Skip to content

Christmas Greetings

December 21, 2011

I was going back and forth with Anil Dash on Twitter today about Christmas greetings. If you don’t know Anil, you should. He’s one of those bright people of the internets who have been around forever.

He was saying that people wishing him “Merry Christmas,” especially when they know he’s not Christian, is exhibiting privilege and rudeness. (I’m paraphrasing…you can see his twitter feed for the whole conversation.)

My point was that “Merry Christmas” should be taken as a greeting, much like “How are you?” No one really cares how you are, and no one cares if you worship Christ.

Anil said (over the course of several tweets, not all of them to me) that we should not presume this is a monoculture and that he felt the need to educate people.

He got me thinking.

So tonight, when I went to Trader Joe’s, I was a bit taken aback by the cashier asking “Are you all done with your Christmas shopping?”

That seemed a bit presumptious, even to me. It was a bit more than a Christmas greeting. It was an assumption of a shared identity. As a matter of fact, I don’t really do any Christmas shopping. My family gave up exchanging gifts long ago, so I just buy a few gift cards for friends, or take them to dinner or a concert.

“Um…yeah, I’m really not into Christmas so much,” I said, as sort of an experiment to see how she would respond.

When our transaction concluded, she again said, “Merry Christmas. You have a nice Christmas. Merry Christmas.”

I couldn’t believe the pushiness. Anil was obviously right and I was wrong – I just hadn’t noticed the extent of it all these years. People were SHOVING Christmas down other people’s throats, even after they had made it pretty clear that they didn’t celebrate the holiday. How rude! Man, was I embarrassed about how I had assumed this was a simple case of taking offense where none was intended.

I walked out to the parking lot, shaking my head. Then I looked down to see my necklace. My strand-of-Chrismas-lights necklace. That lighted up. And blinked. And suddenly reminded me of why the cashier thought I might just be excited about Christmas.

  1. December 21, 2011 21:27

    Ha! “Um…yeah, I’m really not into Christmas so much.” Delicious.

    • December 21, 2011 22:20

      I KNOW. I rock so hard, right? (Don’t answer that).

  2. December 22, 2011 03:42

    I’m a firm believer in accepting kindness in all it’s forms. Even non-Christians like us (atheist) celebrate Christmas because for us it means family and togetherness. I understand other’s feelings about diversity, but it’s not like we’re talking about slinging racial slurs around, we’re talking about people wishing other people well. In whatever form, how can that be bad? If someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah or Joyous Kwanzaa it would make me smile as much as someone wishing me a Merry Christmas. Because I believe people are essentially good.

  3. December 22, 2011 06:43

    I do my best to say the appropriate greeting to the person I’m speaking to (I wished my friend Tom a happy Hanukkah yesterday), and a Happy Holidays to everyone else. I love your story, though. You’re hysterical.

    • December 26, 2011 16:28

      Hysterical – and a little dim in the brain. Not in the necklace department, though.

  4. December 22, 2011 06:44

    You’re totally awesome.

  5. December 22, 2011 11:32

    I feel like your necklace is infringing on my right to observe Festivus.

    • December 26, 2011 16:28

      I love the airing of grievances. I’m not so much on feats of strength.

  6. Maria in Oregon permalink
    December 22, 2011 12:34

    That’s hillarious!

    One year when I was working as a delivery driver in the winter, I was wearing my Santa hat. It was about a week after Christmas. Hey, it kept my head warm. Well, I was flabbergasted by a furious woman outside of Safeway, who lunged at me and screamed, “Chistmas is fucking OVER!” I’d momentarily forgotten I was wearing that hat. She scared me. I think she was drunk. But I think I infringed on her right to observe Festivus, much like dear flurrious!

    • December 26, 2011 16:27

      Wow. I guess she was sick of Christmas in a big way. And you’re right – most likely drunkie.

  7. December 22, 2011 21:18

    I don’t celebrate Christmas, and yet I am happy to be on the receiving end of somebody’s Christmas wishes. It’s nice to be welcomed and included in another person’s holiday festivities.

    That being said, I fully admit I am having none of this “CRAM CHRISTMAS DOWN EVERYBODY’S THROAT” nonsense. As if abusing me is going to make me somehow convert? Wrong. If anything it makes me hostile in return. These people are ruining Christmas for everybody.

    • December 26, 2011 16:27

      I keep saying “It isn’t supposed to be a WAR.”

  8. December 23, 2011 14:54

    Love the twist at the end of the story! I wrote about saying “Happy Holidays” here –

  9. December 23, 2011 16:24

    That’s hilarious!! I totally laughed at the end!

    I’m basically what I call in jest a superstitious atheist. I often have friends talk about remembering someone in their prayers or wishing that I have a “blessed day.” It’s a kindness that they say that, not an offense. On the other hand, I don’t tell people I will think of them in my prayers, because I don’t pray. (I do say “bless you” when someone sneezes, though. I can’t think of a non-religious thing to say!)

    Employees of a business that serves the public are speaking for the business when they address the public. So if the business wants employees to use more generic language why should anyone get offended? Why should they assume that the business is hostile to religion because it omits a religious reference from a business transaction? Omitting a religious reference is more inclusive that choosing one particular religion to reference.

    Do some folks really need cashiers and ticket sellers and customer service reps to reinforce their faith by ritual words? Is their faith that weak?

    • December 26, 2011 16:26

      All good questions. We need these little social politenesses to get through the day. Blowing them out of proportion makes what is supposed to be social lubricant instead act like a wooden shoe in the works (the word “sabotage” comes from throwing a wooden shoe in the works, that’s why I say that…)

  10. December 24, 2011 13:33

    Too funny! I get the opposite — I get the wary “Do you celebrate Christmas?” from folks who know that my husband is Indian. When I confirm that not only do we celebrate Christmas but that also my husband is Catholic and already grew up with Christmas, even MORE questions come up. Frankly, it gets tiring.

    Is it January yet??

    • December 26, 2011 16:24

      It’s funny how important it is to people. I guess we need to feel like we’re all on the same team.

  11. January 3, 2012 09:01

    Not really into it, just got tangled in some Christmas lights and decided to go with it. Nothing to see here!

    I liked an analogy that a friend and I came up with this year. You wouldn’t go around saying Happy Birthday to everyone on your birthday, right? So why would you say Merry Christmas or Joyous Festivus to people who don’t celebrate those things? Just another day for them!

    (For the record sometimes I get caught up in the birthday theme and wish people Happy UnBirthday on my birthday.)

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: