Should We Say 'Merry Christmas'?

Should We Say 'Merry Christmas'?

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'Tis the season for, among other things, the annual division between those who say "Merry Christmas" and those who say "Happy Holidays." You'll never catch me saying the latter, for reasons I trust don't need explaining on a Christian site. But I must say that, over the years, I've cooled a bit toward "Merry Christmas" too.

Don't misunderstand. It's not that I think the phrase is wrong or that I've banished it from my vocabulary. I still say it at times, especially when someone says it to me first. It's just that I think there are better alternatives.

Merry is a word that fits comfortably with the secular version of Christmas. It's about a mood: It's about festivity and good feelings. That's nice, but tradition aside, it's not especially Christmas-y.

So how to improve on it? Sometimes I'll wish people a joyous Christmas. Joy is deeper and more abiding than merriment, more likely to call attention to the Reason for the Season. Other times I'll wish them a blessed Christmas. Same reason. After all, you can't be blessed without the Source of the blessing.

Your thoughts?

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  • Comment by  Tara:

    I'll wish people all of the above, including "Happy Holidays."  I think we do more harm than good when we're overly militant about how we wish someone well at this time of year...A kind "Happy Holidays" will go a lot further than a "Merry Christmas" with a too-obviously-correcting-the-filthy-pagan-who-just-wished-ME-happy-holidays attitude.  At least, in my opinion. :-)

    But you're right..."Merry" Christmas is pretty generic at this point, unless you're with people who already know exactly what you mean by it.

  • Comment by  James:

    I've never had an issue with Happy Holidays (I think of it as Christmas/New Years) or any other variance.  Honestly I find it a little silly to devote any time or emotion to this subject.  If a person greets me or wishes me well I appreciate the intentions behind it.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Comment by  MichaelFumento:

    A holiday by any other name? The Brits say "Happy Christmas," the Germans "Happy Birthnight" (they celebrate Christmas Eve more, as is true in Latin America.) In Spanish it's commonly translated as "Merry Christmas" but it's "Feliz Navidad." "Feliz" is "happy" and obviously "dad" meant "day" at one time, so originally it meant "Happy Birthday!"

    But what they all have in common is a reference to Christ. That's what I lament giving up in "Happy Holidays." I'm Jewish on my mother's side and I just happen to know lots of Jews. And none would be offended by being told "Merry Christmas."

    Fact is, most gentiles don't appreciate that although Chanuka comes around Christmas time it's a very minor Jewish holiday. But Jews have gotten used to being wished "Happy Chanuka" even as gentiles ignore major holidays like Yom Kippur.

    In other words, the idea that we should cut Christ out of the holidays is just PC nonsense.

    "Blessed" or "Happy" or whatever. But keep (or put back) the Christ. It gladdens your heart and that of others just to have the words spill out of your lips.

  • Comment by  Tami:

    Joyeux Noel :)

    I try to say merry Christmas (and merry speaks of joy to me, so I am not too conflicted over that myself). But I do notice that it's hard to find Christmas cards that actually say "merry Christmas." I've also noticed that sometimes, if you're the first to say merry Christmas, people look happy (and relieved!) to be free to say it in return.

  • Comment by  TamarafromCanada:

    I wish people a Merry Christmas, and it's a carryover from my years spent working retail at Christmas. I never had a boss/company I worked for say that we couldn't wish people a Merry Christmas.

    But, at the same time, I choose not to get worked up over the "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" issue. It doesn't seem worth it to me. And I think it actually causes division and conflict that doesn't need to be there.

  • Comment by  Nicole:

    Whatever people choose to say to express their holiday wishes is fine. I think Merry Christmas is traditional and acceptable, and if someone said something oddly creative, I may think they were trying a bit too hard.

  • Comment by  Caitlin:

    I'm actually a big fan of "happy holidays" starting November. I mean, you have thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, other non-christian holidays aside. :)

  • Comment by  Chris:

    Why do people have to ruin a perfectly good holiday by bringing up petty things like this? It's like the aunt who comes over and then complains that she doesn't quite like the star on your tree because it's not quite the right size or color or brightness.

  • Comment by  Denise:

    why do some people say "same to you" ? where did that come from...?

    Merry Christmas is appreciated of course, i see the deeper meaning of using joyous, i like blessed (i usually say blessed regarding the new year)... but whatever a person wishes to me is taken kindly... with the exception of 'same to you' cause that just seems lazy~! LOL

  • Comment by  HieronymusIllinensis:

    --Michael (#3), -idad in Spanish is just the descendant of Latin -itate, the origin of the -ity suffix in English. (In the nominative case, it becomes -itas, as in "gravitas," but the singulars in Spanish are descended from the ablative.) So Navidad is simply "Nativity." Nothing about a day in the word.

    --When was the last time anyone heard "merry" used in common speech other than in a reference to Christmas, anyway?

    Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

  • Comment by  Befuddled:

    The conflict over Happy Holidays is largely constructed.

    I say it all the time for the simple reason that I don't always know the religious persuasion of the person I'm addressing. If I do, I wish them a happy New Year, Chanukah, or Christmas. Or, since I'm in school, I just say "Enjoy your break."

  • Comment by  Elizabeth:

    I think this is the most ridiculous argument ever.  Don't we have more important things to worry about?  This idea that people won't shop at stores because they say "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas" is completely absurd and a waste of time.  There are a lot of holidays celebrated this time of the year - Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's, Solstice, Kwanzaa, etc.  I work in an international setting with people from all over the world celebrating all of the above and more.  "Happy holidays" includes everyone and everything.  Why in the world should that be offensive to anyone?  On the other hand, why should anyone be offended by "merry Christmas?"  Loads of people celebrate a secular Christmas even if they don't celebrate Christ's birth, and I think that's just fine.  

    Let's pay attention to things that are really important.

  • Comment by  MishyfromSouthBayAreaCali:

    I agree with all the above with others. Its silly to be all weird about whether we say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. I like your ideas too, I think those are good. For me I like Merry Christmas because I'm used to it. I was actually blown away that more people were wishing me Merry Christmas, and not Happy Holidays. Happy Holidays gets annoying because to me its not genuine. Everyone says it. It seems more genuine when you say Merry Christmas, but that's my opinion. I will say it however, I don't feel convicted about saying Merry Christmas, or however I'm supposed to say it. When someone wishes me well, I take that as them being genuine so Its nice to hear others say that to me. My thing is "Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men"!  hahaha...I like that! : ) Feliz Navadad, Merry Christmas, Blessed Christmas, Joyous Christmas, whatever you want to say, but have a Great Christmas, and wonderful time with family friends and first and foremost remembering Christ in this time, and always! : )

  • Comment by  Elisha:

    May you rest in Christ this season :)

  • Comment by  JohnnyBoy:

    People think it's a joke that some people are offended that some say "Merry Christmas", but how many people actually know someone who is?

    I'm atheist, and I know when I hear 'merry christmas', it's not so much that I'm offended but just confused. Christians are not the only people around, and it seems absurd that some are as militant about it as they are.

    Happy holidays feels good. I would never say Merry Christmas because I don't expect everyone to be a person who celebrates what I consider an absurd religion. And while you may not consider your religion absurd, you shouldn't consider other people absurd for thinking they can celebrate without celebrating Jesus.

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