A Christian Who Doesn’t Care About the Phrase ‘Happy Holidays’

I was worried when I started reading this post by (Christian) Jennifer McGrail about a recent shopping experience and the cashier who assisted her family:

And then, he said it.

The thing that would cause me to roll my eyes and hurry home to write the store a scathing letter detailing exactly why I would be hereby boycotting their store forever.

He said, “Happy Holidays.”

In front of my children. How dare he say such a thing to me? How dare he try to take the Christ out of my Christmas? What is the matter with our stores, and our society, today?? I felt so offended and disrespected that I couldn’t even utter a word. I angrily snatched the receipt from his hand. I gathered the kids as quickly as I could, grabbed my groceries, and hightailed it out of there. I vowed never to return again.

Yikes.

…. thankfully, she’s only kidding.

She doesn’t understand how *anyone* — Christians included — could get so worked up when someone says “Happy holidays.” If you want to celebrate the birth of Christ, that’s your business. If you enjoy giving presents and you find joy in spending time with your family and you don’t give a damn about Jesus, that’s fine, too.

Actually, McGrail admitted a couple things that I rarely hear in the Christian world:

And if you’re going to split hairs about who should and should not celebrate Christmas, it’s worth noting that 1) Jesus was most likely NOT born on December 25th, and 2) most of what we all do at Christmas time –- even as Christians — are things we borrowed and adapted from pagan traditions, not the other way around.

Not every day you hear a Christian speak the truth :)

So when your Facebook friends complain about someone saying “Happy Holidays,” respond with a link to this piece. Let them know that not all Christians are as possessive of a holiday that was never even theirs to begin with.

(Thanks to Jezzi for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/Kimmerz321 Kimmerz

    Nice piece.  There’s a guy over at HuffPo who wrote something similar:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/war-on-christmas-walgreens_n_1116921.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Garneau/100001037513758 Jonathan Garneau

    According to my dad(who is a priest, and yes, I actually am an Atheist) Jesus was actually born in September. He’s also one of those lunatics that says America is only Christian by majority of population, not on foundation because a lot of our founding fathers were actually Deists. It’s good to hear that there are more Christians that understand that and don’t try to condemn people for having opposing beliefs, or for simply saying “Happy Holidays”. If everyone was like that, Pep Boys would be in big trouble because they started having all us mechanics place cards on customers dashboards that say Happy Holidays and a 10% off coupon inside it.

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    I’ve already started seeing that crap on FB. Thank you, Jennifer McGrail. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    Am I crazy or “Holydays” has “Holy” in the name?  And yes, JC was not born on Dec. 25. Mithra was (and I was born on the 24. Maybe I should start a cult). He also ascended to heaven around Easter, as well as sitting to the right of the father and a number of other “coincidences”. 

    Incidentally I am listening to a couple of  iTunes University lectures, one from Yale and one from Stanford on the Historical Jesus. Very interesting. One of the most interesting things was learning that JC and the apostles had no idea he was supposed to be the son of god. News to them.   

    It’s also interesting that all the 1 star in these lectures are from fundies.  Somehow they expect that history professors analyze the ascension as a historical fact. Since these professors are actually mentally sane, they don’t and get the wrath of the fundies.

  • Anonymous

    I think the culture war types need to find something else to get pissed off about. The semantics game they play annoys almost everyone else.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_E5IVDLJRGQTAVFK4KHLDKDH55Y Daniel

    I’d also like to point out that the name comes from “Christ’s Mass”.

    Non-Catholics shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

    Or at least that’s my go-to comment when someone starts griping.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, that always amused me  especially considering just how anti-catholic many baptists are.  I often heard about the evils of mass growing up from my very southern baptist parents and their church and was really confused about those same baptists insisting that everyone use a term derived from “christ’s mass.”  It’s obvious that the brouhaha isn’t about the word itself but about making everyone else recognize their particular fairy tale over any other.

  • Joan

    What I don’t understand is when I wish someone “Happy Holidays,” how do they know I don’t mean, “Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year”?  I mean, it is the holiday season, containing more than one holiday — even for Christians.

    • Matto the Hun

      That’s what I thought “Happy Holidays” was when i was little and only knew about Christmas and New Years; that it just lumped both those holidays together. After all, the winter break in school encompassed both those holidays.

      And of course shortly after, (like in the first grade) I learned about this Hanukkah thing and Jewish people. “Happy Holidays” now became inclusive to these people who did something different, and wasn’t that a nice thing.

  • Anonymous

    This is an interesting article and I agree with the majority of what is being argued but there is another side to the coin, the argument can go both ways. The reason that so many stores started having their employees use “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” and started putting up “holiday trees” rather than “Christmas trees” is because of the big-to-do that non-Christians were making over the use of Christ in the name.  This is the very same name that the Christians are now making a big-to-do about.  I guess I am wondering why atheists, Jews, Muslims and others made such an issue of the name in the first place.  The reason is because the name of Christ is offensive, and usually more so if Jesus is used in conjunction with it.  So while the name of the holiday that falls on December 25th has become a major issue it is the surface issue.  The real issue is the offensiveness of Jesus Christ or the purposeful exclusion of Jesus Christ.  This name is understandably offensive to people because he is God.  He also says that only through Him can anyone have fellowship with God.  Jesus is exclusive and that is offensive in today’s culture just as it was in the 1st century.  Christians shouldn’t get mad at someone for saying “happy holiday” they should use it as an opportunity to smile back and share about Jesus.

    • Anonymous

      Uh…no.  It’s that there are SO many OTHER holidays that happen around the winter solstice.  There’s Hanukkah, Eid, Yule, and Kwanzaa  to name a few.  Also, I really want some xian to please explain to me what is SO offensive about being wished “happy holy days”?  You do realize THAT’S what the word HOLIDAY is from, yes?  See, what you’re really wanting is for everyone to recognize YOUR particular ‘holy’ day to the exclusion of everyone else. 

      Just so we’re clear…when you wish someone a ‘merry christmas’ you want everyone to take that as an opportunity to share (read: LECTURE)  about Hanukkah, Eid, Yule, Kwanzaa, atheism or whatever, right?  What, no?  You don’t like that idea?  I wouldn’t have guessed.

      • Anonymous

        Isilzah, to clarify I am not one of those people that get upset or offended at someone wishing me a “fill in the Blank holiday greeting.” As I suggested I am one that smiles and takes the opportunity to tell that person about Jesus Christ or the reason for the “holy days”. Sadly, these greetings are often little more than a polite social norm.  I question the number of people that are purposefully wishing “Happy Holy Days” but I will ask and find out this Christmas season. You should do the same.

        To your comment, “what you are really wanting is for everyone to recognize YOUR particular ‘holy’ day to the exclusion of everyone else.”  this is false, of course I want everyone to recognize MY particular ‘holy’ day for it celebrates the birth of MY Savior Jesus whom i believe is the only way to heaven.  Of course i want everyone to be on that same page, i believe it is the truth, but i do not want that to the exclusion of everyone else.  As a Christian i believe and fight for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

        That is why i also have no problem with your last comment about everyone taking the opportunity to share about their belief.  be courteous and polite of course ( a sacker at the grocery store probably only has a minute to spare) I guess i don’t understand why you thought i would not like this idea. enlighten me please.  i personally would enjoy the dialogue and both parties would probably learn something and be challenged to examine and know our own beliefs better. are people so insecure about their beliefs that they do not want them to be challenged by opposing positions.

        • Anonymous

          Because it’s rude and annoying to be verbally assaulted by someone wanting to share their particular brand of fairytale with you just because of an innocuous social custom accidentally announces that you may share different beliefs.  Really, dude, most of us don’t care and will automatically brand you an ass for trying to convert us.  Also, most of us atheists have heard it ALL before and many of us come from ultra-religious backgrounds so we are well aware of the jesus fairytale you’re so eager to blab about. 

          It’s also not that you’re challenging my beliefs since I’ve yet to see any religious fairytale hold up to even cursory scrutiny, it’s that you have no right to get in my space and annoy me with your prattle.  Just because you self-righteous twits want to ‘challenge’  doesn’t mean anyone owes you any sort of response.  Sometimes I just want to take up proselytizing for the Flying Spaghetti Monster or something just so I can annoy all you proselytizing xian gnats in return.  Seriously, in just the last week I’ve had 2 sets of religious nuts at my door (one set on t-day, oi).  See, most religions don’t proselytize like you xians do.  I think you’d feel differently is you were constantly being annoyed by those pesky jews and hindus wishing to share their own good news with you.

    • unclemike

      I don’t think you can point to one example of an atheist getting upset at being wished a “Merry Christmas.” Most retailers, as far as I can remember, started using “Happy Holidays” because they realized their customers celebrate more than one holiday.

      • Anonymous

        Uncle Mike I know this link isn’t exactly the same but i thought it would suffice to show that what i was stating is supported. so there are at least some. And yes you are correct retailers want to be accommodating to all types of people, whatever brings in the $$$. I have seen that some stores like Walgreens are switching back to using “Christmas.” I guess the change didn’t pay off if they are switching back. But like I said earlier and what you will see in the article is that the issue is about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. What are your opinions on that?
         
         http://www.theblaze.com/stories/atheists-angry-after-wis-gov-changes-holiday-tree-back-to-christmas-tree/ 

        • unclemike

          Well, that example was about atheists not wanting an elected official to “endorse” one religion over another by using the name “Christmas Tree” in a taxpayer-funded display. Not quite the same (although I do think we atheists sometimes need to pick our battles better).

          Your original statement was that retailers switched their greeting because atheists made a stink and I still have never seen evidence of that.

          The “exclusivity” of Jesus literally never enters my mind unless or until it is brought up by a religious person. And even then I have little-to-no feelings on the matter, other than perhaps a weird feeling that someone believes in a fictional being. It’s literally to me the equivalent of someone talking about leprechauns or the Great Pumpkin.

      • Mairianna

        …and, as the article that is linked in this blog says, every cashier can’t know every customer’s backstory.  Unless, the customer is wearing a big ‘ole button that screams “I’m a christian, you better wish me a Merry Christmas!”, how the heck can they know what holiday, if any, the customer celebrates????

    • Mercuryblue_22

      I don’t think it’s the ‘Christ’ in ‘Christmas’ that people are opposed to; in fact, you’ll find many atheists and agnostics who celebrate and wish others a ‘Merry Christmas’ without batting an eyelash.  If anyone has been making a ‘to do’, it’s been due to frustration at Christmas being celebrated and promoted to the exclusion of all other holidays/religions.  I do not have a problem with a store displaying a nativity scene, as long as they are also willing to display a menorah, for example.  I prefer to with people a ‘happy holidays’ because I do not care to make assumptions about their beliefs or wish to exclude those who do not believe in Christ or God. 

      As an atheist, I appreciate the nativity myth and share it with my children during Christmas.  I think it’s a lovely story.  Do I believe it’s true?  No.  But I also don’t believe in Santa Claus, and I tell my children about him as well.  It seems to me that the only people making a fuss around this time a year are the ‘poor, repressed’ Christians who are upset about their December holiday having to share the spotlight.  Personally, I do not care what you believe- celebrate it as you wish to celebrate it.  Just don’t assume that everyone around you believes the same thing.

  • Anonymous

    here’s what i have never been able to understand: if one can accept, as evidence and logic dictate, that it is highly likely that the “christ” mas is probably a date chosen by early xtians to take advantage of a pagan holiday, why it is so difficult to take the next step? which is, to accept that there is an equal dearth of evidence (not counting that which comes from early believers, who had political and social reasons to pad the ‘evidence’) about the rest of ‘his life?’ the stories about it themselves are so similar to other religious myths it’s almost laughable, and the history of the faith is filled with squabbling and lying over the official narrative, to the point where it’s hard to be sure who is a ‘real’ xtian. 

    close inspection of the xtian faith makes it very hard to take seriously. the fact that xmas is an adopted holiday based on pagan tradition is only one of those observations. just take thenext step, believers. you don’t believe in the divinity of Hercules, Gilgamesh, or Vishnu. it’s not that hard not to not believe in the historicity or divinity of buddy jeebus either. stories are great, but they aren’t always real and you shouldn’t base your life on mythology. 

  • Anonymous

    One can only imagine his outrage at being wished a Happy New Year.

  • http://evolvedmonkeys.blogspot.com/ Evolved Monkey

    What about wishing everyone a Joyous Festivous? Is that OK? My favorite part of the evening is the airing of grievances, followed by the feats of strength. A few years ago, my friends and I put up a Festivous pole in our little corner at work and no one complained. Although, I work at a software company and most of the developers are atheist or agnostic, so celebrating Festivous seemed natural. :)

  • http://commablank.blogspot.com/ LS

    I spoke with a Jew one who much preferred to be told “Merry Christmas” by businesses, simply because anything else was obviously not genuine. When the store is decorated with christmas trees, christmas lights, and banners written in red-and-green, it’s obvious which holiday is being celebrated.

  • EJC

    Seriously, if any xtian gets his/her underpants wadded up over “Happy Holidays” they need to lighten the fuck up. If an atheist gets all uppity over “Merry Christmas,” he/she needs to lighten the fuck up.

    Personally, there are larger battles and bigger fish to fry. And really, the holiday season does nothing for me. Not hatred mind you, just mind-numbing apathy towards them.

    Stop fretting and festering over the little semantic sentiments and go out and fight the larger battles.

  • Newavocation

    It gets harder to keep the faith of the privileged when others assert their rights to think and celebrate differently. 

  • Chris

    I suspect some people would prefer to hear “Have a miserable Christmas” rather than “Happy holidays”.


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