Are you offended by “Merry Christmas”?

My early memories of Christmas involved dreaming about what presents would be waiting for me under the tree when I awoke. I also remember the occasional disappointment over the sweater or sock in my stocking, but generally despite the usual selfishness of children, the experience was fun and enjoyable. Like most of my friends, we celebrated Christmas for the presents, and although the story of Jesus was never too far from our minds, it was never anything that would overshadow the positive experience.

Despite not having an ounce of religiosity in me, I still wish people a Merry Christmas. I’ve never given a second thought to the religious aspects of the holiday precisely because it never mattered to me. Every so often, however, I hear a few people complain that they feel offended by the well wishes of others. Perhaps some of them feel as though the holiday is being forced upon them. The tradition of winter solstice and the subsequent celebrations have been a part of the human experience for a long time. That Christianity now claims the holiday for themselves does not faze me. Plenty of other religions have come and gone, and yet we still celebrate these days. The 21st of December is the shortest day of the year, but it marks the beginning of the end of winter. From that moment on, the days will continue to have more sunlight. Humans choose to celebrate, and with good cause. Winter can be depressing, lonely, and very cold; any reason to party seems good enough for me in such times.

I for one enjoy the fact that people are always a little bit more pleasant during Christmas. If the reason is motivated by religion, I still see it as mostly innocuous. We are simply continuing the traditions our ancestors did, albeit with a few twists. I choose to exclude religion out of mine, but I do not expect others to do the same.

If you feel offended by Christmas well wishers, and prefer the ubiquitous “Happy Holidays”, then I believe you may be suffering from an acute case of stick up the ass. The spirit of celebration can often be muddied by the inequities and the selfishness of the few. I urge atheists and non-religious folks alike to see the positive aspects of the holiday, and leave the business of secular conflicts for another day. This is a war we cannot win.

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Comments (5)

  • avatar

    Josh Nankivel

    I agree Jacob. Celebrating Christmas has always been a secular thing for me, even though my family was loosely religious. It was never “the birth of our savior” for me.

    Plus, I was born on December 25th, so it’s always been my birthday too. I’ve always enjoyed the holidays and my lack of jesus worship doesn’t cheapen them for me.

    Josh Nankivel
    http://non-theist.com

  • avatar

    Wendy

    I really enjoyed this post. You summed it up perfectly, methinks!

    “If you feel offended by Christmas well wishers, and prefer the ubiquitous Happy Holidays¬Ě, then I believe you may be suffering from an acute case of stick up the ass.”

    LOL!!!

  • avatar

    garth

    while i agree with you that taking offense to “merry christmas” is a little unctuous, it’s also that person’s right. “being offended” doesn’t necessarily mean “making a huge fuss out of it”, as far as i remember. lots of things people do offend me, but i generally keep it to myself and put a mark under “douche” on my mental chalkboard.
    and as far as any “war” is concerned, that’s something invented almost purely by religionists. the whole “war on xmas” garbage was made up as a response to some cities and businesses opting to say “happy holidays”. they decided this because (gasp!) some of the people they interacted with did not celebrate christmas, and also…there’s other holidays going on. By saying “happy holidays” you acknowledge hannuka (i can never spell that right), the new year, and any other goofy-ass holidays in the vicinity of xmas. it’s not like “happy holidays” takes anything away from xmas, as xmas is a holiday, as far as i recall.
    of course, you can just say i have a stick up my ass if you want. but it seems like there’s dozens of totally valid reasons for non-religious as well as religious people to choose “happy holidays” over “merry christmas”. except, perhaps, christmas eve and christmas day.

  • avatar

    Allyn

    When I worked retail, I always wished people a “Merry Christmas.” And it never bothered me to hear it. The reason? People can interpret it how they wish. For myself, Christmas is a secular holiday. For my customers, it more than likely wasn’t. Even though our meanings didn’t match, I’m not sure that it mattered. Richard Dawkins noted that people can celebrate Christmas culturally without celebrating it religiously, and that’s very much how I’ve always seen it.

  • avatar

    JFHalsey

    I agree with garth–minus the annoying internet grammar.
    I’ve got no problem with “Merry Christmas;” hell, I even like to sing Christmas carols, despite my very unpleasant view of religion from my fundamental upbringing. But I’ve got no problem with “Happy Holidays,” either. As Garth pointed out, there are a lot of other holidays during this season, and there’s nothing “stick-up-the-ass” about wanting to mention them, too.

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