holiday debate

The Raging Holiday Debate

As we again approach the end of the year we enter into the notorious “holiday season.”

This year it seems, more than any year I remember, the debate over the appropriate holiday well wishes is front and center everywhere I look. Now maybe it has to do with where I look – Facebook groups, twitter posts, blogs… all those venues for making your opinion known without giving much thought to the statement we are making have become more prevalent and continue to take a more central role in keeping us all connected.

I think it comes down to value. Yes, really, value. If I wish someone a happy or merry anything is my intent to add value for me or for them? Well, I’ll speak for myself (and there is a comment section below for you to do speak for yourself.) My intent is to add value to them, to bring a smile, to lighten a heart, to brighten a day.

So why would I wish them anything that holds no meaning for them?

I have a somewhat unique perspective perhaps. I was raised Christian, in fact, I was raised in a Christian cult that did not celebrate the religious holidays because of their derivation from pagan rituals and traditions. Their teaching was that if you celebrating the birth, death and resurrection of Christ at all then you should celebrate it every day and not by the observance of rituals that had been modified from other religions.

How many of you gasped? What, no Christmas? Nope, and no Hanukah, and we didn’t celebrate the Winter Solstice either. But in the little Kansas town where I was raised everyone wished me a Merry Christmas and expected that I would wish them the same.

And I did, wholeheartedly.

Because it meant something to them. I sang the carols even though I wasn’t allowed to participate in rehearsals for the annual school pageant let alone in the real event, because it brought joy to people to hear them. Although I had no reference for the traditions outside of the books I read I took pleasure in their pleasure.

But what if I had been raised in a community on the West Bank? Or in Tehran? Would I have been inauthentic to offer them the greetings and well wishes that are in keeping with their traditions and the beliefs that bring them joy? Why is it inauthentic if I sincerely wish them joy on their sacred day?

In this part of our world Christians are the majority and a greeting of “Merry Christmas” will add value to many of the people we meet. But not all.

So this season, as you wish a merry, happy season to friends and strangers please ask yourself, “am I wishing them a Merry Christmas because I know it has meaning for them or only to make a statement about what has meaning for me?”

I agree you all have the right to offer your holiday greetings in any format you choose – and so does everyone else. So if you say “Merry Christmas” and they respond with “Happy Holidays” please know that their wish for you is just as sincere as your wish for them.

Let that be the value of the well wishes you give, and those you receive.

Sometimes the greatest gift we can offer is the tolerance and respect that comes from an open and loving heart.

I wish you all a happy, merry, joyful, blessed season – this season and every other.

31 thoughts on “The Raging Holiday Debate”

  1. I agree – it the the kind and happy sentiment you are conveying. I am not religious, but in times of trouble I have had family and friends say they are praying for me. I'm not offended by it at all – they are taking the time to do something meaningful and important to them in order to help me in their minds – that is a good thing in my book. I don't care what you celebrate during the winter months or how you do it really – just be nice to each other and share a smile 🙂

  2. Christmas is a Christian holiday just like Thanksgiving and Easter. If you don't like the terminology, don't celebrate it.
    You won't see Christians trying to change Hanukkah, Halloween or Diwali. Christmas has a very specific purpose and remembrance to it.
    You can be politically correct all you want, but do it to politics and not religion.
    It's Christmas cowards. Even not being a Christian, I and others realize this. This is not even a debate.
    Kind and Happy sentiment can be and should be given everyday. Don't wait for Christmas to do it.
    Unbelievers should be thankful that they get time off work and experience the most blessed day on the calendar where crime drops and people show acts of love. For the most part, people who say "Xmas" are making a deliberate statement and attempt to show others that they don't believe in Christ…like as if it's some badge of honour.
    If you don't believe in Christmas or it's terms, save yourself some money from buying gifts and go back to work while the rest of us celebrate the birth of our Creator.

  3. Hey Dafna Michaelson,
    if you shared another's joy, you'd recognize that the holiday belongs to Christians. By you changing the terminology shows that you truly don't share in other people's joys.

  4. I really can't believe this is even an article. If people went around trying to wish everyone else what they thought the person wanted to be wish, we'd all go crazy. (the author needs to re-think this).
    If everyone acknowledged the holiday for what it was originally (Christmas) there'd be no grief.
    Think about this, everyone says:
    Happy Halloween,
    Happy Easter,
    Happy Birthday,
    Happy New Year and so on..
    we all call the holiday for what it is.
    You say what has meaning to you. Merry Christmas has meaning to me. People who say "Happy Holidays" also have meaning too, they mean to say "we want the holiday with no religious attachements.
    Merry Christmas everyone.

  5. Thank you Robyn and Dafna for understanding the spirit of this post. Brandon – sorry dear, Thanksgiving is not considered a Christian holiday but I certainly agree with giving a kind and happy sentiment everyday! Too bad that we have someone who is willing to challenge the sincerity in Dafna's comment but not willing to be identified. And yes, Christmas is Christmas, but the HOLIDAY season is so much more. I thank you all for your time and attention and hope that you enjoy whatever holiday you choose to celebrate.

  6. Cindy McCarleans

    Dixie you're biased. You need to rethink your writing. This is the first I've read your writing and it seems very biased and somewhat confusing. Judging by the way you responded to those who have commented, you have an agenda. Just because people don't agree with you, that does not mean that they didn't catch the spirit of what you wrote. Maybe they did and just don't agree.
    Thanksgiving is indeed a Protestant holiday.
    Whether or not you are I agree with Christmas and what we call it does not matter. It's Christmas.
    North Americans can travel all over the world and experience other people's customs and cultures, but don't think that for a moment that these places with become politically correct for Americans. But America has bent over backwards trying to please everyone and has lost her identity in the world.
    You say the holiday season is so much more? How can it be when the pinnacle of this holiday is Christ? Is there more to it then Christ? He taught to love your enemies and treat others like how you want to be treated.
    But here you are trying to exclude Him. No one in Bethlehem had a place for Him to be born…just like today where there is no place for Him still.
    The term holiday literally translates to "Holy Day". A day of spiritual reflection. God's word calls Jesus the "Holiest of Holies".
    There is nothing wrong about wishing someone a Happy Holiday, but the agenda (like yours) is much bigger then that.
    Congratulations to the true keepers of the Holy Season.
    Merry Christmas everyone.

  7. This article is the result of someone having a bad experience as a child from over zealous parents.
    "Christian cult"? Isn't that an oxymoron?

  8. Cindy – I DO have an agenda. And that agenda is to add value to others and not just stick to my OWN beliefs and biases. Notice I didn't say that others did not get the spirit of what I shared, just that Robyn and Dafna clearly DID. And you are all welcome to disagree, that is the point isn't it? I'm not at all concerned with "politically" correct – only with my own philosophy of "treating others the way they would want to be treated" and not just the way *I* would want to be treated. I choose tolerance and respect for others but in that I also tolerate and respect when others do not.

  9. Dixie calm down.
    You are a great advocate for only what you believe, in but you are shutting out most of the people who celebrate Christmas.
    Remember you writing is only your opinion.
    The Christmas holiday is not an opinion. It's a fact. December 25 is called Christmas and not happy holidays.
    You are obviously bitter about something from your childhood.
    You indeed do stick to your own beliefs and biases. Judging from what other have wrote here and from what you have written, you may need to re-think or re-write your opinion or at least how you come across to people.
    You don't choose tolerance at all. If you did, you would tolerate a Christians holiday, but you don't.
    Have a Merry Christmas.

    By the way, I tried to use my WordPress ID but it doesn't allow me to do it for some reason.

  10. Christmas is not the only holiday (religious or secular) occurring this month, people. Hence Happy Holidays, plural. I'm sure in some corners of the world, "It's Christmas! Jesus is the reason for the season!" makes sense, but in the circles I run in that include Jews, atheists, etc., that is just not a blanket truth AT ALL.

  11. From a FB friend who decided she didn't want to be "raged" at

    Just finished reading your blog and wanted you to know i couldn't agree more. I was actually typing a comment and got called away from the computer, then when i tried to post it I lost it. Probably a good thing as i read through all the responses that had been posted since I first read it! I decided to just send you a personal note instead.
    Yes, Christmas is Christmas, but the holiday season is so much more! As a Christian, it is with sincere joy that I wish people a "Merry Christmas". But there are times when I wish someone a "happy Holiday" that is no less sincere. When I do that it is my sincere wish(or prayer) that the recipient have a holiday filled with love, joy, friends, family, all the things that make my Christian celebration special to me. Unfortunately many of my fellow Christians get a bit defensive at the thought that "happy holidays" takes away from their Christmas. Truthfully, I would rather have a sincere "happy Holidays" from someone than a "Merry Christmas" from an angry Christian trying to make a point!

    Whether you celebrate a religious "holy day" or a secular "holiday", i wish you many blessings.

  12. I sincerely thank you all for your comments. I am sorry that some of you feel I am "bitter" – not at all. While I grew up without Christmas celebrations I have celebrated Christmas all my adult life since leaving my parents home. I STILL joyfully wish a "Merry Christmas" to those I know to celebrate that holiday and I still love being wished one in return. And that December 25th is sacred to Christ is not in question. I only question whether or not we add anything to the life of another person by bestowing a wish that has no meaning to them and recognize that in the entire month of December there are many other Holy Days that are recognized by people I respect and admire. Those people show their respect for me by wishing me a Merry Christmas, I wish them Happy Holidays or if I know the holy day they hold sacred I recognize that in my well wishes. Bitter? Not even close. Rich beyond measure that I am able to participate, as Dafna says, in the joy of ALL people regardless of whether or not we share a faith or a holiday.

    I'm going to let you "rage" among yourselves now. I am leaving town for a client where I will be with a team of people who REFUSE to have their office Christmas party unless I am in town to share it with them. Like I said – I am rich beyond measure.

  13. oops – Matthew forgot to add I don't know why it wouldn't let you use your WordPress ID… I'm not the techie (that is an UNDERSTATEMENT) so will have to ask someone else. By way of showing how non-techie I am – does the WP ID usually work on a Blogger blog? I'm switching to WP soon but again – I know nothing…

    And really – if I came across as not tolerating Christmas I misstated. Not only do I tolerate it, I celebrate it. Coming from a small KS town I had a very strong bias that "Christmas is Christmas" and if there was a bad experience it was being closed out from the wonders of that holiday – but I have come to embrace the fact that it is Christmas and it is wonderful, but the SEASON really is more and I AM blessed to know so many people willing to share THEIR sacred days and their joy with someone who is not of their faith. I hope that I CAN live up to my desire of being tolerant and respectful to ALL people. My life is richer for THEIR tolerance and respect of me. Thanks for commenting, really. Through your interpretation of my writing you have shown me how far my pendulum has swung in my desire TO be open.

  14. Hey Dixie, not sure your pendulum has swung far seeing that this has been a discussion for many years now.
    Even though you might not want to say something to someone because you may think it might not mean anything to them, it's a good way for others to learn about it.
    No matter the reason or agenda behind tolerance, a holiday with a title is a holiday with a title.
    Christmas is the reason people are celebrating the season, no matter what we chose to call it, no matter what it means to others, it's because of Christmas that there is a season like this in the world.
    If there was no Christmas, there would be no debate for anyone to call it anything because it would not be a holiday. There would be no season at all if there was no Christmas.
    By the way I think you're frigging hot.

  15. Who really knows what makes other people happy, joyful, ….. None of us are mind readers. BUT, extending a heartfelt, thoughtful, compassionate, well intended, substantive greeting to another is a gift. Who really cares whose holiday it is. The "season" is a gift. The attention to good intentions, both given and received, are too.

  16. Jilian Saunders.

    Dixie you truly are a coward. I'm not sure you really and understand how you come across to people.
    I believe you think you're a hero or a champion of some sort…but you are way, way out of line on this.
    You believe that you think you're right because you're a "good person" and an "equal opportunist" who just wants the world to workout.
    You are no different from atheists and scrooges.
    I can't even begin to explain to you how you come across in this blog. You think you are the sane one…but you are the one who destroys the spirit of the season.
    By not saying Merry Christmas, you destroy the season…think Dixie….really think,
    If you remove "Happy Holidays" do you still have Christmas? The answer is "Yes".
    If you remove "Christmas altogether, do you have Happy Holidays? The answer is "No".
    Listen closely to what you commentators are saying…you are way out of your league on this one.
    I'd wish you a Merry Christmas but you wouldn't understand.

  17. Jen,
    you're full of shit. North America as a whole celebrates Christmas. The Jews wants everyone to know about them and celebrate their holidays, but ask them once to celebrate a Christian holiday…it'll never happen.

  18. WAIT, wait, wait

    when was Thanksgiving a "Christian Holiday"

    laughing my arse off here!

    okay – it was originally for the first few days (literally) a "Puritan" holiday, but that's a subsidiary of Christianity, ain't it?

    um, I would equate the T-Day holiday more with the natives who brought the FUN into the event/day,28804,1862503_1862505_1862507,00.html

    originally a Christian holiday?, okay by 72 hours – like twins – one is a few moment older – whatever, it's still a lame argument

    PS (on previous) – you're (Dixie's) upbringing is more on target than those that celebrate Christmas thinking it's actual birthday of "our lord" and all… again another pagan holiday enveloped by the church to force the peasant folk into the fold… (Easter being the other, hence the bunny/egg participation) – the dates don't match up with the biblical – check it

    I'm reading further comments… YIKES!

    Especially in our collective USA, there are many of every group… including religious views, practices, beliefs, or lack there of. Freedom of Religion is exactly that… I think it implies a respect for all, even those philosophies or theological views you disagree or do not view as legitimate – so I GET the message of this original post… Express what is most appropriate in respect of your audience, and if you don't know, just cover all bases with "Happy Holidays" because that includes them all – and for those others whom the specifics are known to you (I myself make sure to know others from different backgrounds than myself) – be specific.

    To say "Happy Holidays" should never be taken as an insult, and when it is, it says WAY more about the person getting upset than it ever could about the person wishing the genuine greeting.

    Anything else is pathetic, appalling, and most irritating. Stupidity should never be the crutch to lean against!

  19. Kimberly you talk so much crap I don't even know where to begin with you.
    I come from a Puritan heritage (which is Protestant) and you sound like nothing more then a student of the Internet.
    Christmas and Easter are from lowly Christians who had no say in history and government…the church as you call it are Catholic dominated who were set out to silence the movement of Christ.
    Yes Christmas and Easter are historically marked as pagan events. But I promise you that you have no idea what that means.
    I come from a line of Christians that were murdered by the Catholic church.
    What is your definition of paganism Kimberely? Because I gaurante your definition won't match up to what true paganism is.

  20. I only have a minute- I have not read all the comments, but have certainly enjoyed the ones I have read.
    I think in the recent years we have gotten a little confused and out of sorts and defensive as we have been told prayer in most public places is not acceptable, the name of God on coins and the Pledge with the line naming God may not be acceptable, no Christmas Carols in school or public assemblies and politically correct folks will say "Happy Holidays" instead of Merry Christmas!! AUGH!! Too many rules and judgements and controls.
    Christ was not born in the USA and he was not born on December 25th.
    I like to be respectful and be respected- I will not hide under the bushel, but I will not force others to conform if they chose not to- God gives us free will for a purpose.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays- every day I wish people many blessings and love!

  21. I'm usually quite sad that I missed one of Dixie's posts when released. This time I'm actually glad, because I not only got to read the post, I got to read the debate that followed.

    Several points:

    First, all religions are cults. See: if you want to argue with the experts who say so.

    Second, for all the Christian zealots who keep saying this season is about THEIR holiday, remember this. The Christmas holiday was moved to this time of year to coincide with prominent pagan celebrations for the specific purpose of stealing their thunder. (I learned all about that during confirmation at Green Park Lutheran when I was 14.) So while it may be a Christian holiday too, it is still a pagan holiday, a Jewish holiday and an end-of-year holiday (to name but three). And in my book, the pagans get to claim it over everyone else, because they owned it before you did — and they always will.

    Third, your faith or celebration is your choice — regardless of which you celebrate. And attempting to force your choice down the throats of others is nothing more than bully behavior. So bite me.

    Finally, I'll ditto Jen who pointed out the plurality of this season and the irrefutable logic of "Happy Holidays" to cover it all.

    And I'll TOTALLY ditto Dixie's primary point. You do a service of great value to others when you learn what holiday they celebrate and wish them a happy celebration of that holiday. Just like you do a service of great value when you learn their birthday and wish them well on that special day.

    Personally, I choose to celebrate all the holidays of the season. Any reason to party, right?

  22. Wow, what a series of issues on what started out as a loving, giving, posting. The feast of Christmas was adopted by the Christian Church in Rome about 300 years after Christ's birth. The then pope in Rome wanted to stress the importance of Christianity in the roman Empire and the great feast of Saturnalia was celbrated at this time. What better way to influence a people than to take over their feast day by adopting it as your own. That said, we have celebrated the birth of Christ at this time since then. Saturnalia was only established to do the same so the Romans could take over the worship of the Sun God in Syria and Eygpt. Remember that Aten was worshipped as having been born on December 25th also more than 2,000 years before, and was also a montheistic god, before the Jews adopted one under while living in Eygpyt. So there is nothing new under the sun, so to speak.
    On a second issue, we live in a country, a wonderful country, where there are more Muslims living than American Episcopalians, Jews, or Protestants. That may shock some people, however it is a fact and the Census next year will almost definately show an increase in this number for Muslims and a decrease in this number fo the other religions. To reflect that and honor another person it makes sense to be polite and reflect their religion in your greeting. If we want to always say Happy Christmas, or Merry Christmas, so be it, though it doenot make so much sense to say it to someone who does not believe in a way to God through the teachings of Jesus the Christ. Pluralism in America is based on the on the common ground rules of the first amendment to the United States Constitution. And as long as it is enshrined in the constitution we should welcome the opportunity to be pluralistic in our outlook, as the founding fathers wanted us to be, celebrate, spend, eat, drink and enjoy life, loving our neighbors as we would wish to be loved.

  23. By the way, just as a little extra comment, in all the traditional painings of the early christian period we see Halo's surrounding the heads of people, saints, holy figures, which are exactly the same as the SUN-discs of the early Eygptian worshippers of Aten, and a quick reminder that Aten was the first recorded monotheistic god and as such predated Judaism, and by inference Christianity, by several thousand years. So when we look at all those Christmas Cards with their traditional pictures of saints and holy figures, remember they have Sun-Discs surrounding their heads to reflect their relationship with the past, and so-called, pagan gods.

  24. Wow! You guys just kept it coming. Let's see…

    Jillian, I think you DID wish me a Merry Christmas and I thank you. And you are right that I want it all to work out, trying to do my part, but wrong that I think I'm right. This is MY truth, just as this is MY space. I am not at all concerned with whether or not you accept it as your truth.

    Scott, you are so right that the best ones are bloody 🙂 and Happy Festivus to you as well my friend.

    Kim and Rene, thank you both. Rules and regs are exactly what I am setting MYSELF free from here.

    Gill, you know I wish you joy this season and every other because you bring joy no matter WHAT you wish the world.

    Steven, my brave friend. Your sense of history, of abiding faith and pragmatic honesty just caps off this marvelous discussion. I cannot thank you enough. Merry Christmas my dear, I know you get it.

  25. When Ebenezer Scrooge had his change of heart, there were those who derided him

    Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

    I think I see some much less attractive forms of derision being expressed here. What a shame. Nevertheless

    it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

    And I mean that from the bottom of my atheist heart!

  26. Dixie,

    Glad I found your blog, and this is an interesting discussion. I think you're one of the most "Christian" people I know, assuming that term refers to the New Testament Jesus who showed tolerance and compassion for everyone. I don't know why these attributes are not valued by many Americans of this faith. It's a simple observation that 24% of our country self-identifies as non-Christian, but we all celebrate and enjoy the Christmas holiday in many different ways.
    As some of your readers point out, the history is very clear. The early Christian church found it easier to convert people by letting them celebrate their old (mostly pagan) holidays and gradually changing the traditions. Ironically the exception was that the first hundred years or so after Christ's death, the Christians didn't celebrate ANY birthday because of the pagan origin. After hundreds of years they started celebrating Christ's birth, calculating 9 months after Gabriel's visit to Mary.
    I know many of your Christian readers take offense and will certainly never change their opinions. Hopefully your influence will make them value tolerance and compassion as a desired quality in all people — especially this time of year… 🙂

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