Oh, December. That time of year when your Facebook feed is filled with obnoxious memes about “The War on Christmas” (spoiler: it doesn’t exist), and how Christians are oppressed because they can’t say “Merry Christmas” (spoiler: that’s just a lie), and how everyone, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, should be honored and gracious when they’re wished “Merry Christmas” for the fiftieth time today.
This year’s nonsense includes this little gem that I’ve seen pop up repeatedly:
On first glance, this seems pretty innocuous and positive. No matter what someone wishes you, you say “Thank you! You too!” because everyone who wishes you one of these things has good intent.
Thing is, that’s not true. Let’s look at how this works in the real world:
Holiday well-wisher: Happy Holidays!
Person being wished well: Don’t you mean Merry Christmasssssss?
That’s right; it’s the season of the Christmas hisser. This is the person who is convinced there’s a War on Christmas, that it’s offensive that stores instruct their employees to use non-specific greetings, and that any greeting in December that’s not “Merry Christmas” is proof positive that Christians are being oppressed. And there are a LOT of these people. According to my Facebook feed (well, before my most recent set of cullings) and the amount of time I spend around the general public this time of year, a huge number of Christians are Christmas hissers.
Listen. I have 20+ years working in retail. I’ve heard it all, more than once. I don’t even mess around with any of those greetings anymore. I stick with “Good luck with the rest of your shopping” or “Stay warm out there!” or “Enjoy your afternoon.” Because I’m sick of my holiday-neutral greeting turning into me becoming the recipient of a five-minute diatribe on how it’s a damn shame that no one can say “Merry Christmas” anymore, and this PC nonsense has gone too far. I just want to finish your transaction and move on.
Moving on. There’s also the matter that “Happy Chanukah” is a false equivalence for “Merry Christmas.” It’s a minor festival that happens to fall in December, so people (Christians) assume that it’s “the Jewish Christmas.” It’s not. I was raised Jewish, and I never have any idea when Chanukah is because it’s such a minor thing. “L’Shanah Tovah” would be roughly the same in importance in Judaism as “Merry Christmas” is in Christianity, but since that’s a new year’s greeting, and Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) generally falls in September-ish, it’s not appropriate as an alternative to “Merry Christmas.”
I’m all for non-denominational greetings. “Happy Holidays”? Whatever, it’s fine, even though about 16% of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. This one works because it incorporates New Year’s, which isn’t religious, and is generic enough to encompass most people without making assumptions about their religion or lack thereof, although it does presume that everyone celebrates some kind of holiday in December, which not everyone does. But “Happy Holidays” tends to send Christians into a frenzy. See the above “five-minute diatribe to a total stranger about how political correctness has gone too far.”
“Season’s Greetings”? That’s cool, too, although I don’t see people saying it in the summer, so it, like “Happy Holidays,” makes the assumption that this is a special, noteworthy time of year.
Would it be awesome if everyone who was greeted in every way responded cheerfully and graciously? Sure it would. But that’s not what happens. And it’s not the non-Christians who are making a fuss. It’s the Christians who take personal offense to every greeting except “Merry Christmas.” Looking back on who’s posted this flowchart, I notice a trend: They’re all Christian. This is an infographic with the purpose of justifying “Merry Christmas” being shoved down everyone’s throats by implying that any other greeting should be met with a positive response. Really, it’s just saying that people who take offense at “Merry Christmas” are too damn sensitive, and here’s proof that if you say something that’s specific to your religion or to no religion at all, OF COURSE Christians are going to respond positively and graciously. But they don’t. Go read the comments on any article or post about “The War on Christmas.” These people want everyone to wish everyone Merry Christmas, and for those other people who don’t belong in their Christian nation (ahem), just accept it and shut up.
I know people will never stop wishing everyone Merry Christmas. I’m not naïve. I also know Christians will never stop being as offended by other greetings as they claim other people are by “Merry Christmas.” But it’d be nice if these people would stop bending over backwards trying to demonstrate why everyone else is just too sensitive, and realize that everyone, regardless of what they do or don’t believe, has Christmas shoved down their throats for five or six weeks every year. It’s inescapable.
So maybe just realize that the above flowchart doesn’t accurately represent what actually happens or what will ever happen this time of year, because I don’t know of any Jewish people who actually say “Happy Chanukah” to every person they encounter in the way that Christians say “Merry Christmas.” I’ve never heard anyone wish a stranger a Happy Kwanzaa. Pretending that those things happen with the same frequency as “Merry Christmas” is disingenuous and patronizing. You have the right to say “Merry Christmas.” Other people have the right to be annoyed by it. No one’s infringing on anyone’s rights here.
Enjoy your afternoon.