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“Merry Christmas…..uh, no…..Happy Holidays! Oh, Whatever…”

A good friend of mine posted this on her Facebook status this morning:

“We can’t say Merry Christmas now we have to say Happy Holidays. We can’t call it a Christmas tree, now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone. If you don’t like our “American Customs” & it offends you so much then just leave. They are called customs, we have our traditions. If you agree Please post this as your status. I AM A PROUD AMERICAN. MERRY CHRISTMAS & Decorate your CHRISTMAS TREE.”

I don’t get it, Jeannie. Why are people so angry when someone says “Happy Holidays” to them? It seems to me that if anyone says Happy anything to you, the correct response would be Thank You. I always thought Happy Holidays was a phrase designed to wish people good tidings (whatever their religious preference) through the New Year — meaning that “Holidays” is plural. I don’t quite understand why you’d jump down someone throat for it.

Maybe it hits me as mean and, frankly, stupid because I’m Jewish and don’t put up a Christmas tree. I also just sent out holiday cards that said Happy Holidays. Did she tear it into little pieces and stomp on it? Also the I AM A PROUD AMERICAN part bothers me. I consider myself A PROUD AMERICAN too. Aren’t non-Christians Americans too?

I thought of challenging her on it but you know how Facebook can be. This person is a dear friend of mine and my first thought is that she doesn’t really mean this. But I’m not so sure. Does she really think I’m un-American and should leave the country because I don’t have a Christmas tree?

I’m re-thinking this friendship.

And for those that would re-post this ugly message … All I can say is, honestly, people, don’t we have more important issues to be outraged over?   1219-10

The phrase “Happy Holiday(s)” has been around since the Victorian era when early Christmas postcards and cards had this greeting imprinted on them.   Christmas music from the 1960’s uses the phrase with the song, “Happy Holiday” by Andy Williams being the notable example. So, I don’t think it is the actual greeting that has some people riled up.

At issue is the perception of a war being waged against a Christianity-based holiday. Wikipedia says it better than I can so I’ll quote directly:

Controversies have arisen regarding the celebration or acknowledgment of the Christmas Holiday (or the lack thereof) in government, media, advertising, retail, and various secular environments. The controversy also includes objections to policies that prohibit government or schools from forcing unwilling participants to take part in Christmas ceremonies. In the past, Christmas-related controversy was mainly restricted to concerns of a public focus on secular Christmas themes such as Santa Claus and  gift-giving, rather than the  birth of Jesus.

Modern-day controversy occurs mainly in Western countries such as the United States, Canada, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom. This usually involves governments or corporations avoiding the day’s association with Christianity  to be multiculturally sensitive. In recent decades in the United States, public, corporate, and the federal government mention of the term “Christmas” during the Christmas and holiday season  has declined and been replaced with a generic term, usually “holiday” or “holidays,” to avoid referring to Christmas by name and/or to be inclusive of other end-of-year observances such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.  Popular non-religious aspects of Christmas, such as  Christmas trees, lights, and decorating are still prominently showcased and recognized, but are vaguely associated with unspecified “holidays” rather than with Christmas. Also, several US chain retailers, such as Walmart, Macy’s and Sears, have experimented with greeting their customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” rather than with the “Merry Christmas”.

However, Ben Stein probably reflects the real opinion of the majority of people in regards to this issue….

I am a Jew and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish, and it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautifully lit-up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees.

I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are — Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they’re slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. I shows that we’re all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year.

It doesn’t bother me one bit that there’s a manger scene on display at a key intersection at my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, fine. The menorah a few hundred yards away is fine, too. I do not like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way. Where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand him? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we used to know went to.    http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/confessions.asp


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  • Kat December 17, 2014, 12:14 pm

    A peripherally related issue is the declaration of national holidays. As I stated upthread, I’m not a believer, but someone close to me is Jewish and I’ve come to learn a lot about Yom Kippur in the past couple of years. As I understand it, that’s a very important holiday in the Jewish faith (more so than Hannukah) and it’s impractical for Jewish people observing all the traditions of that day to attend work. Many people are given the day off on Christmas – including myself, although our company president is Jewish – but I don’t see the same consideration granted to other religions.

    I think this is a lot bigger problem than what kind of holiday greeting you issue to people.

    • EchoGirl December 17, 2014, 6:05 pm

      Hannukah is made a big deal of because it’s around the same time as Christmas, but it’s actually one of the most laid-back Jewish holidays there is, there aren’t a lot of requirements besides lighting the candles. Yom Kippur is considered one of the holiest days of the year, as are the two days of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which usually falls out somewhere in September) and even Jews who aren’t that religious usually don’t work or go to school on those days. Christmas is considered a “universal” holiday in the US (even though it’s not) and so most places give time off, but Jews often have to burn their own time off or take unpaid time. Some “trade” days and come in on Christmas to get the time off for the Jewish holidays, but you have to be in a specific kind of environment for that to be doable.

    • NostalgicGal December 18, 2014, 5:06 pm

      One place I worked at decided that everyone got Christmas, then gave one more ‘personal holiday’ day. You could take it any time you wished. That way those that celebrated other holidays had a chance of getting the one they chose off. HR said that was the easiest way to handle it.

      • Kat December 23, 2014, 12:30 pm

        NostalgicGal, good solution 🙂

  • Asharah December 17, 2014, 5:04 pm

    While I think we’ve gotten way too PC about Christmas, I recall reading something in one of the AMERICAN GIRL books. Rebecca is a Jewish girl living in New York in 1914. She attends public school. One of the stories centered around the family preparing for Hanukkah. Meanwhile in school, she’s being taught Christmas songs and has to make a Christmas centerpiece as a school project. When her friend, also Jewish, tries to object and tells the teacher that her family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, the teacher declares that Christmas is a national holiday for all Americans to celebrate. Seriously, this woman can’t comprehend that some of these children don’t observe the same holidays she does. Kinda wanted to give her a thump on the head for being so clueless.

    • hakayama December 18, 2014, 7:57 pm

      That sort of idiocy did not end in 1914 either. Remember that the “under God” phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance did not appear until the Cold War.

      [I still fuzzily remember some of the girls (young women?) that were majoring in education with the aim of becoming teachers. Put all the “blonde jokes” together, multiply by 100 and you’d have just one of them.]

  • Kate December 17, 2014, 8:50 pm

    Every Christmas I see someone ranting on Facebook about the ‘war on Christmas’ and people banning Christmas from society etc. The line that always gets thrown around is “and our schools are banning Christmas!”. I’ve taught in government and independent schools and if this is happening, I certainly haven’t seen it. Kids always talk about Christmas, sing carols, and give Christmas cards.

    I’m a pretty hardline atheist but I’d never get offended at someone choosing to wish me a “merry Christmas” rather than “happy holidays”. That’s just part of living in a historically Judeo-Christian country.

  • ketchup December 18, 2014, 1:30 am

    I would quote the Bible at her. 😀
    Also, holidays mean holy days, so saying happy holidays isn’t that far off anyway. What I don’t get is why people have to feel offended all the time. Live and let live. So someone doesn’t tell you to have a Merry Christmas. So what? If they have to be forced to say it, it doesn’t mean much anymore, does it? It doesn’t come from the heart. And I hardly think one’s Christmas happiness should be contingent on what some other person, a stranger, wishes you. Christmas is something you have or you don’t have, and no one can take it away from you!

    Jeremiah 10:1-25
    Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”

    Christmas trees aren’t a Christian custom anyway. It’s a heathen Juletide celebration. As are other parts of Christmas. I celebrate Christmas, and I’m not christian myself. For us it’s about the winter solstice, the return of the Sun.

  • Hellbound Allee December 18, 2014, 10:29 am

    Well, I suppose Christmas IS an American holiday–if you acknowledge that the American Christmas is largely secular.

    The Christmas we know and love was actually invented in the mid nineteenth century, by people who were tired of the traditional Christmas, which was rioting and drunken carousing. That’s why Christmas never really took hold in the American imagination until then. Until the creation of the secularized Saint Nic, which was what we see as Santa Claus. He is more of a Yule Elf than a bishop. He was actually modeled after the dark spirit that always accompanied Saint Nicholas on his rounds–a Belsnickle, giver of gifts and giver of the birch branch to the behind.

    Of course, Saint Nicholas wasn’t always there. The sidekick was, though. That’s where all the secular Christmas traditions we know and love were “pagan,” with a small “p,” meaning Folk Beliefs in elves, ghosts, and dark spirits.

    My research into Christmas history has led me to unerstand that Christmas as we know it is for everyone, and it always has been. We had a rough patch there with Cromwell trying to smash it, and his ideas coming to our country with the Puritans. American Christians have rejected Christmas for a long time. It took secular interests to get them to embrace it. And knowing this makes the forced “Merry Christmas” all the more annoying to me, as an atheist. I love Christmas more than anything. I am obsessed with it. But I have received more than my fair share of “Merry Christmases” as weapons, not kind greetings. As if I could just choke on it. Well, I am having a wonderful Christmas. You can scream and sputter it all you want, and I will feel sorry for you that you can’t just relax and enjoy as religious a holiday as you want. No one is stopping you. Not even Obama.

    • ketchup December 18, 2014, 5:09 pm

      Well, here’s one kind and sincere ‘Merry Christmas’. 😉

    • Library Diva December 19, 2014, 4:46 pm

      Ugh, nothing’s worse than the weaponized greeting. I wish a sincere “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to people I encounter in business settings this time of year. Whatever comes out of my mouth at the moment. I hate it when people say the other one back in an aggressive tone of voice, then walk away like they’ve dealt some kind of blow for their cause.

  • hakayama December 18, 2014, 10:19 pm

    A Jewish friend states that he has no problem with the Christmas hoopla. Smilingly he says that it’s a “birthday celebration of one of us”.
    Another Jewish friend is uncomfortable with the music played in stores. According to her, it’s lack of consideration for those who might not observe the holiday. *
    And then, there’s the PC taken verra seriously in a locale in Scotland. It seems that some members of the Muslim community took offense at a picture of a puppy on cards/flyers with the notice of a new non-emergency police phone number. Dogs are filthy animals. Local Muslims were not consulted about the flyer…

    * “Sort of Christian” I too find the holiday music to be overbearing. I find most music in stores to be overbearing most of the time. It’s not my choice, it’s too loud, too whiny, too… 😉 Arrrrrgh! Even when pumping gas one is subjected to unwanted sounds.

    • wren December 19, 2014, 10:38 am

      This reminds me of my Jewish friend who considers Christmas the celebration of a “really cool rabbi.”

      • Cat December 19, 2014, 6:38 pm

        They should have used a kitten. Mohammed is said to have cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than disturb his sleeping cat. Now, that is a cat lover.

        • hakayama December 20, 2014, 8:37 am

          @Cat: I’ve heard of that respect for cats too, but in “my” version it was the edge of a robe/coat. But since “haters are gonna hate”, there likely would have been objections from those who hold truly Medieval* views on cats, and are convinced that the felines’ mission is killing human infants as they lie defenseless in their cribs.
          Probably the objective of an image was to catch people’s attention. Letters and words are so BORING (as most people might say)…
          *European Middle Ages, that is. Priests of PC forgive my Eurocentrism for I have grown up with it and in it. Blame it on my Mother. 😉

  • Enna December 21, 2014, 10:41 am

    Ive seen this facebook post several times and I can’t stand it. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays as long as the perosn saying it is geninue in wishing you well what does it matter? This kind of complaint I find often comes from people who 1) don’t go to Church 2) would be the first to complain about how bad Chrstianinty has been in the past at harming people 3) compalin about Christmas stuff being sold in the shops before 1st December 4) aren’t praticsing Christians themselves.

    It’s like the posts about how if you go to North Korea illegally you get imprisoned, go to Afganistan illgeaglly you get shot, go to UK illegally you get a mansion, food vocuhers for the Ritz, clothes vouchers for desginers, and a million pounds a week in benefit money. Completely taken out of context.

  • Enna December 21, 2014, 10:45 am

    What a lot lof people forget that in the West before Christainity spread, a lot of places like Europe, Africa, America, Austrailia had many different religions. There are posts on facebook about how the UK is a Christan country – yes it is, because immigrants brought it over!

    • ketchup December 23, 2014, 2:31 pm

      Ah yes, those poor Picts….

  • BagLady December 22, 2014, 8:10 pm

    I want to ask all these people who think there’s a War on Christmas when was the last time they walked into a store and heard Elvis singing “Blue Hanukkah.” Or Karen Carpenter singing “Merry Solstice, Darling.” Or Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday.”

    I’m an agnostic. I love Christmas the religious holiday, even though it isn’t my religion. I sing the carols with great enthusiasm out of respect for the tradition and for Jesus himself — whom I honor as a great man whose birth is worth celebrating, even though I don’t consider him the literal son of God.

    It bugs me that Christmas has become this juggernaut you can’t get away from for the entire month of December. It’s hijacked the month and turned it into the Disneyland of the calendar. It’s the Happiest Month on Earth, and Deity forbid that anything bad should happen to you in December, because it isn’t just sad or unpleasant or tragic … it *ruins Christmas!*

    To the PP who complained about the school concert not having Christmas music: I think that program sounds wonderful! Who says every school concert in December has to be all Christmas music with an “O Hanukkah” or “Dreidel Song” thrown in for diversity’s sake? There are a whole bunch of days in December that aren’t holidays. Heck, why does the concert have to be in December at all? Hold it in January, when there’s less other stuff going on to get in the way.

    BTW, here it is three days to the Big Day, and I have yet to be wished Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays by a single retail worker. It’s been all “have a good day”/”have a nice night,” etc. I expect that will change on the 24th, but for now they’re saving their holiday greeting thunder for the actual holiday.

  • Ginger December 28, 2014, 4:43 pm

    Honestly, I agree with your friend. It used to be that people said Happy Holidays because you weren’t sure what they celebrated (Christmas or Hanukkah) and didn’t want to offend them. But people back in the day didn’t get offended.

    But nowadays, there are people who get “offended” when you say Merry Christmas to them because they are atheist/agnostic/non religious. I’ve met these people and encountered them online. So we have to be PC and tip toe around people who are offended because they feel this winter holiday should not be religious anymore. They think it should be secular to include everyone. They call the Rockefeller Tree a “holiday” tree so it’s not offensive to non Christians. Um, it’s a CHRISTMAS tree! We don’t call it a holiday menorah, do we? Heck, I would be upset if someone said that Hanukkah should be secular! It’s a religious, Jewish holiday. It always was and always should be. Christmas is a CHRISTIAN holiday! If you aren’t Christian, don’t celebrate. Very simple really.

  • Gee January 13, 2015, 11:49 am

    For pete’s sake, sometimes it’s like people go out of their way to be offended. How about just be happy someone took the time to say something nice to you? Sheesh.

    I am a new atheist, after being a devout Catholic for 30+ years. If someone says something like, “God bless,” (or Merry Christmas) to me, I don’t get offended. I know they intend it kindly. I just say, “Thanks, have a great day/holiday!”

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