I was raised to the ideal of Christmas being a general sense of goodwill to all people. Christmas was meant to be merry, not a merry fuck you.
A season of generosity marked with presents and a general tolerance for the slightly drunken ramblings of family, and the rumblings of mountains of food getting demolished.
And it was good. Much like Diwali is good, or Tabish Svat is good, it was the sort of festival where you didn’t need to actually believe the foundational story to enjoy.
Then the cultural and religious/secular wars took off, and saying Merry Christmas is becoming a coded way of telling people to go fuck themselves. It seems that for many people, the phrase has come to represent an aggressive, mean-spirited version of Christian nationalism that asserts that it is defending a cultural value, while simultaneously raping it. I saw it first-hand yesterday, in a department store here in America where I’m spending the holidays, when a clerk wished a customer “Happy Holidays”. He responded with a belligerent “Merry Christmas” before launching into a tirade about people not wanting to acknowledge the birth of Christ.
It didn’t even occur to him that the clerk may not have been Christian or even religious, and that this was her compromise. Happy holidays, and various other formulae have been introduced as much for the sake of political correctness as for variety.
But I think more than one person would point out that the almost obligatory nature of Christmas is anything but – I mean, do we call someone a Grinch if they don’t particularly enjoy Eid? Do we have the three ghosts of past, present and future visiting grouchy old men who don’t like Passover in TV specials? Do we have major atheist comedians singing about how they really like Vesak, despite not buying into the Buddhist conception of enlightenment?
We massively favour Christmas, because at the heart of it all the meaning of it has morphed. For many, it is no longer so much about Christianity as it is a vision of a better humanity.
So say “Happy Holidays” if you will and I’ll happily accept it. But I can still say “Merry Christmas” with a smile, because for me there is no hidden agenda. I will not sully the greeting with the identity politics of politically incorrect copy pasting – which generally confuses xenophobic cowardice for courage.
Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers, with no obligation to repeat or agree with anything I say, because this is not the season for taking offence, but rather giving goodwill to all.