It’s OK To Say “Merry Christmas”


One evening this past summer I’d been working late at the office and found myself driving home at a time when there were very few cars on the road.  It was one of those nights where I found myself following the same vehicle almost all of the way home, not on purpose of course,  just mere coincidence.  Fairly early on in the drive, we both came to a stoplight, where I was first able to get a close look at the bumper sticker on the back of the car, which read:

“It’s OK to say Merry Christmas”

For whatever reason it struck a nerve.  Not a bad one mind you, but the type that makes you ponder something perhaps more than the message was intended… or perhaps not.

I think it’s important to make clear that I’m not a Christian, and in fact I was raised Jewish.  Being born and raised in the United States, I’m no stranger to Christmas and it’s traditions.  As a youth my parents would take me to their friends homes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, where we would exchange gifts, pick candy canes off the tree, drink egg nog and listen to popular Christmas songs around the warm hearth.  For me, these are fond memories, and still to this day – although I do not observe Christmas in my own home – I still enjoy the ‘spirit’ of Christmas, which is a big part of American culture, which brings me back to my original thought.

So here I am, driving home behind this car and every so often catching another traffic signal that allows me to read the words, and all I keep thinking to myself (with enthusiasm), “Yeah… It IS ok to say Merry Christmas!!”

Now perhaps I’ve got far too much time on my hands to give so much thought to this, still the longer I followed this car and processed the message on the bumper sticker, the more resolute I became on the matter.  My mind began to wander, trying to pinpoint when exactly I was first informed that it was no longer acceptable to say the words Merry Christmas, and instead I was to re-program and use the generic “Happy Holidays” as my standard greeting.  Even as I write this I ask myself  “Was this some memo I received, or just one of those things that creeps up on us as a society, like choosing to medicate our children as a method of behavior modification?”

Of course, if I’m offending someone here with my stream of consciousness, I assure you that isn’t my intention.  It’s just that I can’t understand what is offensive about ‘Merry Christmas’, or Christmas in general.  It’s not as if by simply saying the words I’m somehow swearing my allegiance to the Christian faith, or even Christ himself.  It’s a salutation, not an affirmation.

As a non-Christian, I take no offense when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, and as a sort of experiment I’ve been making a point of wishing a Merry Christmas to people I meet.  So far, I haven’t gotten a punch in the nose, or even a sour face.  Instead, Ive been greeted with smiles and returned salutations.

So in closing, I’d just like to say… “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

-Craig Sumsky

Illustration by Sean Gallo Designs

7 Responses

  1. At the last Australian census, 64% of the population claim at least nominal adherence to a Christian faith and 36% said they had a non-Christian faith or no faith at all.

    Since Australia is very much a British country, we can compare our results to those of the city of London. At the last census, 58% of people in London gave their religion as Christian while the rest said they followed either a non-Christian religion or no religion at all.

    If 1% of the population was not Christian, you could say Happy Christmas to everyone and almost never make a mistake. But here a substantial minority of the population are clearly atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist etc.

    I always ask first. Happy holidays
    Art and Architecture, mainly

  2. stumbled across this link from blogcatalog. as someone who came from a predominantly christian country (philippines), I never thought of this as an issue until you mentioned it. i suppose it should be ok, though. i greet my muslim friends merry christmas and even give them gifts, and they don’t take offense.

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