How to Be Nice During the Holidays: A Primer for the American Christian

oXOWfBWWhen I started blogging on WordPress back in 2013, I wrote a post called “Christians Don’t Own December.” And I vowed to share it every time a friend or family member posted a “Happy Holidays is Evil” meme on social media.

I shut down that blog last year, so I felt like it was time to write a new commentary on the so-called “War On Christmas.”

Feel free to share.

1. You are allowed to say Merry Christmas. Nobody with half a brain minds if you say Merry Christmas. Nobody with half a brain is going to be upset or offended if you say Merry Christmas.

  • 1b. Lots of people would like it if you were nice to them when they said Happy Holidays to you. They would like it even more if you could stand up for them when people are rude and mean to them about not celebrating Christmas, because that’s the kind of thing Jesus would do.
  • 1c. Lots of people would like it if they could celebrate their own holidays during the winter without having to listen to you gripe about how your special day is under attack simply because they exist and want to have their holidays recognized.

2. If you do happen to meet a few people who seem to be offended or upset when you say Merry Christmas to them, it’s okay for you to be irritated. Those people are stupid. They don’t reflect the attitudes and responses of 99% of people in America.

  • 2b. Optional, but if you really wanted to go the extra mile and be super nice, you could reframe those encounters from the perspective that the worst thing anyone can do to you is give you a dirty look. That makes you pretty fortunate compared to many folks of other faiths in the United States who still fear physical violence when they go to celebrate their winter holidays in public, and who can still face lots of other types of persecution.
  • 2c. As a Christian, you might even say it’s the godly thing to let those encounters go and devote your energy to helping make sure that your friends and neighbors who don’t celebrate your holiday feel supported and safe during this time of year.

3. Christmas is not a “national holiday” in the United States. I hear this one a lot, and it’s not true, no matter how much Christmas is given special significance in secular culture with days off from work or school. It’s unconstitutional for the United States of America to recognize religious holidays. Christmas is a Federal holiday, which only means that federal employees get the day off. It doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not saying”Merry Christmas” is some sort of cultural institution that all Americans have to adhere to.

  • 3b. Even if it was a national holiday, the nice thing to do is still to recognize and respect that some people in America celebrate other holidays during the winter months.
  • 3c. That means, even if you could make an argument that “Merry Christmas” was or should be a standard holiday greeting for everyone because it’s a (secular) national holiday (which it isn’t) some people might still choose to use other greetings, like Happy Holidays, or Happy Hanukkah, because those are also valid ways to give a holiday greeting.

4. And in closing, please remember that there are over 20 cultures and groups who celebrate some sort of holiday during the winter months other than Christmas. You don’t own December, and in fact most of the things we do in America that are codified as “Christmas” customs were appropriated from pre-Christian celebrations of Yule. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying Christmas or finding spiritual significance in Christ’s birth. It would help a lot of if your celebration of Christ translated into some grace for the folks around you who don’t share your faith background.