Saturday, December 11, 2010

Warm wishes for a pleasantly enjoyable wintertime celebration

Correcting someone’s holiday phrase is a fairly ironic way to show your Christmas spirit.
Jon Acuff
Every year, I see articles (as well as blog posts, Facebook statuses, etc.) where a person or group expresses irritation at generic winter holiday greetings — anything other than "Merry Christmas" — and threatens a boycott. (Here's a recent example: Happy holidays, Merry Christmas or festive feuds? One way or another, retail greetings rankle some U.S. shoppers)

Upset that their holiday is being overrun by the secular and neutralized by the politically correct, people can feel pushed out by a culture that wants a happy winter holiday, but doesn't want it to be their winter holiday.

All the assumptions have changed.

I get that. I really do. I grew up with the same assumptions.

Like them, I've sat in the audience at a public school concert, watching my kindergartener sing from a program that included everyone's holiday except for mine. (And Up on the Housetop doesn't count.)

Like them, I've been saddened by city governments' refusal to allow nativity scenes in the public square.

Like them, every December 25, I celebrate the birth of my savior. And I wish people a "Merry Christmas."

But let's be honest. The consumer-driven spending frenzy that characterizes a contemporary American Christmas bears very little resemblance to the event it's supposed to be celebrating.

And if I find myself getting annoyed because a cashier or waiter wishes me "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," I'm probably neither happy nor merry.

More importantly, if I insist on my way, I'm probably forgetting the real reason for the season: God's mercy and grace in the form of a human infant, wrapped in rags and lying in a manger.

If God is humble enough to sleep in an animal's feeding trough, maybe His followers can respond to even the most generic seasonal greeting with grace.

It's not really our holiday anyway. It's His.


Let’s celebrate the holidays, of course, but let’s live the incarnation. Let’s advocate for the poor, the forgotten, the lonely, and the lost. Let’s wage war against hunger and oppression and modern-day slavery. Let’s be the kind of people who get worked up on behalf of others rather than ourselves.
Rachel Held Evans


  1. Great post! Being in HR, we usually stick to something "Have a great rest of the year". There just seems to be no "right thing" to say anymore when Christians are offended by "Happy Holidays". Good grief!

    Slightly off topic though.....I realized (red faced) my faux pas when I brought a small pine tree to work and announced "Who wants to help trim my holiday bush?"

  2. Thanks for your comment, dear sister! :)

    I freely admit we Christians can be idiots sometimes. It can be really easy to forget to extend the same grace we've been given...

  3. I have to admit, this is something that has always baffled me. If I'm sad that someone didn't wish me a Happy Christmas doesn't that highlight the very reason we say Happy Holidays? It has be hard to be wished Merry Christmas in a culture that overwhelming celebrates Christmas when you do not celebrate Christmas. Imagine trying to be a parent in such an atmosphere. It must be so frustrating.

    The way I see it, the stores are full of red and green decorations, Christmas trees, Christmas music, etc. Even if the words aren't there, all the trappings of my holiday are all around me for MONTHS. Every TV channel plays Christmas movies, the ballet puts on the Nutcracker, the choirs do Christmas concerts, the internet sensation right now is a Handel's Messiah flash mob. It has to be overwhelming for people of other religions (and, in fact, it's so overwhelming that a lot of them start celebrating Christmas). I see it as a little step in caring for others that I wish them a generic greeting if I don't know them well enough to know what holiday they do celebrate. From my place of privilege, it's easy to find the space to be charitable.

  4. Also, before people correct some poor store clerk's "Happy Holiday" I wish they would consider that maybe that person doesn't celebrate Christmas. It really says something about us Christians that we assume the person saying "Happy Holidays" is someone who celebrates our holiday...or worse, that they don't but should cater to us anyway.

    You're right, when we do this I think that we're forgetting the reason for the season.

  5. R: Thanks for your comments! Good thoughts.

    On the first comment, it's interesting to me that people complain when the stores put up Christmas decorations in October; are these the same people who complain when the cashier doesn't say "Merry Christmas"? I don't know... but that would be slightly ironic.

    Also ironic is the idea that by leveraging Christians' buying power through the threat of a boycott, we take an already overcommercialized holiday and make it even more about money.

    On your second comment: my husband made the same point; I replied that in order to see the issue from the store clerk's perspective, one first has to see the clerk as a human, not as a member of an underclass. It's tough to work up concern for someone else if we see them as less than us.

  6. Ha! I love the irony of your first point!


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