merry, um, whatever.

Merry Chris…

Wait. That one’s not allowed.

Happy holi…

No. That one’s wrong too.

Go fuck yourse…

OK. Not exactly a positive reflection of the holiday spirit. Or the Christmas spirit. Or whatever.

I can’t make a blanket statement about the conservatives who are trying to reinsert Christmas to the forefront of our collective consciousness — as if we had all forgotten the name of the holiday coming up on Sunday. And if such a conspiracy exists, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who think their children will be scarred forever if they hear the word “Christmas” uttered, well, anywhere.

Actually, I think they’re equally stupid.

The notion that there is a faction trying to kill Christmas in favor of a “holiday season” is at best a little silly and at worst more than a little paranoid. There isn’t a holiday on our calendar that receives more attention, financial or otherwise. December 25 is called Christmas; it is now, it always has been and it always will be.

And I have a problem with people who, over the last few years, aggressively wish people a Merry Christmas and react with hostility when they hear anyone mention the holidays. There’s more than one holiday, boys and girls — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve/Day, and depending on your religion or your ethnicity, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Orthodox Christmas — so it seems like “Happy Holidays” should be an acceptable way to pass on good wishes, especially when you’re speaking with someone you don’t know.

It’s a polite thing to say. When did being polite become such a fucking problem? You feel so strongly about this issue that you’re compelled to be an asshole? Please.

Look at the other extreme: The people, and there are some, who take offense to any mention of Christmas. Look: This is a big country, and there are tons of people who celebrate all kinds of different holidays. The quicker you are to accept that there customs and holidays that may be different than your own, the better off you’re going to be.

Here’s what happens when you carry PC like this to the extreme. A couple months back I wrote a story about the county preparing for the murder trial of a deaf man. Wanting to find a balance between being inoffensive and succinct and accurate, I asked several people and consulted a number of web sites to find what terms are acceptable to those in the deaf community. I found, without fail, that the terms “deaf” or “hard of hearing” are preferred, and that’s what I used in the story.

The day after it ran, I got a shitty email from a graduate student who said I had offended just about everybody by using the term “deaf.” Here’s an excerpt of her letter:

…the proper terminology used today is hearing impaired. I suggest that you make yourself familiar with the term and use it where appropriate. Many hearing impaired individuals take offense to the term deaf and find it to be ignorant. I hope that in future articles about this story and other situations regarding hearing impaired individuals, (my newspaper) and their staff will take more consideration into using politically correct terminology.

Grrr. But instead of telling her to fuck off, mostly because my employers frown on that sort of thing, I wrote back an email with a link to a page at the web site of the National Association of the Deaf, which explained that “hearing-impaired” is usually a term preferred by hearing people, who don’t really want to know the details about someone’s disability.

Funny — I never heard back from her.

Look. When considering language in situations like this, the extremes are almost always wrong. If you’re speaking to someone who celebrates Christmas, wish them a Merry Christmas. If your friend is Jewish, wish them a Happy Hanukkah. If you don’t know who they are or what they do, how bad can it be to wish that they enjoy the whole season and the holidays that come with it?

The bottom line with this issue is this: We’re turning a word — Christmas — into a problem. Perhaps we should learn to relax a little bit and enjoy whatever it is we choose to do this time of year. How can that possibly be a bad thing?

4 Replies to “merry, um, whatever.”

  1. And I thought the tide of PCness was waining before this holiday season came upon us – well, at least my interest in it was.

    My response is simple, not profound, maybe a bit profane – Fuck ’em – you can’t please them all – and the few (and I do believe a majority of the minority don’t raise these issues) of non-christians don’t feel insulted or belittled by somebody wishing them well. Here in NYC, which by the way, has the largest number of Jews in any city, IN THE WORLD (including Israel)I may be a bit more tempered in my well wishing – going for the ‘Happy Holidays’ (and the people who are upset with that one can go double fuck themselves); but sometimes I’m wrong – I wish a Merry Christmas to a Jew – so, here’s what I do – I say, Happy Chaunuka (assuming they are Jewish). If that upsets them – I have 2 things to say – it’s only a nice, gentle warm greeting meant to convey peace and happiness – not to subvert, convert or any other ‘ert. and two, whould you rather I say ‘Go Fuck Yourself, Asshole!’?

    Peach Love Happiness – Happy Kwanza, Merry New Year and most of all, Way to go Boxing Day!

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  2. I work as a server and have settled on the safe “Happy Holidays.” I was burned when I wished a nice couple “Merry Christmas” and the woman snapped back that she was Jewish and didn’t celebrate the holiday. She then proceded to be a uber bitch for the rest of the meal, acting rudely for the duration.

    I wish people would stop being pc and get to the meat of the greeting…essentially a well-wishing.

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  3. Yep — you got it exactly right. It shouldn’t matter what the specific words are. It should matter that someone has just wished that you a have a happy few days at this time of year. And that should be enough.

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  4. We ran a couple of stories on the “Merry Christmas” “controversy,” and even put up a poll on our Web site about it. In one of the stories, we talked to a Jewish man, who said he doesn’t care if someone wishes him a Merry Christmas because it’s meant to be a happy greeting. He went on to say that Jewish people are taught to look at the meaning behind the greeting instead of just the greeting itself. I think that makes a lot of sense.

    Happy New Year! That’s still acceptable, isn’t it?

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