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Is "Merry Christmas" Offensive?

Krista is a published author, entrepreneur, and small business owner. She has certifications in human nutrition as well as animal nutrition.

Happy Everything, Everybody


A Tradition That's Become Politically Incorrect

Every Christmas I'm faced with a dilemma when creating cards to send to my clients: should I write "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? If I know my client well enough, it's a no-brainer, but if it's a new client, I'm often worried I may offend them whichever way I go.

In debating this issue with my atheist friends, they tell me a lot of atheists are offended by the words "Merry Christmas," but won't negatively confront someone who says it to them. Most of my atheist friends are not offended by it, however.

So is it just a small fraction of atheists that are offended by it, or is it most of them and I just don't know them? Are the non-Christians or other religious affiliations the ones who caused such a stink about it? My biggest question is: Why is it so offensive? Do the words hurt them in any way? I know Jews, Hindus and other people who aren't Christian who celebrate the day, and they don't find the words Merry Christmas offensive.

The real kicker for me this year was a trip to Disneyland with my mother. When she ordered her coffee at Starbucks, they made sure to ask if she didn't mind a holiday-decorated cup. It wasn't the first time I'd heard of this controversy, but it wasn't something I ever took seriously. So much of what we hear on the news is propaganda I believe is blown out of proportion for entertainment value. Now I'm seeing this is a real issue.

In a world where political correctness and freedom of speech has gone completely haywire, why are people nitpicking on this one particular greeting? Do I really have to write "Merry Christmas, and Happy Everything Else" on all of my client correspondence for the Christmas season so I don't risk offending anyone? Apparently, if I use the words "Merry Christmas" at all, I risk offending someone!



Where Is the Controversy Coming From?

I did some research and found a few interesting points of view on the subject. In many instances, I found that atheists aren't as offended by the greeting as they are annoyed by it. The article continues to explain that the people who say "Merry Christmas" have good intentions, but are insensitive and ignorant in assuming the person they're greeting in such a manner is Christian.

I saw a similar complaint in a discussion where the atheist believed that Christians would be just as annoyed if a non-Christian greeted them with "Happy Ramadan."

I think a lot of Christians and non-Muslims alike wouldn't even know what Ramadan is, so in my opinion, the latter analogy doesn't hold much validity. Even if they did know what it was, I don't believe they'd be offended by it. I don't know a single Christian who's offended by "Happy Hanukkah." The fact of the matter is, before the United States was this huge melting pot of cultures and religions, America was primarily a Christian nation. There's hardly any arguing that. Even people who practiced other religions at least knew and understood what Christmas was because there simply wasn't any getting away from it. It wouldn't be any different if we were Christians living where the religion is predominantly something other than Christian. There's little doubt we wouldn't be aware of every one of the other's religious holidays. We'd probably even celebrate some of the bigger ones with them. We might even be compelled to say "Happy Ramadan!" to our Muslim neighbors out of politeness and respect, even though we might accidentally say it to someone who happens to not be Muslim.

But that's the problem right there, isn't it? The things that are lacking with the people who get offended or annoyed by hearing "Merry Christmas" are politeness and respect.

I understand a lot of the reasons why people loathe religion; Christianity in particular, and I'm aware of the real history behind Christmas and how it originated, but whatever the reasons, they should at least be polite and respectful to others who choose to follow the Christian practice. If the people against it want to make a useful stand against it they could do it in a constructive manner through discussion and education and through public (or private) remembrances of how the holiday originated, not by displaying hatred and anger. Banning Christmas related sayings and traditions just makes the people fighting it look like a bunch of haters that want to ruin everything for everyone else without any cause or reason. I wonder how these people would feel if someone bit their head off for wishing them a Happy Halloween? Many religions are offended by Halloween because it has pagan origins.

Maybe we're beginning to see the hypocrisy here. Yes, there is one - maybe a few, but I'll let the reader determine what they are at this point. For those interested in learning more, I'll post the link here.

In the research I compiled for this article, I found it very difficult to put a finger on exactly who it is that's waging this "war against Christmas," as many are calling it. I've seen Jewish people blamed, liberals, Muslims, atheists, and just about everyone else short of Bugs Bunny. Every article seemed biased with their own personal agendas and simply weren't credible or believable enough to source. My suspicion is that it's some large, special-interest group that has a lot of power, influence, and money, and they're doing it for reasons that have nothing much to do with religion. That remains to be seen. What their real agenda is remains a mystery since the rationalizations don't add up as to why it's such a huge campaign. If the history behind Christmas is the reason, why aren't they spreading that information instead of trying to strip people of their traditions? I don't know about anyone else, but right about now I have a clear image in my head of a room full of rich, old, Ebenezer Scrooges, sipping on dirty-sock-colored Earl Grey, and laughing their butts off at the turmoil they've caused.

I'm not a religious person, but I understand the modern meaning behind Christmas in this day and age, and that's what I respect about it. I don't see it as negative, but as something positive that's designed to teach us to be kind and loving towards one another despite our differences. It's the only time of the year that people are truly reminded of that. Don't we need more of that in this world? Shouldn't we be thankful that something with such a sordid history is now used to teach goodwill and peace towards our fellow humans, even if the origins of those teachings have been lost?

Regardless of whether or not we believe in Jesus Christ, or whether or not we believe Christmas is a total sham, the message of Christmas is full of positivity if we choose to see it that way. Wishing someone a Merry Christmas may mean different things to different people, but the bottom line is that it's a greeting of love and best wishes that will never be politically incorrect to me.

Just my two cents.

By the way, I decided to put Merry Christmas on all of my professional correspondences for the month of December. I can only hope that none of my clients will be offended by it, but no matter what we do in this life nowadays, someone's bound to get offended. I choose not to live with that concern and just do what I feel is right. Merry Christmas!

Do Starbucks holiday cups really offend anyone? Apparently they do!

Do Starbucks holiday cups really offend anyone? Apparently they do!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Krista D'Ambroso