Happy Holidays! Oops, I meant Merry Christmas!

Rick Broadaway

As the societies of the US, the UK and other English-speaking countries have become more and more multicultural, there has arisen a problem regarding holidays, especially religious holidays such as Christmas. In most of these countries there is a long tradition of wishing people, all people, in the spirit of universal brotherhood, a Merry Christmas. The problem is essentially that Christmas is no longer universally celebrated by all people living in these societies. In the US, for instance, many stores have avoided the problem entirely by wishing people "Happy Holidays" or "Season’s Greetings" instead of the traditional "Merry Christmas." Many Christians have protested this tendency as a form of political correctness that denies the true nature of the holiday as well as the true nature of these countries as Christian countries. In response, a number of stores have recently been "putting the Christ back in Christmas" by telling their employees to wish their customers a hardy Merry Christmas. However, the issue is unlikely to be resolved so easily as these societies struggle to find a compromise between a regard for tradition and a respect for other cultures. It is unfortunate that a holiday that has always been considered a time to overlook differences has itself become a point of division between people.

So, at Christmas time what does one say to a Jewish-American living in New York or a Pakistani Muslim living in London? Should you say Merry Christmas only to people who look "western" or "European?" Well, if you know the religion of the person you are talking to, then you can make that judgment easily enough. However, if you do not, then you cannot and should not judge that person’s religion by his or her appearance. Most of the world’s major religions appeal to people of all nations and races. Instead, my advice is simple. Say "Merry Christmas" to everyone you meet and keep this in mind: it is the spirit that counts. This time of year has always been special to humans. It is a time when the days get shorter and shorter and darkness appears to be taking over the world. Through this darkness shines the light of the human spirit, bright and hopeful. If you say Merry Christmas in this spirit, then I cannot imagine that you could offend anyone.

So, with this in mind, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

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