Happy Saturnalia, Y'all

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A footnote to Julian's fine article from yesterday:

To the extent that I care, which is not much, I'm a "Merry Christmas" man. There's nothing offensive about the phrase—it's a friendly greeting, for heaven's sake—and "Happy Holidays" does seem pretty generic and bland. I say this as someone who is not now and never has been a Christian.

But launching a campaign for "Merry Christmas" is as silly and P.C. as banishing it. From here, it looks like a lobby flexing its muscles over an empty culture-war battle—kind of like when a civil rights group wastes its resources fighting the Confederate flag. As far as I'm concerned, if you really don't think it's appropriate for a clerk to tell you "Happy Holidays," you should reply with a smile and a "Merry Christmas." And if you really don't think it's appropriate for a clerk to tell you "Merry Christmas," you should reply with a smile and a "Happy Holidays." All these power games—the boycotts, the media crusades—are just stupid. The republic can withstand a little variety in its semi-anonymous phony cheer.

NEXT: Battling the Barlow Bust

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  1. Agreed. Proponents from both sides are way too sensitive, for crying out loud.

    BTW, Merry Chrismahanukwanzakah!

  2. The only person dumber than the ACLU member who sues to get the Christmas Tree (decorated entirely with shiny baubles, candy canes, Santa Claus figurines, and other secular adornments) removed from City Hall is Bill O’Reilly whining about “Happy Holidays.”

    Merry Christmas everybody!

  3. Good post, Jesse. It’s a losing battle to get too caught up in these purely symbolic battles, like the fight over Columbus Day. And thanks for calling the battle against “Happy Holidays” PC. Too often conservatives ape the least attractive attributes of the Left without realizing that makes them just as bad.

    One thing, though. Maybe “Happy Holidays” is generic and bland, that’s a matter of personal taste. But I want to point out that it goes back a lot further than the term “PC” or the seventies. A song called “Happy Holiday” was in the Holiday Inn movie that also spawned “White Christmas.” I remember the term being used plenty in my pre-seventies childhood. Maybe the “never say anything offensive” crowd has picked up on it, but I think it has a rich history that is demeaned by associating it with that POV. I bet its original meaning was as much to include New Years as to include non-Christians.

  4. I thought “Happy Holidays” was invented to cover the whole debauched stretch from Thanksgiving to New Years. I think later on it became a way of saying “Merry Christmas” without offending the heathens.

    It’s interesting how thin the whitewash on the old paganism is. Santa Claus is just Odin right?

  5. Fyodor: Some companies have a deliberate policy of telling clerks to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” so as not to give offense. That’s what I was referring to. I understand the motivation, but it still seems pretty PC to me.

    As for the song, I believe it also includes the line “Have a very merry Christmas…”

  6. I agree with fyodor that the “happy holidays” phrase may have been hijacked by the so-called PC crowd and likely has a history of its own. I started using the phrase after getting fed up with the commercialization of the Christmas holiday and mostly in greeting strangers for whom I have no gauge of their Christmas-leanings.

  7. Merry Festivus to you all.

  8. As for the song, I believe it also includes the line “Have a very merry Christmas…”

    Showing that the phrases were not always considered mutually exclusive as the Merry Christmas campaign is implying.

    As far as telling clerks to say “Happy Holidays,” it reminds me of a seminar I once took at which the speaker said that one should never wear any scent to a business meeting because someone might be offended by that scent, for reasons like maybe that person’s ex used to wear that scent. In other words, always err on the side of avoiding offense. Is telling clerks to say “Happy Holidays” the tasteless fruit of nefarious PCism, or is it just good business sense? Again, I don’t deny that the PC crowd may also have jumped on the HH bandwagon, but they’re not the only ones driving it.

  9. Merry Festivus to you all.

    I’ve got a lot of problem with you people!

  10. For some blatant non-Xmas victimhood fishing, try this Kentucky girl who wore a stars-and-bars DRESS to her prom, was denied entry, and now has filed a court-case claiming discrimination.

    http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/news/breaking_news/10461260.htm

    Better still, her lawyer is named Earl-Ray.

    No shit.

  11. Please. It’s “y’all,” not, “ya’ll.” I know that almost nobody cares, but it happens to be one of my pet peeves. The term is a contraction of “you all.” Think about that and it will make sense where the apostrophe goes. Thank you. πŸ™‚

  12. I don’t think there’s anything silly about telling your staff to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It makes sense to me that you’d want your clerks to say something appropriate to a customer. Telling someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas to have a merry one reminds me of telling someone “Have a good night” at 9 AM.

  13. Fyodor: PC and business sense are not mutually exclusive. And — just to punctuate my original point — I don’t deeply care what the policy is in the first place.

    Anon: You’re quite right about “y’all.” I’ll fix it forthwith.

  14. greeting strangers for whom I have no gauge of their Christmas-leanings.

    Thank you, Neil Lindsay. Far be it for me to try to pass as Miss Manners, but perhaps if one’s point is to spread good feelings, it might make more sense to say what pleases the other person rather than what pleases you. Kinda like meeting the firmness level of someone’s handshake rather than imposing your own. Last time I did my late night radio show, I wasn’t going to see the guy who followed me till after New Years, and this guy had already expressed disgust with the Holiday season (yeah, a common attitude at public radio stations, oh well), so when I was about to leave I said, “Happy Holidays–and all that crap!” And you know what he did? He smiled! Now would it have been more Christmassy to say Merry Christmas and make him grimace? I don’t think so. That said, y’all can say whatever you like, I sure don’t care. Just don’t think (and I don’t mean Jesse here) that saying Merry Christmas makes you more moral.

  15. c’mon joe, you’ve got to be kidding.

    “Have a good night” at 9 a.m. is a big anachronism.

    Saying “Merry Christmas” to someone who doesn’t celebrate is not a big deal. If you don’t know they didn’t celebrate, an honest, small-beans mistake. If you do know they don’t celebrate, why not wish them well anyways? If they cannot see the good intent behind a well-wisher, they have bigger problems.

    Merry Christmas joe.

  16. Celebrate Shaven Yak day.

    Julian’s point about over-reaction was dead on. When people, some on this very website, complain about public money going to build baseball stadiums, You do not hear die-hard fans and MLB officials claiming that there is an all-out assault on America’s pasttime, or that dissenters want to establish a sports-free distopia.

  17. NO NO NO! Patriot Act? INDUCE? Bah I got bigger fish to fry:

    First it’s “under God” in the pledge, then 5 years later, it’s “under God” in the schools, then 5 years later, it’s mandatory church on Sundays, then 5 years later . . .

    It’s a slippery slope I tell you! Slippery! SLIPPERY!!!!!

  18. JAT:

    The Confederate battle flag (aka the Rebel flag) is NOT the same as the Stars and Bars, although this is a common misconception. The Stars and Bars was the name of the CSA’s first national flag, which had white stars in a blue canton, similar to the USA’s flag. There were only three bars (red and white) in place of the U.S. flag’s stripes. In use, it looked too much like the U.S. flag, so it was replaced by a second flag which used the battle flag as a canton. (The rest of the flag was white.) This second flag was known as the Stainless Banner. In use, this ended up looking too much like a white surrender flag, so the third version of the CSA national flag added a red vertical bar on the end opposite the canton. This final version has sometimes been called the Blood-Stained Banner, but that’s not as widely used.

    If you’d like to see pictures of any of these (or just want to make sure I’m not making it up), you can find out far more than you want to know here. πŸ™‚

    http://www.confederateflags.org/

  19. PC and business sense are not mutually exclusive. And — just to punctuate my original point — I don’t deeply care what the policy is in the first place.

    Yeah, we’re kinda arguing about the angels dancing on the head of a pin, but just to be clear, PC and good business sense may not be technically mutually exclusive, but obviously they have very different motivations and purposes, or else PC doesn’t mean much. Is it PC to tell employees not wear any scent? If so, your definition of PC is problematically broad. If not, then hopefully this example demonstrates how telling employees what to say to customers is likely something other than simply being PC (even if maybe it overlaps with being PC).

  20. In the FWIW department, here’s dictionary.com’s defintions of politically correct:

    1. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
    2. Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.

    If a manager just doesn’t want to offend some of his customers, he’s not necessarily trying to support broad political or social change. And the more I think of it, the more I think it’s actually fairly important to not confuse the two motivations.

  21. Here in Denver this has been on the news a bit lately, what with the “Parade of Lights” (often misnamed by pundits as the Christmas Parade). not allowing carolers from some church. They talked about replacing the Merry Christmas on the county building with Happy Holidays.

    The irony in all this is that the people who complain that the government puts up a Merry Christmas sign are actually injecting religion into what has become an extremely secular holiday. You’d think the xtians complaining about this would thank them for helping to return their holiday.

  22. Merry Festivus to you all.

    I see the airing of grievances has already begun …

  23. Merry Christmas, chef.

    “If you do know they don’t celebrate, why not wish them well anyways?” Doesn’t “Happy Holidays” count as wishing someone well? Why is it important that you wish people well as they celebrate a Christian holiday, rather than as they celebrate the holiday of their choice?

  24. Joe-
    By your standards, saying “Happy Holidays” would discriminate against people who suffer from depression.

  25. If so, your definition of PC is problematically broad.

    All definitions of PC are problematically broad. Except maybe a couple that are problematically narrow. It’s a problematic phrase.

  26. Uh, Jennifer, you don’t see the difference between telling a depressed person you want them to be happy, and telling a Jewish person you want them to celebrate Christmas? Really?

  27. Joe, you’re pulling a Newdow: (i.e., hypersensitive civil rights obsessive condition leading to frivolous asshole legal action)

    You’re not telling the Jew you want him to celebrate Xmas. You’re wishing him a religiously inspired message of peace and goodwill, incidentaly under the framework of the same God that he worships. (sons of Abraham and Isaac)

    And as the Godless heathen communist bastard Jesse Walker rightly points out, the religion of the person on the receiving end is irrelevant.

    Recently an Indian guy wished me a happy D-something Hindu holiday….it was cool, not offensive.

  28. I’m an atheist, but I’ve never felt oppressed by people who say “Merry Christmas,” or “God bless you” after I sneeze. I’m a feminist, but I’ve never felt offended by men who hold doors open for me and say “ladies first.” Probably because I have far better things to do with my time than LOOK for reasons to be offended.

    Joe, do you think I should feel oppressed by the fact that those round things in the street are called “manholes” rather than “gender-neutral sewage-personnel transport facilitators?”

  29. Jennifer,

    Lifeform-hole covers πŸ™‚

    laetificus saturnalia!

  30. My roommate was fretting about this the other day. She went to a store and wished the proprietor, whom she guessed was Muslim, a Merry Christmas. Afterwards, she asked me if he would be offended. I’m never offended when people wish me a Merry Christmas and I often do the same. The PC police are overreacting, as are the anti-PC police.

    No well-adjusted person gets offended at being wished a Merry Christmas. It’s a season greeting and a wish of goodwill, not an invitation for conversion. Remind me to never wish joe an Eid-Mubarak.

  31. No well-adjusted person gets offended at being wished a Merry Christmas.

    Bingo!

    And the same could be said about “Happy Holidays”.

  32. It’s a problematic phrase.

    Like most words and phrases. My linguistics scholar aunt says almost all definitions can be made to fail if you’re clever enough. Yet we still communicate just fine, thank you, because that’s the nature of the beast, we know what words mean even if they’re always going to be somewhat…problematic.

    Back to “politically correct,” if someone restricts someone else’s behavior or speech for reasons that have nothing to do with broad social or political objectives, I just don’t think anyone (well, hardly anyone) would recognize such behavior as politically correct, at least not if they recognize it as such. Which is why I use the analogy of telling employees not to wear a scent because that may offend a customer or fellow employee. Telling employees not to say “Happy Holidays” may seem to have political/social ramifications on the surface, but when looked at more closely, one can see that it is more in league with managerial directives that one would never call PC. And I think that’s important to the debate–whether or not the debate itself is important! πŸ™‚

  33. I’m offended..

  34. No well-adjusted person gets offended at being wished a Merry Christmas.

    So the non-well-adjusted don’t count? 1/2 πŸ™‚

    I’m an atheist, but I’ve never felt oppressed by people who say “Merry Christmas,” or “God bless you” after I sneeze.

    That’s a healthy attitude, and that’s why some of us take a primarily “plague on both your houses” attitude about all this. But somehow the militantly pro-Merry Christmas side chafes me a bit more, perhaps because they’re aping the stupidity of those they’re ostensibly critical of. Perhaps because it seems so hypocritically unChristian and unChristmassy to not consider the feelings of others to be worthy of consideration, even if they are being foolish, or not as well-adjusted as they should be, to feel that way.

    Grinch and Scrooge, LOL. Well, you can’t please all the people all the time, that’s for sure! But then, as I tried to illustrate above, maybe it’s actually more in the spirit of Christmas to grumble and grouse to the likes of you two, if that’s what’ll make you happy!!

  35. “Joe, you’re pulling a Newdow: (i.e., hypersensitive civil rights obsessive condition leading to frivolous asshole legal action)”

    What legal action would that be, snake? We’re talking about whether shopkeepers are better off saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to a mixed-religious clientele. No subpoenas. No courtrooms. No lawyers. Just a discussion of what is good, and what is smart.

    “You’re not telling the Jew you want him to celebrate Xmas.” I’ve always interpretted “Merry Christmas” to mean “Have a merry Christmas.” I think it’s bad form to tell people from other religions to recognize your religion’s celebrations.

    Anyway, snake, next May 1st, have a rousing International Labor Day. Comrade.

  36. I think it’s bad form to tell people from other religions to recognize your religion’s celebrations.

    True, except that there are different versions of Christmas: There’s the religious celebration, and then there’s the secular feast of toys, fun, food, family, lights, etc. that most people in this country (including a lot of non-Christians) celebrate on December 25. There’s nothing presumptuous about wishing somebody a Merry Christmas, since even a lot of non-Christians celebrate some version of the secular holiday.

    Which is not to say that it isn’t a good idea for store owners to stick to Happy Holidays. But I don’t think it’s rude for me to wish people a Merry Christmas when I’m not certain about their religious affiliation.

  37. I like your spirit, Joe.

    However:
    1) Your analogy is flawed b/c Int’l labor day is not a religious observance where I could take “offense” in the manner of your hypothetical “Xmas to the Jew” example.
    2) Wish me that on May 1st and I’ll say thanks and smile with a bit of sadness, because:

    What started in this country as a noble, Upton Sinclair et al inspired progressive movement to improve hideous working conditions ended up killing the American Steel Industry and will kill the American Auto Industry by 2020.

    Perhaps on May 1 you’d like to discuss the 60+ million people who died in the 20th century under governments who encouraged the use of the word comrade, comrade?

  38. And, like most recent threads, this one eventually gets to the point where somebody hints that joe is a Communist. (Although, in all fairness, joe set himself up for that with his own use of the word “Comrade” in regard to May 1.)

    Can we modify Godwin’s Law? Or propose a corollary?

  39. Uh, Jennifer, you don’t see the difference between telling a depressed person you want them to be happy, and telling a Jewish person you want them to celebrate Christmas? Really?

    There are plenty of people who just don’t like chirpy well-wishing of any kind, whether they’re depressed or crusty or whatever. Haven’t you seen the bumper-sticker that says, “Don’t tell me what kind of day to have!”? And there are people who don’t want to hear any kind of holiday wish at all, it’s just aesthetically displeasing to them. If you know someone like that, it might be most charitable to share their cynicism because it might actually make them feel good! Of course dealing with strangers when you have no idea what will make them happy or what will bug them except for percentages, then you have to wing it some degree. Worrying about what might possibly offend someone isn’t reasonable because almost anything might. But basing what you say entirely on what suits yourself is…well, it is what it is. Sometimes you have to suit yourself, just please don’t pretend it’s something else if that’s what it is.

  40. Perhaps on May 1 you’d like to discuss the 60+ million people who died in the 20th century under governments who encouraged the use of the word comrade, comrade?

    Oh, come on! It’s just a friendly greeting! Should someone who wishes others Merry Christmas be reminded of all the people who died at the hands of the Inquisition?

    Once again I’m half joking. Joe’s right to a degree that greetings may convey underlying meanings to some other than the well-wishing expressed on the surface. The failing of joe’s analogy is simply that Merry Christmas is so pervasive that it just doesn’t have the context, and therefore the baggage, that saying Happy May Day would have owing to how unusual the latter would be. Ie, if someone said Happy May Day to you, most people would wonder what his meaning was. Only a few of those goddamned NON WELL ADJUSTED people think that about Merry Christmas.

  41. snake writes, “Int’l labor day is not a religious observance where I could take “offense” in the manner of your hypothetical “Xmas to the Jew” example.”

    then follows that up with

    “Perhaps on May 1 you’d like to discuss the 60+ million people who died in the 20th century under governments who encouraged the use of the word comrade, comrade?”

    OK, just as long as you’re not offended by it.

    Lord knows, nobody from any minority religions have any reasons to have less-than-warm feelings about Christianity.

  42. fyodor,

    “Of course dealing with strangers when you have no idea what will make them happy or what will bug them except for percentages, then you have to wing it some degree.” Yes, and a good strategy is to cast your net broadly, rather than narrowly. “Happy Holidays” is appropriate to a much larger segment of the public than “Merry Christmas.”

    “The failing of joe’s analogy is simply that Merry Christmas is so pervasive that it just doesn’t have the context, and therefore the baggage, that saying Happy May Day would have owing to how unusual the latter would be.”

    This is a distinctly majoritarian opinion. Don’t you think that Christmas imagery might bring with it some baggage to a listener who wasn’t raised Christian? The fact that it is normal and non-imposing to you doesn’t mean you are on solid ground when you project those impressions onto other people.

  43. So, joe, should I be offended if someone wishes me “Happy Hannukah”? Or rather, is that person being insensitive if they do so and I take offense? Or is it just when the people in power do it that it’s not kosher (so to speak)?

  44. Isn’t it awfully presumptuous to greet someone with Happy Holidays? How do you know that person is celebrating any Holiday this time of year?

    Now onto the Feats of Strength!

  45. This is a distinctly majoritarian opinion. Don’t you think that Christmas imagery might bring with it some baggage to a listener who wasn’t raised Christian?

    Given how many non-Christians in this country celebrate Christmas (well, the secular version anyway), I don’t feel like a jerk when I wish a Merry Christmas to a person of unknown religious background.

    Hell, even in Japan (a place where Christians are a minority) they’ve had dedicated Christmas episodes of Iron Chef, complete with Chairman Kaga coming out and wishing everybody a Merry Christmas (in English, even!).

    Is Chairman Kaga trying to impose his values on the Japanese? Perhaps he should go to a sensitivity seminar.

    Anyway, just to be clear, I’m fine with people who say Happy Holidays. I don’t feel persecuted by it. But joe is doing his utmost to vindicate O’Reilly (ugh!) when he suggests that it’s rude or hostile to wish somebody a Merry Christmas without first checking into his or her religious background.

  46. Thoreaus writes –

    …when he suggests that it’s rude or hostile to wish somebody a Merry Christmas without first checking into his or her religious background.

    Yeah, shouldn’t we just make sure we know everything about a person before wishing them anything just in case.

    I suggest an easy to carry form which will include check boxes for, but not limited to:

    Religion
    Race
    Area Born
    Country Born
    Sex (JIC)
    Sexual Orientation

    This way we can all make sure we never offend anyone by anything ever again. Of course the form should be filled out in triplicate, one copy to the questioner, one to the questionee, and one to the state to have on record in case any disputes result anyway.

  47. I think it’s bad form to tell people from other religions to recognize your religion’s celebrations.

    It’s not, it’s telling people from other religions that whether you recognize it or not, I hope that day, Dec. 25, turns out well for you. You call it Saturday (this year), I call it Christmas. I celebrate it, and I let it be known. Plenty of Jewish folk have no compunction about asking the forgiveness of non-Jews on Yom Kippur; plenty of non-Jews have no compunction about giving it. I wonder how many say, “well, you have sinned against me by asking my forgiveness on account of a holiday I don’t celebrate.” The burden is not on the speaker to self-censor, but rather on the listener to correct, accept, or ignore. If you’re the hypersensitive type, put ear plugs in on Black Friday and don’t take them out until Regis starts the countdown. Quit expecting me to continue pretending that I care about what offends you.

    And Christmas as it is celebrated is not so much a Christian holiday as it is an American holiday. We celebrate it with a consumerist zeal that is secular and material, which Christianity steadfastly and specifically opposes. The only thing religious about Christmas is the name. Ask every parent waiting in line while their bastard child runs down their list for a relapsed Santa whether they know the gifts of the Magi, or the name of the church seasons immediately preceding and following Christmas, or the name of Mary’s cousin, or who their child was, or what Mary’s intended name for Jesus was, etc. They won’t know. They will however tell you how long it took their bastard child to break whatever toy they bought for them last Christmas.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all y’all.

  48. Joe,

    You’re really grasping. Should a sneezing atheist be upset by the gratuitous “God bless you.”? Would that same atheist be offended by the phrases “Heaven forbid” or “Oh my God!” Someone saying “Merry Christmas” can hardly be translated as “You should celebrate what Christians consider to be the symbolic birth of the Messiah!” I think Jennifer is correct on this one.

  49. or “God bless you” after I sneeze

    .. I tell them, “no thanks”.. I like blowing their minds ..

  50. This is a distinctly majoritarian opinion.

    Not sure if you understood me. Context affects meaning. Relatively speaking, Happy May Day is something people don’t normally say. Therefore, it is much more likely to make someone wonder what underlying meaning you’re trying to convey than something that people say almost as a cliche, ie automatically. This is a very real difference. OTOH, I agree with you that some people are going to take offense to Merry Christmas for whatever reason. And for those people, their relative low numbers doesn’t change how they feel. And so I can go along with the notion that it’s perhaps a little nicer to say Happy Holidays which is a little less likely to offend people. OTOOH, sometimes people have to be themselves or else maybe they’re going to be offensive anyway. Niceness isn’t everything.

  51. “Isn’t it awfully presumptuous to greet someone with Happy Holidays? How do you know that person is celebrating any Holiday this time of year?”

    Even the atheists have to change their calenders at the end of the month.

  52. Rst,

    I think Mary’s intended name for Jesus was Barabas, but a little birdy told her it’d cause confusion later on.

  53. Joe, I change my calendar every month, but that doesn’t make a monthly holiday.

  54. The mother in the neighboring manger named her baby Brian, which seemed to upset the three wise asses.

  55. All of this slippery-sloping is idiotic (No, Sigma, I want eight copies).

    In the case that was brought up, what a clerk should say when she rings you up, the point isn’t that she should avoid giving offense. I don’t know about you, but were I to operate a business, I’d want my staff to aim higher than “Don’t offend people.” The point of saying something nice when you finish waiting on them is to say something THEY will consider nice. The staff should go out of their way to say something appropriate, not just “be themselves,” as fyodor calls it.

  56. There’s a huge distinction between “Merry Christmas” and “Worship Christ or be killed,” just as there’s a huge distinction between “ladies first” and “get back in your burka, babe.” A society incapable of making such distinctions is a society in big trouble.

  57. Joe, I hear what you’re saying, I’m just not sure how anyone could determine what someone else would consider nice, that’s all. That’s why if a Christian says Merry Christmas, I say Thank You and if someone says Happy Hanukah or Happy Holidays, I also say Thank You. If someone says Happy Festivus, I wrestle.

  58. Happy Brian-mas!

  59. rst:

    Quit expecting me to continue pretending that I care about what offends you.

    yeah, that about sums this thread.

  60. Hmmm.

    I’d buy into the notion that ‘happy holidays’ is becoming a friendly catchall replacement in an increasingly niched world, execpt for one thing.

    While few shops have the stones to publicly display a ‘Merry Christmas’ sign anymore, ‘Happy Hanukah’ is right up there beside ‘Seasons Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays’. Even Yahoo Messenger (yes, it’s trivial, but still) has holiday Audibles for Hanukah and for ‘Seasons Greetings’ but not for ‘Merry Christmas’.

    As it happens, I’m NOT a Christian and frankly don’t give a flying fig for Christianity. I prefer to wish people a ‘Merry Christmas’ because to me it’s a calendar event not a religious one and I find ‘Seasons Greetings’ to be utterly flabby as a wellwish. It’s like sitting down to a ‘lovely Christmas dinner’ of overcooked oatmeal when you were expecting turkey and all the fixin’s. I LIKE being able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and it strikes me as bizarre that the expression is being driven out of the lexicon in the name of being ‘inclusive’.

    What I object to in this is that there does seem to be a definiate leaning. You should never say the ‘C’ word lest someone take offense, but Hanukah, Ramadan and Kwanza are completely acceptable. They absolutely should be. And so should “Merry Christmas”.

    Do I care about the Christians… generically no, but some are nice enough. Do I care that a bunch of easily offended busibodies are telling a majority of the country how to wishwell… yes, rather a lot.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

  61. The staff should go out of their way to say something appropriate, not just “be themselves,” as fyodor calls it.

    joe, I was thinking about the issue of what one should say to others oneself rather than instructing “the staff” when I suggested that too much pandering to people’s sensitivities could be counterproductive. But I have zilch problem with telling one’s employees to say what one thinks will garner the best pleasing versus offense ratio.

    OTOH…

    I find ‘Seasons Greetings’ to be utterly flabby as a wellwish. It’s like sitting down to a ‘lovely Christmas dinner’ of overcooked oatmeal

    …among this crowd that might be rather difficult to determine!! πŸ™‚

  62. SixSigma,

    I think it would work better if we just had all that info tatooed into a bar code on our foreheads. Each of us could carry around a little barcode reader (perhaps built into a watch?). Upon meeting someone new, you would read the code and know immediately their stance on such important social matters as “merry christmas” and such. heck, while we’re at it, why not just take human conversation out of it altogether (you know, there’s so much potential for offense to be taken), and just have the reader issue a voice-synthesized greeting of the appropriate type, and then both people could be on their way, no fuss, no muss!

  63. Is it fair to summarize that all of us here are tolerant of whatever anybody wants to call a holiday, and, at the same time, such nice folks that we dare not offend a soul? (Should I say soul? Excuse me.)
    Okay then. Let’s ban all holidays that don’t happen on either a Friday or a Monday.

  64. Recently synidcated columnist Mark Steyn, whom I usually rather enjoy reading, did a bit on the “anti-Christmas” thing. He did wrongly cite the “school that banned the Declaration of Independence because it mentions God” incident, which Julian Sanchez debunked as false in his article.

    However, Steyn also gave a first-person account of visiting the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, and going to the post office there. (Apparently lots of people get a kick out of mailing Christmas cards with a “Santa Claus” postmark.) Anyway, Steyn “rather defiantly” said “Merry Christmas” to a postal employee. The employee said normally she’d be forbidden to say “Merry Christmas” back to a customer who said it first; she’d be required to say only, “Happy Holidays” back, except the Postmaster recently gave them “special dispensation” to use the C-word. That does strike me as a bit of extreme PC-ness.

  65. And speaking of political incorrectness, I have thought long and hard to come up with a holiday greeting to use this year that at once 1) expresses well-wishes that nearly everyone would appreciate, in a positive, upbeat manner; 2) is inclusive and non-sectarian; 3) does not advocate or presume belief in a particular religion; 4) yet does not ignore religion, God, or Jesus. Here it is:

    “Jesus, I hope to God you get laid this weekend.”

  66. Stevo, I like that one πŸ™‚

    But you’ll probably offend those who have something against getting laid.

    The primary problem with trying to not offend someone is that the vast majority of people who get offended are looking for something to get offended by, and it rarely matters as to the specifics, as long as they can lay claim to being a victim of ‘offense’.

    With the exception of deliberate, malicious offense (and even then, ignoring it is often the best path), the person with the problem is the person claiming offense. We’d be much better off teaching people how not to be offended by every little slight that comes their way, rather than attempting to sanitize our interactions until they resemble watered down pablum.

  67. There’s a huge distinction between “Merry Christmas” and “Worship Christ or be killed,” just as there’s a huge distinction between “ladies first” and “get back in your burka, babe.”

    There’s an equally huge distinction between “Happy Holidays” and “Stuff it up your ass, Jesus Freak.” Some people aren’t quite getting it, though.

  68. “Even the atheists have to change their calenders at the end of the month.”

    How do you know which calender they follow?

  69. In all seriousness I’d like to know Joe’s opinion on something. Which is worse: a society where people occasionally have to deal with being offended and/or having their feelings hurt, even though that was nobody’s intention; or a society where everybody has to exist in a state of eternal self-consciousness, and can never say even the most innocuous-sounding word without first stopping to consider whether or not someone, somewhere, might possibly take offense?

    Even “happy holidays” could be offensive to an oversensitive Jehovah’s Witness.

  70. “There’s an equally huge distinction between “Happy Holidays” and “Stuff it up your ass, Jesus Freak.” Some people aren’t quite getting it, though.”

    Phil–
    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with ‘Happy Holidays;’ I’m saying we shouldn’t assume that the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ is a form of religious intimidation.

    Some of you guys remind me of those people who will spell ‘womyn’ with a Y, on the apparent theory that this will somehow make a real and worthwhile difference in the plight of oppressed women.

  71. I, cynical, atheistic, recovering ex-Catholic that I am, have been known to greet fellow holiday cynics with “Happy Humbug.” I love all the trappings of Xmas, especially the pre-Christian ones, like trees, feasting, drinking, etc. Just because I don’t believe in any of the old pagan deities these were instituted to honor doesn’t mean I have to give them up, anymore than I have to stop reading Homer or Superman.

    Actually, the feasting may have preceeded the god-stuff, as primitive humans’ ability to store food after the harvest was limited, and pigging out on the perishables before they went to waste was a good way to put on a layer of fat for the winter. Feast before fast is also the genesis of Mardi Gras and Carnivale. So everybody enjoy their Christmas goose, ham, turducken, or whatever, and their New Year’s bash, then crack open the Atkins or South Beach after the Super Bowl. SB Day has become the real end of the “Happy Holidays.”

    And have a Cool Yule.

    BTW, if anyone doesn’t know what “y’all” means, it translates to “youse guys” in Brooklynese. πŸ™‚

    Kevin

  72. DB –

    See, now that’s what I’m talking about. We’re looking for solutions, not more problems. Anything to alleviate even the most idiotic sense of “offense” has to be the brass ring we’re all looking towards.

    To add though, since removing conversation isn’t completely possible (yet), we should institute a policy of interperters. So, when any two people meet, their barcodes are scanned by their respective interperters, and everytime they speak, they can do so normally. As the interperter will make sure it conforms to decency standards worldwide.

    Of course, now that I’ve written this – it’s sort of Orwellian as the interperter exists today under the guise of “societal norms.” We are just our own interperters, but we go through a process every time we speak to a new person that removes certain things from our vocabulary as well as completely removing certain topics. And we do so voluntarily in order to “keep the peace” as it were.

    Of course, that’s just my two electrons and one’s losing power.

  73. Amidst the controversy, I’ve decided to be a “Fuck you, give me my change” man.

    So, fuck you and give me my change everybody! Have a fantastic 2005!

  74. What, Adam, no Xmas tip?! πŸ™‚

    FY2, [ more πŸ™‚ ]

    Kevin

  75. To sum up:

    • More people here are celebrating Festivus than any other holiday
    • “Merry Christmas” is either a harmless, quasi-secular statement of peace and love or a euphemism for “Worship Christ or DIEEEEEEEE”
    • joe is actually a Communist
    • Only one person in this group saw fit to make a Life of Brian reference
    • “Happy Holidays” is lame, Madison Avenue-speak at best
    • No one has noted–as I used to tell an old Jewish girlfriend–that Christmas is a holiday that Jews should appreciate. After all, a big chunk of the world is celebrating the birth of a. . .wait for it. . .Jewish guy
    • And there’s a curious lack of discussion of what, exactly, Kriss Kringle’s politics actually are. I suppose that depends on whether he’s redistributing wealth or whether he’s using magic. Is magic gift-giving in tune with libertarianism?

    Merry Christmas. And yes, I am, in fact, Mr. Heat Miser.

  76. I’m Mr. Heat Miser!

    No, I’m Mr. Heat Miser!

    I’m Mr. Heat Miser and so is my wife!

  77. Y’ALL are giving me a HUGE head ache. Oooohhh, my aching heeeaaadddd…….

    Some idiot decides to change the name of a holiday which — as someone so aptly pointed out — is secularized to the nth degree. And now the whole freaking world is off in corners debating it (gee, and here I am reading it πŸ™‚ ). Do we perchance just like debates?

    So, what — don’t we have to go rename EVERY HOLIDAY on the calander? There’s Holloween and on and on. For each holiday, surely there must be someone in the US who does not agree with whoever instituted it, for whatever idealogical reasons? I mean, the MSM ought to be able to retire before this is all done and over.

    To whoever started this whole windstorm I say:

    I wish your December 25 to be a Holy Hell on Earth, and I wish you a Crappy New Year too.

  78. St. Nick has gone soft. It’s been eons since any bad kids got the coal-in-the-sock treatment. Such squishiness in the face of naughtiness explains much about society’s degraded moral fabric.

    The Claus should think about bringing back his old sidekick, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). Get that birch switch moving on some tiny sinners’ bottoms. Then maybe that grandkid of mine will actually write a “thank you” letter after Christmas, instead of bitching that the X-Box I gave him isn’t as good as a Playstation 2.

    When I was a child we were happy to get an orange, blah, blah, blah, mumble, mumble….Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    {I’m sorry. Dad has to nap now. – Vaguelydisgruntledmiddleagedguy.}

  79. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with ‘Happy Holidays;’ I’m saying we shouldn’t assume that the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ is a form of religious intimidation.

    Jennifer, generally speaking, I agree with you. But when you have the Mark Steyns “defiantly saying” Merry Xmas, and the John Derbyshires being belligerent about it to strangers . . . in my experience, these guys are not outliers. They’re a part of the majority culture who have magically elevated themselves to angry-minority-victim status, and it’s dumb, so those people I’ll go out of my way to poke in the eye.

    Day to day, I don’t care. Wish me whatever you want, you’ll get at worst a “Thank you” and at best a “Happy holidays.” (Or, when I’m feeling jaunty, a “Happy Solstice.”) If I sneeze, I expect to hear “bless you”; when others sneeze, I say “Gesundheit.” Life goes on.

  80. “As far as telling clerks to say “Happy Holidays,” it reminds me of a seminar I once took at which the speaker said that one should never wear any scent to a business meeting because someone might be offended by that scent, for reasons like maybe that person’s ex used to wear that scent.”

    fyodor: One should never wear scent at a business meeting, on a plane, in the theater (or other enclosed space) as most women don’t know how to wear perfume and insist on wearing vast amounts of extremely nasty-smelling crap that, literally, makes my eyes water, my stomach heave and gives me massive headache.

    A very small amount of Chanel No. 5 will do nicely for me, thank you.

  81. Pro Liberate,

    “Happy Holidays” is lame, Madison Avenue-speak at best

    At the risk of taking your lighthearted summary too seriously, no, not so necessarily there. Rather, as I stated above, “Happy Holidays” is also a festive and time honored greeting that was previously seen as being perfectly consistent with saying “Merry Christmas” until it was hijacked by both plague-deserving sides of this ultimately silly debate for their own socially contrived ends.

  82. I’m going to repost Jennifer’s excellent comment because I think it’s worth reading again:

    In all seriousness I’d like to know Joe’s opinion on something. Which is worse: a society where people occasionally have to deal with being offended and/or having their feelings hurt, even though that was nobody’s intention; or a society where everybody has to exist in a state of eternal self-consciousness, and can never say even the most innocuous-sounding word without first stopping to consider whether or not someone, somewhere, might possibly take offense?

    Even “happy holidays” could be offensive to an oversensitive Jehovah’s Witness.

    Comment by: Jennifer at December 21, 2004 06:40 PM

    I think that says it all.

  83. fyodor, you’ll get no argument from me. When I first started reading this thread, I was thinking the same thing about “Happy Holidays” originally being a generic reference to the season, but you beat me to the punch. However, it was a lame phrase in the old days, too. Interestingly, I used to be good about saying “Happy Hanukah” to people I knew were Jewish; now, I don’t bother: “Happy Holidays!”

    One serious note: Part of the reason that “Happy Holidays” is so prevalant isn’t mere kowtowing to the gods of political correctness. Rather, it is, to some unmeasurable degree, a result of fear of litigation in the workplace. Eugene Volokh does a far better job of addressing the problems inherent with “hostile environment” litigation than I can, but I can tell you from personal experience that companies are terrified of facing those kinds of suits. Having witnessed a UK national formally filing a complaint against a company for celebrating the 4th of July (yes, that would be a U.S. company in the U.S.), I can only imagine what human resources types think about celebrating Christmas. Not that being sensitive to the fact that not everyone is a Christian in the workplace is a bad thing, but. . .well, y’all have talked about this issue plenty already. In any case, my point is that the use of the generic phrase in employment situations doubtlessly has spread to other environments (I note the posting about Fox’s “War on Christmas” as Exhibit #1).

    Maybe we should modify “Merry Christmas” to accommodate all people. Want to keep it secular? Say, “Merry (Secular) Christmas”. Want to oppress non-Christians? Say, “Merry Christmas, Heathen”. And so on.

  84. “Merry Christmas, Heathen”

    This heathen will be merry after a liberal amount of tequila and a conservative amount of triple sec are mixed with lime juice and ice. Santa, bring another bottle of Sauza.

  85. It’s 8 degrees F outside my window. Time to stock up on Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Schnapps.

    Happy Merry!

    Kevin

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