The Manners of Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve.  The house is aglow.  The presents are wrapped.  The baking is done and tomorrow’s festivities are under control.  Merry Christmas!

Or is it?  Maybe it’s “Happy Holidays”.  Or “Season’s Greetings”.  What’s the right thing to say in greeting friends, family, shopkeepers and even strangers at this time of year?

I’ve pondered this for quite a few years now and I get a bit more ornery about it every season.  In my life Christmas is… well, Christmas!  In the Jewish faith, it’s Hanukkah and there are other faiths who celebrate with other greetings at this time of year.  True, it’s a “holiday” and even a “season” but I know that Christians don’t want to give up the term “Christmas” and my Jewish friends don’t seem to relish the idea of Hanukkah being lumped in the “Season’s Greetings” pile either.  So what’s a person to say?

For starters, we should all be respectful of each other and our respective beliefs.  The greeting that you express should be a brief, sincere reflection of your beliefs–that means it’s OK to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” If you are Christian and someone greets you with a Happy Hanukkah, take it for what it’s worth–a sincere wish for joy and blessings.  Reply with an enthusiastic “Happy Hanukkah!” or “and Merry Christmas to you!”.  The reverse is true also.  If you think you might offend someone or if you are not a member of a religious group that celebrates this season, or if, for some reason, you think either of these greetings would be inappropriate, you can resort to “Happy Holidays”–but it does not have to be the default greeting.

We all want this time of year to be special.  I don’t know who decided that Merry Christmas is an offensive term but it’s not.  To those who would like to be offended, please see the first sentence in the previous paragraph.  Being respectful and sincere will get us a lot further along than lumping our good wishes into a one-size-fits-all category.

Merry Christmas!

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