say something to store management. I would definitely have a problem with someone inflicting their religious beliefs onto a perfect stranger. Don’t get me started on this one. I think I need to go do some writing!

  18. I think you have expressed what many of us feel! Most people want to celebrate the Christmas holidays as a time of giving and sharing; the feeling and spirit is the same regardless of what it is called, and regardless of religious beliefs.
    So season’s greetings to everyone; may you enjoy this time of giving and sharing, and may you and your friends and family worship and celebrate in peace, without fear of persecution and prejudice! And may you be safe and protected from harm in the coming year.

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