It's OK to wish me "Merry Christmas"

Even if you don’t know whether I’m Christian, I promise not to take offense. I’m tired of watching friends, neighbours, and colleagues tying themselves in knots trying to think of a culturally-sensitive thing to say to me (usually “have a nice holiday” or something similar). You’re also welcome to wish me a happy version of any other holiday, religious or not — I prefer a world where we celebrate all cultures and religions to one where we pretend religion and culture don’t exist. I live in a big, multi-ethnic city, and my acquaintances who are Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, or Hindu seem to have no problem using the C word, so the awkwardness seems limited to, well, Christians (or at least people whose ancestors were Christians).

Actually, since my ancestors were Christian, I’d also be happy if you wished me a “Merry Xmas”. During the 70’s or 80’s, there was a wrong-headed reaction against this spelling, along the lines of “put the Christ back in Christmas.” That’s not an “X”, folks — it’s the Greek letter Chi, which starts the word “Christ”. “X” was very much used among early Christians as an abbreviation for the title of the person they believed was the son of God, with the added bonus that the letter makes the shape of the cross they believed he died on.

So, on that note, Merry Christmas, everyone!

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5 Responses to It's OK to wish me "Merry Christmas"

  1. Happy Christmas, David and anybody else who’ll be glad of the wish!
    There’s at least oddity, and perhaps hypocrisy or delusion, when one is frowned on for using words that for a long,long have been in general use and are not intrinsically insulting BUT indisputable evils – like thousands of children weekly dying from Malaria – aren’t anything many of us seem to get upset over. Arguably, that would be too distressing?
    I am six feet four inches tall and so, having lived mostly in Britain or Eat Asia, have many memories of banging my head on beams or doorways built hving in mind people less tal than I am. I could call myself ‘vertically callenged’ ~ I’d not dream of doing that although I once asked a shop assistant of about 4′ 9″ in height if he would agree the politically correct way of refering to his [hysical stature would also be apt for mine because of the ‘blows of outrageous transoms’ I suffer; he did agree.
    Then there’s ‘fat’ If a human being weighs over 250 pounds & is not over seven feet tall there’s going to be enough of him or her that is fat to make that noun an apt adjective for describing one aspect of the weighty person.
    Similarly, on various days of the year a particular group of people will clebrate some anniversary they believe the day marks or the start of a New Year on one of the many calendars people have devised. One of the few open aspects of Singapore was the acceptance that on, let’s say, Deepavali if somebody smilingly said something to you that was completely incomprehensible the chances were you were being wished a happy new year as Hindus start one.
    I stopped being a Christian long ago and I’ll argue with anybody who want me to accept that the first chapter of Genesis is a convicing account of how there’s anything. Maybe they’ll come to my point of view, maybe not, maybe I’ll become a creationist, though I doubt it. I don’t need anybody to protect me from views that seem ill-founded by my lights. Diversity is part of this world and to seek to constrain expression is the opposite of tolerance ~ even if attempted to prohibit offending those who hold other views than another – like mine or yours.
    This is too long!

  2. John Cowan says:

    Geoff Nunberg’s Language Log article at may provide some insight into what the actual issues are.

  3. david says:

    Thanks for the link, John. It looks like that posting is more about a deliberately-misleading survey and a (to us in Canada) strange, foreign political/cultural debate than it is about the phrase itself. My posting is actually about personal greetings — I can sympathize with a retail business choosing to use neutral language like “Happy Holidays” (though the woman behind the counter at our local kosher bagel shop just wished me “Merry Christmas” this morning) — but more generally, I wouldn’t want someone like Bill O’Reilly to have any effect on what I say, positive or negative.

  4. John Cowan says:

    Fair enough; the debate’s pretty strange to me too, here in the future Independent Republic.

    <span lang=”yib”>And why shouldn’t she wish you a merry Christmas, anyhow? Frankly, Daveedkeh, you look like a goy.</span>

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