May I say Merry Christmas?

Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas! - promoted by Bob_Neer

Every holiday season, I always used to be careful about my greetings: by wishing Merry Christmas to those who celebrated it, and by wishing Happy Hanukkah only before Hanukkah was over — and with the necessary irony for those Jewish friends who regarded it as a minor holiday.

This year I feel really weird wishing people Merry Christmas. I didn’t quite know why until reading Dan Savage’s funny — and not SFW — review of Palin’s latest book. He too used to always wish people Merry Christmas. That has changed:

Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly and Fox News and the Family Research Council and the woman who allegedly punched another woman outside Walmart earlier this week for saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” managed to break me of the “merry Christmas” habit. I suspect I’m not alone. This constant bitching from the right about “happy holidays”—a perfectly lovely expression that embraces Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Pancha Ganapati, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Hanukkah, the Epiphany, Saint Nicholas’s Day, Hogmanay, Twelfth Night, and Kwanzaa—has made one thing clear. Not that there is now, or ever was, a war on Christmas. But that saying “merry Christmas” is an asshole move. Just as conservatives made patriotism toxic during the Vietnam War by conflating it with blind obedience to authority (“My country, right or wrong!”), modern conservatives have made “merry Christmas” toxic by associating it with Christian fundamentalism, religious intolerance, and the politics of imagined persecution.

Unfortunately, the war on Christmas is a game Palin and O’Reilly and Fox News and the Family Research Council can’t lose. The more they complain about people saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas,” the fewer people will say “merry Christmas.” This will be held up as proof that the war on Christmas is real. But people like me aren’t replacing “merry Christmas” with “happy holidays” to be “politically correct,” as Palin insists in the introduction to her stupid book, we’re doing it because we don’t want people to think we’re assholes.


16 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Perfect last sentence

    But you should read it all. It’s terrific.

    Happy Holidays everybody.

    • Equal time

      Peter Schweizer on

      With her trademark fearlessness and verve, Governor Sarah Palin’s new book, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, offers readers an impassioned, informative, and unapologetic defense of the sacredness of the season.

      Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas will give Gov. Palin’s fans much to rejoice about—and her critics much to ponder.

  2. Sad but true

    It’s reminiscent of the way that conservatives redefined the American flag as a symbol of foreign adventurism and tax cuts in 2001. We’re in the process of rehabilitating that damage, perhaps the same will begin with the phrase Merry Christmas.

    At this time, I wish all a happy and healthy holiday season. For me, that means above all the mother of all holidays, the Winter Solstice. A warm celebration of the rebirth of the unconquered sun to all.

    sabutai   @   Fri 20 Dec 8:35 PM
  3. Sol Invictus

    “Keep the Sol in Sol Invictus!”

    I am a heathen non-believer, but I enjoy Christmastime. I like this weekend building towards a nice year-end feast on Christmas Eve and then making the rounds on Christmas day. I like having a beer with those relatives I see once (maybe twice a year if someone dies).

    Even though I believe that Jesus, if he existed, was a mortal, radical Jew out to democratize Judaism and not the divine son of God, I like saying merry Christmas – at Christmastime. I am happy to wish anyone a merry Christmas, just don’t shove it down my throat on November 29th. I don’t wish you Happy 4th of July on June 10th. I also enjoy Happy Holidays because it includes New Years. Certain people I see a few times a year – happy holidays is a solid catch-all greeting.

    Apropos to this topic, I also like Jon Stewart’s parallel showing how conservatives are outraged! that A&E censured the Duck Dynasty dude and demand that he be allowed to exercise “free speech”, but if I wish someone happy holidays, I need to be shouted down and derided. In the eyes of conservatives, It is worse to say “happy holidays” than to say that being gay is morally wrong.

    Happy December to all my BMG friends. And my foes.

  4. Definitely say it if you are comfortable.

    Otherwise you cede the phrase to the “a**holes”. They cannot be allowed to monopolize this greeting or any other aspect of Christianity.

  5. has there ever been a book review...

    I can’t say I’ve ever read a book review with anything approaching these lines:

    I’m going to go wash my eyes out with hydrogen peroxide. Be right back.

    I just threw Sarah Palin’s book across the room—no, scratch that. I just threw it clear across the house. If our front door had been open, her book would’ve sailed across the street and onto our Jewish neighbor’s porch across the street.

  6. Merry Christmas AND Happy Holidays to All!

    And a happy new year!

  7. The "War on Christmas" has always been such a side show

    that I’ve never felt that way. I’m sure there are some nuts who really think Christmas is under assault, but I imagine they’re mostly the same people that TLC markets to with their doomsday “prepper” shows, to get ready for all those awful doomsdays and mass riots in the suburbs. Because that’s where doomsdays an mass riots always happen.

    • It's unique to America

      Far more secular countries in Europe and Canada celebrate Christmas more brazenly, in the open, and with nary a trace of the religiosity and fervor it has here. For them it’s a clear link to a Christian tradition and culture that has been secularized as a time of family feasting and gift exchanges. I don’t see why the Thanksgiving+some presents conception of Christmas can’t take hold here. It would make the phrase Merry Christmas a truly secular one and one that is noxious neither to the non-Christian nor to the Christian who insists on saying it. And then it will give the many Pastors and Popes who lament that the holiday is too commercialized and we must consider the needy at all times, but especially this time, the breathing room they need to remind their flocks of the true meaning of Christmas.

      It isn’t a Wal-Mart greeter being forced to say Merry Christmas a thousand times in a day while begging customers for donations for their own meal. I suspect that is what the ‘other America’ is defending-the garish pagan capitalist holiday with a lot of tacky Jesus paraphernalia slapped on to suitably Americanize Christ. Where the biggest and brightest neon Jesus high fiving Santa marks the home of the most faithful believer.

      It’s the Christians and non-Christians who quietly feed the hungry in Pine Street or as I did at the Lutheran church in Harvard Square, who cook great meals they share with family and friends like our roommate is tonight before he flies back to his family in Baltimore, or attending a traditional German christmas market on Daley Plaza (which has a menorah and atheist A for good measure alongside the nativity) to have some brats and beer before caroling. That is, to paraphrase Stevie Wonder, what Christmas means to me. And I think that spirit can be celebrated by everyone this month, regardless of their faith and regardless of what they choose to call their holiday as Shelleilaghlaw’s graph so elegantly put it.

      • careful with the broad brush

        “Far more secular countries in Europe and Canada celebrate Christmas more brazenly, in the open, and with nary a trace of the religiosity and fervor it has here.” Many European countries have state religions as well, so perhaps religiosity is expressed differently, but it’s still there.

        • Sort of...

          It’s often been noted that the US, with no official religion, has the most religious practice whereas European nations with state religions see less actual practice. In some cases it is so nominal as to almost be invisible. The monarch has to be of that religion, but that’s about it. I don’t know without research to what extent various countries actually still publicly fund the favored church.

  8. Merry Christmas, you heretics

    You probably drink lattes instead of eggnog. No eggnog lattes don’t count …

    j/k Happy holidays to all!

  9. I did some Christmas shopping today.

    Two out of the three stores I patronized the clerk said Merry Christmas and the third said, “Have a good day.” It’s only because of the federal case being made that I notice it at all since I really could not care less.

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