In recent years, the phrase “Merry Christmas” has become a bit of a battleground for various ideologies. Some prefer “Happy Holidays” as a less religion-specific variant. Personally, I think that Happy Holidays applies to every celebration between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. “Season’s Greetings” is a bland, meaningless option that should be reserved for greeting cards and ATM receipts. So, I’m stubbornly sticking with “Merry Christmas” for a number of reasons.
First of all, Christmas is about as inclusive a religious observation as you’ll ever find. From the traditions of decorated trees and yule logs held over from earlier Winter Solstice celebrations to the modern, consumerist rites of shopping, feasting and pop-rock seasonal tunes, Christmas is a cultural mish-mash of ideas. I considered myself blessed to be among the faithful who still hold the holiday as a sacred remembrance of God’s greatest gift to mankind, a reminder that as He selflessly gave to us so should we selflessly give to each other. But you don’t exactly have to be a Holy Roller to have a merry Christmas.
Now, I’m not about to force a “Merry Christmas” greeting on someone whom I know to be of another faith. However, given that we live in a nation founded largely by and upon Christian tradition, in most cases I’ll play the odds that my preferred greeting is the right way to go. What I can’t imagine is the cultural pressure that must weigh upon those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Every store is bedecked with Christmas decorations and holding Christmas sales. Radio stations are devoted to playing Christmas music 24/7. Television networks are pumping out month-long Christmas programming. Even if those stores, stations and networks avoid the use of the word Christmas itself, audiences aren’t so stupid as to think otherwise.
So, to all those who don’t celebrate Christmas, to those who celebrate it as purely a cultural holiday of goodwill and gift-giving and to those, like me, who observe it as a remembrance of the birth of the Christ child, I pray that you experience peace, love and hope that surpass understanding this week. If that is the case, then you’ve experienced a Merry Christmas… no matter what you call it.