A Christian friend posted a meme on social media recently that said something about living dangerously by saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” and it got me thinking.
Obviously, the implication is that by saying “Merry Christmas,” Christians face the risk of backlash from the heathens of the world. As far as I know, this is a non-existent risk. I’ve never witnessed, read about, or heard about any backlash towards anyone for saying “Merry Christmas.” What is true is quite the opposite: Christians seem to have a big, vocal problem with anyone who says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” “Happy Holidays” has never been intended as a dis to Christians (and there is no “war on Christmas”; Christ almighty, Christmas is in your face for three months of the year – there’s no getting away from it); rather, it’s an attempt to be inclusive – an expression of goodwill towards all people who celebrate a variety of holidays during the winter months. I hate to break it to you, Christians, but you don’t own the month of December.
Furthermore, there seems to be this conception that by saying “Merry Christmas,” one has therefore identified him- or herself as a Christian. This is not necessarily the case. I say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” in equal measure, and I am an atheist. When I say “Merry Christmas,” it is an expression of a cultural tradition for me and has nothing at all to do with religion or belief in any god.
Jesus may be the reason for the season, but in making this holiday so ubiquitous for such a large chunk of the year, it was bound to evolve into something not necessarily Christian over time (so it’s kind of backfiring on Christians, I’d say). When something is in your face so much, it’s easy to just adopt the parts of it that appeal to you and shape it to your own worldview. Christmas has become a secular holiday for a lot of people.
I was raised Christian. My husband was raised Jewish. As adults, we are both atheist, and we are raising our children without any religious indoctrination. As a family, we celebrate Christmas, but it has nothing to do with religion for us. For us, Christmas is a cultural tradition. For us (and I think for many, many other people), it is simply a time for family, a time of year when most everyone around town seems a little more full of goodwill than usual. It’s a time to wrap up the year and reflect on all we have, including each other. We engage in holiday traditions (like baking Chrismas cookies, eating fondue on Christmas, and letting Kevin pass out all the Christmas gifts from under the tree) not as a means of reinforcing beliefs, but as a way of feeling connected to each other and the history we share and the future we’re emotionally invested in. We celebrate a secular, but emotionally rich Christmas each year.
Besides, haven’t historians deduced that Jesus was probably born in September?