The idea of “Happy Holidays” being a forced and politically correct replacement for “Merry Christmas” is sad to those of us who were raised on Christmas spirit and who know a bit about history. It’s funny how it is okay to say “Happy Chanukah” and “Have a wonderful Kwanzaa” or “May your Ramadan be delightful!” — but if you say “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” you’re placing yourself in the middle of a political firestorm that doesn’t mind who gets burned in the process.

Wishing each other “Happy Holidays” has been a perfectly acceptable Christian greeting since the Civil War and the even more generic “Season’s Greetings” has been used as a Christian salutation since
1910.

When I was a youngster and we visited my mother’s second husband’s mother in Oklahoma for the holidays, I was repeatedly instructed during the 12 hour drive down to visit her in the middle of nowhere to “Never spell ‘Christmas’ as ‘Xmas’ with her because ‘You can’t take the Christ out of Christmas.'” Since I was six years old at the time I found that hourly admonishment confusing because I had never met the woman before and I was barely able to write anything anyway.

Later I learned the “X” in “Xmas” actually does represent “Christ” — so spelling “Christmas” as “Xmas” is completely appropriate because in the original Greek the “X” (pronounced “chai”) in “Xmas” translates into Christ’s name.

For over 1,000 years “Xmas” has meant “Christmas” and the fact that people today without an awareness or the perspective of history — but with a political bent and with a view of culture as contingent — are getting bent out of shape over concepts and greetings that have a pre-existing life beyond their current angry agenda.

47 Comments

  1. I guess “Happy Holidays” is the burden of being the minority. I could go on about my burden of being a Jewish girl in a predominantly Christian society but I won’t 😀 I did however already complain about it a little on my blog.

  2. This weekend, I was at a Christmas get-together with my mom’s side of the family, and I heard one of my uncles talking about this committee he’s on to get stores to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”
    Part of the reason why the whole conversation was nauseating is because this uncle is always making himself sound more important than he really is. (I still remember when he and my mom’s sister lived in a single-wide trailer!)
    But he was all proud of himself because he said Sears had this big Merry Christmas banner at the front of the store, and he believed it was because of these petitions his group had. (There were other tactics they were using, but I was only half listening to his blatherings.)
    I didn’t really feel like turning this lovely family time into some sort of religious arguement, but I felt like wringing his neck and saying, “You idiot, they’re not doing it because they’re trying to be Christian! They’re doing it because they don’t want to lose customers!”
    I don’t understand why these people are letting two words define their holiday experience. Hearing the words “Happy Holidays” is not an effort to drag us away from our Christian beliefs. If someone feels threatened by these two words, perhaps their beliefs aren’t as strong as they think they are!
    Ok, rant over… I think.

  3. Carla!
    Love that rant! There was some big store… was it Sears or Target… and they were advertising “holiday trees” instead of “Christmas trees” and the conservative religious right picketed the store until they paid for an ad that said “Christmas trees.”
    I don’t understand how that kind of bullying can do any sort of good — it may find a temporary success but the long-term damage is insidious and deep — you were smart to stay mum, though, because in my experience folks with that kind of mindset only want affirmation and not conversation.

  4. Well I was raised Jewish and had a Bat Mitzvah and the whole shebang. My mom converted and considers herself Jewish. I’ve been tempted before to go around wishing everyone I see a Happy Chanukah but it hardly seems worth it. I’m not going to wish people a Merry X-mas because well I try to avoid anything X-mas related if I can. Am I bitter? Yeah a little. I went from a Jewish private school for years to a public school where I always felt left out around this time of year but with a little persistence got a few Chanukah songs brought into the now Holiday Concert (changed from Christmas Concert). I don’t really hold it against anyone for the X-mas spirit or anything but it would be nice for people to notice (when I make it so obvious) that I don’t celebrate X-mas.

  5. Hi Robin —
    I know you were “raised Jewish” but there are many in the Jewish community who believe you are only Jewish if you were born from a Jewish mother. I know you know this — I’m just setting the record straight for those who may not be following this conversation or for those who may have missed Gordon’s previous insights into this matter.
    If you’re in America you are assumed to be Christmas-happy by default. It is sad and narrow-minded and I am with you on the pain of assumptions.

  6. Hi Robin —
    I know you were “raised Jewish” but there are many in the Jewish community who believe you are only Jewish if you were born from a Jewish mother. I know you know this — I’m just setting the record straight for those who may not be following this conversation or for those who may have missed Gordon’s previous insights into this matter.
    If you’re in America you are assumed to be Christmas-happy by default. It is sad and narrow-minded and I am with you on the pain of assumptions.

  7. I guess I just feel I “paid my dues” to being Jewish. All the ceremonies, learning Hebrew, Passovers, being called a J.A.P. and of course my Hebrew name tattoo 😉 Well I was raised Reform anyway so I’m a very laid back Jew. Thank you David I appreciate your understanding and I’ve obviously gotten used to most of it but doesn’t mean I’m going to love it all. This year I’m trying to start a new tradition…Happy Chrismakah to one and to all! My boyfriend is doing the Happy Chrismakwanzakah!

  8. It was unfortunate you were made to pay when you were not made Jewish, Robin, and I feel for you.
    Your plan to change the holiday to fit your current life is wonderful.
    In my “holiday skin” I plan to set up tomorrow one of the header images is a tiny kitten wearing a yarmulke sitting in a chalice and the greeting is “Happy Chanukat” and the innocent expression on the kitten’s face is pricelessly funny! I’m sure some Jews and Christians will be completely offended by it all!

  9. It was unfortunate you were made to pay when you were not made Jewish, Robin, and I feel for you.
    Your plan to change the holiday to fit your current life is wonderful.
    In my “holiday skin” I plan to set up tomorrow one of the header images is a tiny kitten wearing a yarmulke sitting in a chalice and the greeting is “Happy Chanukat” and the innocent expression on the kitten’s face is pricelessly funny! I’m sure some Jews and Christians will be completely offended by it all!

  10. Offending all instead of trying to offend none is the best way to go and anything with a cat is good in my book 😀
    Now to branch off on this and probably make myself sound like the most difficult person on the planet I found out recently my MIL got me something particularly religious for my gift this year. I told Erik to tell her that I’m not really a practicing Jew anymore…I mean it’s always a part of me but I can’t remember the last time I had challagh much less gone to temple. I like to do a little bit here and there because it feels nice but if you look around my house you’d never know what religion I am. Right now there is a Chanukiah in the living room only because my family is coming over on Friday.
    Anyway when Erik told his mom I’m not that Jewish anymore know what her response was? “Well she should be.” So there you go…I just need to find a t-shirt to wear around that says something along the lines of just ignore me during the holidays altogether. I’ll just be in the corner watching CSI.

  11. Robin —
    I agree that if everyone is offended no one is left out!
    :mrgreen:
    What a mess! I do not understand your MIL’s fixation with your religion except that it’s a way to try to control you in a way she knows you will resist. Don’t let her have any fun with your feelings. Be a pillow. Don’t let her land any hard blows on you. Have your boyfriend put himself in the line of fire for you instead.

  12. Robin —
    I agree that if everyone is offended no one is left out!
    :mrgreen:
    What a mess! I do not understand your MIL’s fixation with your religion except that it’s a way to try to control you in a way she knows you will resist. Don’t let her have any fun with your feelings. Be a pillow. Don’t let her land any hard blows on you. Have your boyfriend put himself in the line of fire for you instead.

  13. As her other daughter-in-law would say “she just finds something to fixate on and obsesses about it.” It’s funny I’m throwing this little Chanukah dinner thing on Friday for MIL and my family. What’s ironic is I’m worrying about everything I do not because of what my family will say, they don’t care, but whether MIL will comment how I’m going against my religion. Like I was going to make pork loin, not even thinking about the fact it was pork, and realized she’d be appalled. She’s already made several comments about how my party is not actually on Chanukah but I’m throwing it on this day so she can be there. Is your mom this difficult with your wife? The concept of mothers of sons is just beyond my understanding.

  14. I was in Chicago yesterday and people were wishing each other “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” all over the place.
    One could hear people of all faiths wishing each other blessings. I almost got a hug from a woman who was wishing me a “Merry Christmas.”
    To add to the festive atmosphere, a huge “Christmas Village” was set up outside of Chicago’s Daley Center in celebration of the season and was filled with business people and shoppers.
    I also saw something interesting in Gary, Indiana yesterday. A gas station owned by a Middle Eastern gentleman of the Coptic Christian faith had religious icons displayed on his bulletproof glass window near the cash register. Another gas station in nearby Merrillville has a nativity scene on its property.
    I see it as a sign that we have room for all celebrations. In our part of the world where it gets dark at 4 p.m. we’ll take any celebration that breaks up the monotony of cold and dark winters.

  15. I was in Chicago yesterday and people were wishing each other “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” all over the place.
    One could hear people of all faiths wishing each other blessings. I almost got a hug from a woman who was wishing me a “Merry Christmas.”
    To add to the festive atmosphere, a huge “Christmas Village” was set up outside of Chicago’s Daley Center in celebration of the season and was filled with business people and shoppers.
    I also saw something interesting in Gary, Indiana yesterday. A gas station owned by a Middle Eastern gentleman of the Coptic Christian faith had religious icons displayed on his bulletproof glass window near the cash register. Another gas station in nearby Merrillville has a nativity scene on its property.
    I see it as a sign that we have room for all celebrations. In our part of the world where it gets dark at 4 p.m. we’ll take any celebration that breaks up the monotony of cold and dark winters.

  16. I want to add that if all this Christmas/Holiday cheer brought on the love and joy it should then I’d be all for it. If people were nicer this time of year, especially on the road, I’d put on a big red and green sweater like the rest of them and even maybe put on some antlers. Maybe it’s more of a New England thing but people become so rude and impatient this time of year. I fear stepping outside because everyone is driving more like a maniac and there are more cars honking than ever. Forget going to a store because you will get run over whether it by a car or a person in the isle of Target. So my view of the holidays isn’t so much because I’m Jewish or because I’m a Scrooge but because it seems to bring out more of the worst in people than the best.

  17. Robin — She’s already controlling you from afar! You are too worried to have a good time but she can’t control you without your permission. A gracious host requires polite guests so none of this can be placed at your feet or loaded against your back. I realize tension and being uncomfortable isn’t wanted by anyone during the holidays but someone — your boyfriend — needs to draw a line in the sand and say “Robin is off-limits. Leave her alone.” When I was dating a woman I really liked in college, my mother said after meeting her for the first time, “She’s Catholic! She’ll drown you in children!” Right then I knew my mother must not be a part of my personal life on that level because her opinion can poison good intentions and what she thinks doesn’t matter in the long view. The only thing that matters is what I think and what the one I love thinks and anything else is noise and must be treated that way. After that, whenever my mother tried to insert her opinion in my relationships I calmly said, “This isn’t your life. I’m not interested.” If she continued I would hang up the phone or walk out of the room.
    Chris — Excellent story, Chris! I wonder how much of that holiday good spirit is driven by the need for connecting with humanity and how much of it is driven by a profit margin? I grew up in the land of the 4pm darkness and I feel for you in the cold and hard wandering towards the light.
    Robin — Sometimes it’s best just to stay inside and eat in bed and watch movies in the dark with the one you love. Doing just that has provided some of my brightest and best memories.

  18. Robin — She’s already controlling you from afar! You are too worried to have a good time but she can’t control you without your permission. A gracious host requires polite guests so none of this can be placed at your feet or loaded against your back. I realize tension and being uncomfortable isn’t wanted by anyone during the holidays but someone — your boyfriend — needs to draw a line in the sand and say “Robin is off-limits. Leave her alone.” When I was dating a woman I really liked in college, my mother said after meeting her for the first time, “She’s Catholic! She’ll drown you in children!” Right then I knew my mother must not be a part of my personal life on that level because her opinion can poison good intentions and what she thinks doesn’t matter in the long view. The only thing that matters is what I think and what the one I love thinks and anything else is noise and must be treated that way. After that, whenever my mother tried to insert her opinion in my relationships I calmly said, “This isn’t your life. I’m not interested.” If she continued I would hang up the phone or walk out of the room.
    Chris — Excellent story, Chris! I wonder how much of that holiday good spirit is driven by the need for connecting with humanity and how much of it is driven by a profit margin? I grew up in the land of the 4pm darkness and I feel for you in the cold and hard wandering towards the light.
    Robin — Sometimes it’s best just to stay inside and eat in bed and watch movies in the dark with the one you love. Doing just that has provided some of my brightest and best memories.

  19. Robin — She’s already controlling you from afar! You are too worried to have a good time but she can’t control you without your permission. A gracious host requires polite guests so none of this can be placed at your feet or loaded against your back. I realize tension and being uncomfortable isn’t wanted by anyone during the holidays but someone — your boyfriend — needs to draw a line in the sand and say “Robin is off-limits. Leave her alone.” When I was dating a woman I really liked in college, my mother said after meeting her for the first time, “She’s Catholic! She’ll drown you in children!” Right then I knew my mother must not be a part of my personal life on that level because her opinion can poison good intentions and what she thinks doesn’t matter in the long view. The only thing that matters is what I think and what the one I love thinks and anything else is noise and must be treated that way. After that, whenever my mother tried to insert her opinion in my relationships I calmly said, “This isn’t your life. I’m not interested.” If she continued I would hang up the phone or walk out of the room.
    Chris — Excellent story, Chris! I wonder how much of that holiday good spirit is driven by the need for connecting with humanity and how much of it is driven by a profit margin? I grew up in the land of the 4pm darkness and I feel for you in the cold and hard wandering towards the light.
    Robin — Sometimes it’s best just to stay inside and eat in bed and watch movies in the dark with the one you love. Doing just that has provided some of my brightest and best memories.

  20. See Erik does step up and always says something…he constantly not only has to tell her to butt out of mine and his life but also to stop talking about his ex because as he says “I know mom, I was there.” What he needs to learn to do is hangup, we’re working on that 😀 I need to learn how to not let her get to me, I’m making progress believe it or not.
    Yes, that’s both my favorite thing to do and Erik’s as well. Neither of us are holiday people. His ex used to make a HUGE deal about x-mas and the preparation of x-mas was actually the straw that broke the camel’s back. He loves that I don’t give a shit for the most part. That’s why again this year for New Years I’m sure we’ll be in pjs eating pizza or something.

  21. Yes, hanging up, walking out and not inviting and that will quickly fix the behavior and if it doesn’t, keep doing it, and one day it will work out in the end.
    We’re not big holiday people, either, but sometimes it’s fun to play along with the cinema playing out in the streets and in many of the hearts around us.

  22. Dave!
    I am with you in the whole and I, too, would be more inclined to spend a lot of money on a “Happy Tree” than a “Merry Christmas Tree” just because I think the intent of the sale is more universal and more human instead of being religiously-focused.
    I found this on Christmas trees:
    Did you know the tradition of the Christmas tree comes from Germany? The very first trees were oak, the same tree used for the Yule Log. Trees have been a symbol of good luck since the Middle Ages. In Germany, whenever someone would build a house, a small evergreen tree would be nailed to the highest beam. Soon people began bringing the tree inside during Christmastime and decorating it. When German immigrants came to the United States, they brought this tradition with them.
    More here on Christmas traditions here:
    http://www.classbrain.com/artholiday/publish/article_52.shtml

  23. Yeah, Dave, I thought the same thing when I read about the origins: A tree during the holidays celebrates life, not a religious niche!
    Yes, the desecration of a narrow view in the name of wholesale sales would be ironically immediately offensive! Let’s do it!
    :mrgreen:

  24. JOE!
    WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!
    You make me a rich man in Blog$hares and then you disappear forever!
    I have missed your keen intellect.
    I am glad to have you back and your UK perspective on this issue is amazing. What is used instead of “Happy Holidays” in the UK?

  25. What a friendly, chatty group. :^)
    If I were traveling in some far-distant land, or maybe on another planet, and I came upon some people celebrating something, I would ask what they were celebrating. If I was told they were celebrating Strawberry Cheesecake, I would wish them a very happy Strawberry Cheesecake.
    If these same folks were to visit me in the latter days of December and asked me what I was celebrating, I wouldn’t say Holidays; I would say Christmas. I might add that other people in the neighborhood celebrate other holidays at around the same time, but I am celebrating Christmas. This is pretty appropriate as many cultures are not so multifaceted as others.
    I am not at all threatened by what you or Walmart or anyone else is calling their celebrations.
    Here’s a gift for each of you, along with a Merry Christmas from me. Please visit my blog and read my latest post. It’s what Christmas is really all about. No mention of God or Jesus, so it’s a one size fits all kinda thing.
    May you all be blessed.