Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas, Dammit

It's admirable that people want to include the entire planet in their holiday greeting without leaving anyone out, but the phrase "Happy Holidays" is starting to sound euphemistic to me. It almost sounds to me like a fearful phrase, said to appease the anger of those who would demand inclusion if the speaker were to dare narrow their salutation to those who celebrate Christmas. Maybe I'm wrong but I'm going back to saying "Merry Christmas." When I say "Merry Christmas" I'm talking specifically about December 25th when I want everyone to have a good day. Each time I say "Merry Christmas" I'm also invoking all the imagery and warmth I associate with Christmas: the traditional goodwill-toward-men stuff, gleaming wrapped presents, carols and hot chocolate, Andy Williams (and Donny and Marie) specials, and kids suffering through puffed up church services while they wait for their family to get back to the toys and food. That's what I'm recalling when I say "Merry Christmas" and if anyone feels offended by it, they're welcome to bite their tongue and focus their rage later at a true source of religious oppression because I am not it.

Just as no individual can possibly take the blame for the environmental damage done by big business and no individual can begin to correct that damage by recycling her Diet Coke cans, neither can any individual be blamed for the full scope of religious violence done over the ages and no individual can begin to correct for that violence by replacing "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays." I also doubt that using the greeting "Merry Christmas" really offends anyone except those Coke-can-recylce-ers who are certain that no holiday salutation should leave anyone out. We have to relax about this because everything leaves someone out and that's okay. It's okay for different cultures to have different holidays and difference foci and different traditions. The problem is when I start demanding that all those religions conform in some way to MY expectations of how people should act, say, by demanding that we all bleach out our religious greetings into one bland phrase like "Happy Holidays."

And that's what offends me about that phrase. It feels euphemistic, as if to invoke Christianity is to align myself with the fundamentalist and right-wing idiots who believe they are better than the Muslims and Hindus and Jews who could care less about whether or not Jesus really existed. Hell, I don't care whether or not Jesus really existed and I was raised Catholic.

So I step out from the conservative, religious white mountain even as I realize I roughly agree with them on this "happy holidays" thing, and as one atheist to another, I wish you a merry Christmas.


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