Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Does [Merry Christmas] Offend You (Yeah)?

I've been reading and commenting upon the latest thought-provoking piece on Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist blog.

(This blog, incidentally, is one of my RSS staples. I'd struggle to identify an RSS subscription which more consistently delivers intelligent, stimulating, original content to my feedreader. By no means do I always agree with Ms Trunk's post (though often I do); I simply always want to know what she's writing about. Win.)

Anyhow, rhapsody aside, the post that caught my attention criticises the pro-Christian bias inherent in making Christmas Day a mandatory holiday. Rightly, in my opinion.

What I want to write about, though, is an issue that arose in the comments beneath the post. And it is this: a good number of people seem to take offence from being wished 'Happy Christmas'.

Is it only me that finds this utterly bizarre?

How can one possibly, genuinely, take powerful exception to another human being demonstrating positive sentiment towards them? If I wish someone a merry Christmas, I certainly do not assume them to be Christian. I do not assume them necessarily even to celebrate Christmas. What the greeting means – to my mind – is:

'This is a time of year at which many people, including myself, celebrate and exchange good wishes. As you are someone whose wellbeing I care about, to whatever degree, I join in the custom and extend my good wishes to you, pegged arbitrarily enough on the fact that it's Christmas.'

Heck, maybe that's what I should say. Christmas cards next year are going to be RSI-inducing.

(Who'm I kidding? The Intellectual Hooligan never gets round to sending Christmas cards.)

Would anyone be offended if a member of a faith other than Christianity were to extend good wishes on the occasion of their own religious festival?

I guess the issue is that, in traditionally Christian-dominated cultures, ubiquitous Christmas wishes may have the effect of intimidating Christmas non-celebrators.

But ought our efforts to be channeled into promoting acceptance of the festivals and customs of all faiths and cultures – rather than taking offence (rather wilfully, it seems to me) at what is surely a positive sentiment?

1 comment:

acraig said...

I am a devout atheist, but I enjoy celebrating Christmas as a period of good cheer and acts of kindness. It's no coincidence that there are other festivals at this time of year, when people most need cheering up, and we happen to celebrate Christmas in this traditionally Christian society. I'd wish someone a happy Hanukkah if they were Jewish, or just a happy New Year if they were genuinely offended by the religious origins of such customs (but even then, what if they're Chinese?!). But you're right, it takes a great deal of effort to be wilfully offended by Christmas wishes.

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