(originally posted December 15, 2016)
Every year at this time, I hear cheery calls of “Happy Holidays!” and “Season’s Greetings!”
I say, “Merry Christmas.”
People say that Happy Holidays doesn’t offend non-Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas, that the proper way to greet someone whose religious background you don’t know is a generic “Season’s Greetings.” I understand that, and I certainly don’t want to discourage friendly greetings of any kind. I, however, will continue to say “Merry Christmas,” and you should not be offended.
When I say Merry Christmas, my heart is full of love. I was raised to celebrate the birth of Jesus with presents, decorations, and a trip to Mass. Christmas is a time of generosity and of compassion. It’s a time of family coming together (okay, not always perfection there, but that’s another topic). It’s a time to be grateful for all that you have, tangible and intangible, and a time to share all that with others. It’s the only time of year, unfortunately, where you can wish happiness and love on a stranger and have them smile instead of walk away muttering how strange you are.
When I say Merry Christmas, I am not trying to convert you from your beliefs to mine. When you say it back, it doesn’t mean you are becoming a Christian. There is nothing sinister in the greeting Merry Christmas. I have seen people’s eyes widen when I greet them this way, and I’ve had students tell me, “I can’t say that.” Why not? Doesn’t every religion have some form of greeting that communicates wishes of good will to the person being greeted? Of course they do.
When you say Happy Hanukkah or Namaste, I smile and respond in kind. By doing so, I acknowledge your peaceful, positive greeting and show I respect your beliefs and extend those wishes. It makes me feel good inside to make a positive connection with another person. I don’t feel that you are trying to make me Jewish or Hindu, and I hope that my greeting of Merry Christmas is taken in the same vein. Feel the intent of the season instead of looking for lurking malicious intent.
So you may choose to stick with Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings, and that’s fine. Whatever friendly greeting you give me at this time of year, I will respond with Merry Christmas. It has a deeper meaning than just Hello or Thank you, a deeper meaning for me than Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings.