Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Etiquette


Tuesday night I went to the ABC store to purchase a bottle of brandy. After the financial transaction was complete the sales clerk wished me a “Merry Christmas.” Instantly I was caught in the dilemma that every non-Christian in this country faces every December. I certainly appreciate that the sales clerk thought enough of me to extend his best wishes. However, because I am a Jew the words “Merry Christmas” present a problem. Since I don’t celebrate Christmas someone’s seasonal greetings in terms of Christmas is unimportant to me. In fact, sometimes I get a little resentful. Why should anybody presume that because it is December it necessarily means that everybody is a Christian? I often get the strong urge to reply “and a Happy Chanukah to you,” but that would just come across as hostile. So, I might reply “the same to you” or “happy holidays to you,” but I still walk away feeling upset.

There was a time, a few years back, when it became fashionable to drop “Merry Christmas” and just speak in terms of “Happy Holidays.” It was a time when everybody was being sensitive to the Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and other non-Christians in our society. Then there was the claim from some Christians that Christmas was under attack. They demanded that “Merry Christmas” be brought back. They even threatened to boycott businesses that insisted on using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” So now we have the strange situation of people wishing both “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas,” as if Christmas was not included in the definition of holiday.

So, what to do with my problem? I suggest that your seasonal greetings be customized to match the recipient. If you know you are speaking to a Christian then certainly “Merry Christmas” is appropriate. However, if you know that the person you are addressing is not a Christian then “Merry Christmas” is not appropriate. It makes as much sense as you wishing me “Happy Birthday” on YOUR birthday. In those instances “Happy Holidays” makes more sense (even though there are many people who don’t celebrate any holy days in December). Dear reader, what do you think?

To all my Christian friends I wish a very Merry Christmas. To my Jewish friends I wish a happy fourth day of Chanukah. To my friends who are neither I wish a very happy holiday season.

3 comments:

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Grozet said...

I disagree with your assumption that you're wished a Merry Christmas because they think you're a Christian.

You're wished a Merry Christmas because that is the Holiday we're celebrating. If you were wished Happy Holidays you would be deluding yourself to believe anyone was talking about Hanukah or any of the lesser holidays (Not to say anything against Hanukah, but from my knowledge of Jewish tradition, it is not a big deal).

If I am correct in this respect then your argument should be more severe. You should argue we get rid of the Christmas season altogether. Is sensitivity really a good enough reason to be perturbed?

Battery Park Blisters said...

Grozet- I have to disagree - Christmas is a christian based holiday and people should not make assumptions. And... Christmas is not the only holiday being celebrated in this season as JRM was trying to point out - you apparently missed the whole point of this blog. I am christian and only with people a Merry Christmas if I know that is what they celebrate - if I am unsure, etc - I wish people happy holidays.....and even though I am a Christmas worshipper - I feel that you have insulted people who do not celebrate Christmas by making reference that what they do celebrate is a "lesser holiday".