White Coat Underground

Just a bit more on Merry Xmas

I guess I hadn’t realized how attached people are to their holiday greetings. There are a number of comments that deserve some examination here, at least if you have any interest in living comfortably in a multi-cultural society. Since it’s my blog, I get to yank the comments out of context and focus on some misconceptions.

  • “Christmas has become as much a cultural holiday as a religious one.”  

    That is an opinion that may be shared by many majoritarians. But for many Jews for example, there will never be anything secular about Christmas. Sure, there are Jews who get Christmas trees and give presents as a secular winter celebration, but that’s not the norm. I am not delivering an indictment of Christmas, holiday wishes, or Jews who do Christmas but simply letting you know that not everyone is the same as you.

  • “I think I’m beginning to get it. If the majority of people celebrate a cultural thing, it’s bad because it’s not sensitive to those who don’t celebrate it.”

    No, that would be stupid, and I suspect that this is a deliberate, defensive posture taken by many majoritarians when people point out that their assumption of a normative status actually has an effect on other people. People who are part of a minority get that they are a minority. We get that most people do things differently and always will. Many of us hope, however, that the majority will try to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is the same. I strongly suspect that most African Americans don’t expect white people to turn black, but would like the majority to recognize that being black comes with a different set of societal assumptions and experiences than being white, and that being white often confers a set of privileges not immediately available to others.

  • “I never understood why it would be bizarre or uncomfortable to wish someone a happy [your holiday but not theirs]. If you get a different happy [their holiday but not yours] back, it means you will have been wished an EXTRA happy day…”

    Yes, that’s pretty much the point. If you grow up as part of the majority culture, you are unlikely to intuitively “get it”, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s considered a polite part of living in a civilized society to try to “get it”. I hope and suspect that most “Merry Xmas’s” are benign and meant to convey a kind word. I also know that motives are not always benign.

I am trying to help you of the majority understand what we of the minority often understand: that when you assume that Christmas is some sort of normative default, you are implying, whether you mean to or not, that the rest of us are “other” or “abnormal”.

I’m cool with being other. I’m part of a minority and I have no intention of changing that to increase my comfort level among majoritarians. Neither do I expect the majority to stop celebrating Christmas or stop saying “Merry Christmas”. But, as a member of a diverse society, I would respectfully suggest that people try to be aware.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev Matt
    December 11, 2009

    As an atheist, I completely get where you’re coming from. As much as I know about the history of Christmas and its’ pagan precursors doesn’t change the fact that in it’s current context it’s a religious holiday. While the kids are young we focus on the Santa Claus side of things because I wasn’t willing to get divorced over this issue. My fervent hope is that once they are old enough to understand that we will really scale back or even completely do without the Christmas thing and focus on the birthdays of two of my three daughters, both of which are within days of Christmas, and the coming New Year.

    I don’t begrudge the majority the Merry Christmas greetings they proffer, any more than I get worked up about the people who say ‘have a blessed day’ during the rest of the year. But I don’t generally say Merry Christmas in return either.

  2. #2 uqbar
    December 11, 2009

    Like Matt (I am also an atheist) I don’t take affront at these merry xmas greetings – I think in almost all cases it’s pretty much the same as “have a nice day.” Still, I can’t help thinking of this:

    http://www.savagechickens.com/2009/12/seasons-greetings.html

  3. #3 James Sweet
    December 11, 2009

    I remain baffled by the objections to the “Christmas is mostly a cultural holiday rather than a religious one” statement. I totally buy your objections to using that as a justification for saying “Merry Christmas” to one and all — your point about how the assumption of normative default creates otherness still stands, regardless of whether the holiday is religious or secular.

    But the obstinate insistence that Christmas will “always be a religious holiday” just feels, I dunno… almost fundie-esque. I think you are giving the holiday with more reverence than it deserves, almost. And yes, as you say, for some Jews it will “always be a religious holiday,” just like for some fundamentalist Christians it will “always be a religious holiday.” It is hard for me to criticize the latter without criticizing the former, you know?

    (And with this whole, “You can’t ‘get it’ unless you are the ‘other’” line, you are starting to sound like Isis :p )

  4. #4 Alan
    December 11, 2009

    I am from the UK and an atheist from a non-religious household – so Christmas was never an overtly Christian holiday to me. So I just take it for granted that “Merry Christmas” is a “cultural / commercial” holiday greeting. In the UK we are a less overtly Christian culture, despite having a state religion, so perhaps we feel this less keenly. I also think that we say things like “Merry Christmas” / “Happy Holidays” / “have a great weekend” far less frequently than in the US.
    I do think that since I moved to the US I feel more excluded from Christmas, since it is more often couched in religious terms here, and there are more (overtly) religious people. So I am sympathetic to the normal/abnormal argument – but aren’t these greetings just convenient platitudes anyway. I don’t think that someone saying Merry Christmas to me in a store is attempting to single me out or convert me, any more than they are when they tell me to “have a nice weekend” on a Sunday. Even if I choose to ignore the weekend, or celebrate it as Fri/Sat, Sat/Sun is still the weekend for most folks. Is it not still Christmas even if you don’t celebrate it? Just as Eid is still Eid on the given day?

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    December 11, 2009

    It’s an interesting assumption that the “other” has to be offended in order for something to have gone wrong in what is supposed to be a pleasant social transaction–or that the person being exclusionary has to have done it deliberately. Am I offended by someone’s ignorance? Is that person trying to be ignorant? Not usually, but that doesn’t keep it from being ignorance. Same with insensitivity.

    Nor does it have to be a capital crime for there to be room for improvement.

  6. #6 katydid13
    December 11, 2009

    I think this raises the issue of the degree to which religion and culture are closely linked. American majority culture is kind of vaguely and nominally Christian in our holidays and rituals. Even acknowledging that Christians stole most of that trappings for others. Many people have rejected the theology, but have kept some of the rituals. That’s the perk of majority culture. There is nothing wrong with that. Just acknowledge that others of nonmajority culture aren’t always going to see the way many have sliced religion and culture apart.

  7. #7 Sandra Wooten
    December 11, 2009

    I’m an atheist and it’s okay for people who KNOW ME to say “Merry Christmas” because they know I celebrate it. (I don’t consider it a religious holiday.)

    When someone who doesn’t know me (store clerks, other attendees at social gatherings) say “Merry Christmas” it annoys me because for all they know I might celebrate Hannuka.”

    Those who INSIST on saying only “Merry Christmas” are not giving warm greetings, they are pushign their religion on other people. Same with that “have a blessed day” stuff.

    As to taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas”, if christians gave gifts only to the poor I’d say they’re are serious about making it a religious holiday. If they give presents to friends and family who don’t need them then they have taken Christ out of it – even if they do have a little nativity scene in their house and go to church on christmas eve or day.

    I think the polite thing is to say “Happy Holidays” if you don’t know someone well enough to know what they celebrate.

  8. #8 Anthropologist Underground
    December 11, 2009

    One of the Little Anthropologists is PalKid’s age. At his school, they explore the planetary science of winter solstice and celebrate the return of the light. They talk about the “Winter Holidays,” and learn about a wide array of cultures and rituals. The emphasis is on inclusion. Our family greets others with “Happy Holidays!” Human variation is itself a cause for celebration.

    The comments on the previous Pal holiday thread reminded me of this: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

  9. #9 Katie
    December 11, 2009

    I also know that motives are not always benign.

    Ironically, this is probably best demonstrated by the “War on Christmas” hysteria itself. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I’m not offended by the sight of Christmas trees (hardly a religious symbol anyway!), by calling them Christmas trees, by being told “Merry Christmas”, &c, &c. I am offended by persecution-complex faux-outrage about “Happy Holidays”. The fact that these people cannot even tolerate other people’s desire to be inclusive is what makes the malignity of their motives so clear.

    Ugh, sorry about all that, the more I try to be concise the more incomprehensible I become. Le sigh.

  10. #10 Liz
    December 11, 2009

    I suppose this is might just be me, and might come out of both being raised within the majority and the rebellion of leaving such, but my (atheist) friends and I for a long time wished each other “happy stuffness” beginning sometime around Thanksgiving and running through New Years. It was a silly and materialistic way of looking at the various holidays of winter, but “happy holidays” feels so generic that somehow I’d rather say something completely off the wall or not say anything about the season at all.

    Because Christmas? Still religious. That’s not the marketing, sure, but that’s the driving force, at least here in the U.S.

  11. #11 becca
    December 11, 2009

    And what the F is up with lighting all these Fing candles tell me please?!

  12. #12 Jefrir
    December 11, 2009

    The thing about the religious vs. cultural argument is that it doesn’t actually make much difference. Even if for a lot of people it is a purely secular celebration, the culture it came out of is specifically Christian. It’s very easy, when you’re in the majority, to assume that everyone does the same as you, without really thinking about why you do these things.
    For me, yes, Christmas is secular. It always has been, because I was raised as an atheist. However, I was also raised in a Christian culture, and that has fed into the way I celebrate Christmas. Even more specifically, it arises out of Protestant Christianity, and out of specific national traditions. The celebrations are very different in Russia, or South America, or even just 200 miles away in France. It would be silly to assume that, just because Christmas has no religious meaning to me, that it must be inclusive to everyone. Secular is not the same as universal, and it pays to examine one’s assumptions periodically.

  13. #13 Liz Ditz
    December 11, 2009

    Happy Sunreturn to all.

    (I just had an Ursula Le Guin Earthsea cycle reading orgy)

    To PalKid — you are fortunate in your father. AND a joyous Channukah festival to you.

  14. #14 Jo
    December 11, 2009

    I’m Pagan and I get what you are saying. What is happening right now is not a war on Christmas. It’s a war on inequality, and that is a good thing.

  15. #15 Lab Rat
    December 12, 2009

    I just realised something as I was saying goodbye to my friends yesterday (probably because i’ve been thinking about this post quite a bit). I don’t ever *say* Merry Christmas unless someonee says it to me first, my default statement is “Have a great holiday”.

    Again probably due to being brought up in an environment where most people *didn’t* have christmas. And it wasn’t a particularly good idea (especially in Saudi Arabia) to go around wishing them a happy one.

    In the same way my friends never used to wish me a happy Eid (although I would say it to them), they knew I didn’t celebrate it, and understood that it wasn’t an appropriate greeting.

  16. #16 perceval
    December 12, 2009

    Look, I don’t know about the US, but in these parts (Scotland), kids AT NURSERY, i.e. age 0–5, learn about different festivals and customs such as Ramadan, Diwali, Chanukkah, as part of their education. best way to encourage cultural sensitivity, if you ask me.

    Being German, my kids also learn about the *German* Santa Claus, who comes on December 6 and brings presents. Baby Jesus then drops off another load on December 24. Sinterklaas is a Dutch custom as well. But don’t tell PalKid, she’ll just feel shafted ;)

  17. #17 Denice Walter
    December 12, 2009

    I tend to feel a bit alienated this time of year: my immediate family was/is basically agnostic/atheist, although my ancestors were(several different denominations/types of)Christians.Because I look like the queen of the WASPs(actually,I’m more mixed than that),most people assume I’m a Christian and say,”Merry Christmas”.It doesn’t *really* bother me because I suppose that they mean well.My SO is vaguely Christian,doesn’t attend church or read bibles, but likes the decorations,the gifts, and the(aaarrrrggggghhh)music.(I confess I *do* like the lights).I look at the “holidays” as a cold, dark time of year when many folks want an excuse for a party,a get-together, or to go foraging(I mean, shopping).Or as my late father,master of social negotiation,would say,”Let them ‘do their thing’ and have fun;it also creates jobs”.I do however,go out of my way to wish the appropriate holidays’ greetings to people who celebrate other traditions.

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    December 12, 2009

    And…. Happy Chanukah to the Pal family!

  19. #19 k
    December 12, 2009

    I’m Baha’i. It’s not worth being offended
    over “Merry Christmas”. IMO, that holiday
    has devolved into the sort of secular
    year-end gift-giving ritual similar to
    the Japanese “o-seibo” tradition. I use
    a default greeting like Lab Rat, FWIW.

    I wish you and your family Happy Hanukkah!

  20. #20 Chris
    December 12, 2009

    Perceval:

    Look, I don’t know about the US, but in these parts (Scotland), kids AT NURSERY, i.e. age 0–5, learn about different festivals and customs such as Ramadan, Diwali, Chanukkah, as part of their education. best way to encourage cultural sensitivity, if you ask me.

    Here the Children’s Museum has a Festival of Light that showcases some of the winter holidays across the globe (well, at least the Northern Hemisphere portion). They change it each year: http://thechildrensmuseum.org/festivals-of-light

  21. #21 Kapitano
    December 12, 2009

    I have a very simple system. I wish everyone a “Happy Hanukkah”, unless they’re Jewish, in which case it’s “Happy Festival of Saturn”.

    If I don’t know their religious affiliation, it’s “Happy Pagan Holiday of Your Choice”.

    So, Happy Kwanzaa.

  22. #22 Anthropologist Underground
    December 13, 2009

    Someone on my blog suggested that non-Christians view Christmas as a Cargo Cult, which I thought was hilarious. It’s very unfortunate that some lunatics use the holiday as an opportunity to bludgeon people who are not exactly like them.

    Slightly OT anecdote, but I did field work in the Negev desert and stayed at Kibbutz Retamim during that time. I was definitely Other; however, most Israelis graciously extended the benefit of the doubt and were very friendly. No one tried to convert me (secular) to Judaism.

    It was a cushy developed-world way to experience a slightly different culture. It was surprising how many Americans (all of whom were the products of some variation of Christian homes) were deeply and personally offended by denial of electricity on Saturdays and by the requirement to cover your head at some religious sites. These seemed to be to me small (mildly annoying) gestures of respect for the host culture.

    I have a friend who does field work in Kenya, and he reports that some Christian missionaries are particularly offensive b/c they don’t even bother to learn the language, take meals with locals, and so on. They actively cultivate status as Other in which their particular Other = better, and it rightly angers the dominant population.

  23. #23 gaiainc
    December 13, 2009

    My mom comes from a Quaker/agnostic background (who now is more into Solstice/Wiccan/agnostic). My dad came from ancestral worship/natural animism/barely agnostic to probably atheist background. My husband’s mother is a Jehovah’s Witness and his sister-in-law is Catholic. I’ve gone to Anglican, Episcopalian, and nominally Quaker schools. My best friend has a PhD in early Christian history/identity (which makes for a great resource when dealing with people who try to tell me that the Bible is the Word of God-yeah… I don’t think so). Growing up, Christmas trees were pretty and Christmas was a time for some phat lewt. Nowadays Christmas trees are still pretty (my mom’s partner insists on real candles on the Solstice tree) and if there’s some lewt, cool. If not, it’s a great excuse for hanging out with family eating good food. I find religion in general an unmitigated pain in my ass, particularly any one who feels the need to save me (no, you don’t and get the hell away from me now please immediately, and really, why does that seem to be people of Christian faiths who feel the need to do this?). I do think this time of year is pretty commercialized and the whole War on Christmas is yet another diversionary tactic so people don’t look at the real problems in the US like health care disparity and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor.

    That said, I like Christmas music/carols. I really like O Holy Night, What Child is This?, Handel’s Halleluja Chorus, Joy to the World, and the Carol of the Bells. I also like Hannukah O Hannukah. To me it’s music. If someone wishes me Merry Christmas/Happy Hannukah, I give them “You too” or “Happy Holidays”. If my patients want to discuss God, fine, but if they try to convert me, then we’re just going to have to disagree.

    So Happy Holidays, stay safe, and don’t let the turkeys get you down.

  24. #24 Lynn
    December 13, 2009

    AnthroUndergrnd: “It’s very unfortunate that some lunatics use the holiday as an opportunity to bludgeon people who are not exactly like them.”

    “Bludgeon” is a perfect word to describe what you’re saying. I’ve used the word “spat” to describe the manner in which “Merry Christmas” is shot back at me when I’ve casually wished someone “Happy Holidays.” How dare I presume to be non-presumptuous.

    btw, either I cross paths with a lot of “lunatics” or the bludgeoning sentiment is somewhat common.

  25. #25 SkeptVet
    December 13, 2009

    As an nonbeliever, I can tell you I am in a smaller, and in America more despised, minority than just about anyone when it comes to the Christmas Season. For what it’s worth, I enjoy celebrating in a traditional style, with lights and a tree and so on, subtely devoid of any overt religious content. I see the holiday, like all holidays, as a recognition of the importance of family, the passage of time, the transience and fragile beauty of human life, and many things that people celebrated at this time of year before Christmas came to be and that they will celebrate at the change of seasons long after Christmas has been forgotten. A broader historical and cultural perspective can take a lot of the sectarian sting out of such observances, which really predate any particular religious or cultual trappings.

  26. #26 catgirl
    December 13, 2009

    I have a bunch of persecution-complexes where I work, and one of them is my boss, so I try to avoid the whole thing completely. The thing is, we have a Christmas tree in our lobby and lots of Christmas decorations and such, but I have never, ever heard someone get offended by those things. I cringe when I hear the word “Christmas” because all the persecution-complexes are the ones who get offended, because someone, somewhere might be disapproving of them for saying it. When one says “Merry Christmas” to another, they have to have an obligatory discussion about how it’s so great they actually said that because some invisible force is trying to force them to say “Happy Holidays” or whatever. They’re so defensive for no absolutely no reason.

    I’m agnostic and celebrate Christmas, but I’m really annoyed to constantly hear them bitching about it. I try to inject tidbits of logic whenever I can, because they’re otherwise reasonable people and they might listen if I don’t make them feel defensive. For example, one guy described a Christmas card that he got that he absolutely loved. It had a star on the front and said “Merry Christmas” or whatever, and then on the inside the star was actually part of a crown of thorns, and made the point that that’s “the reason for the season”. So I just said, “that sounds like a nice Easter card”, and everyone was baffled enough by it to end the conversation and I could get some work done.

    Next time I hear someone complaining about “happy holidays”, I’ll have to think of a clever way to point out that even Christians celebrate two holidays within a week of each other. I’m really tempted to start saying “Merry Christmas but Crappy New Year”, but I’m afraid that most people just wouldn’t get it.

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    December 14, 2009

    I celebrate meta-Christmas. I enjoy walking in the cold of the evening and people-watching as the city lights turn on. I’m a real sucker for coloured lights at night.

    Other than that? Meh. I travel to visit family at this time of year because this is the season when I’m most likely to see the handful of high-school friends I still keep in touch with. It’s a matter of convenience, nothing more. (It’d be even more convenient if we got together in late January or February, say for the Feast of the Lupercal: Boston weather then is worse than in December, it seems.) I like to give close friends gifts I’ve personally chosen, but I can do that on birthdays. My total intensity of “Christmas spirit” rounds down to zero.

  28. #28 Vicki
    December 14, 2009

    I tend to wish people a happy new year; anyone who objects to that in response to “merry Christmas” is looking for a fight, and I may or may not be in a mood to oblige them.

    Also, the next person who says they want to put the Christ back into Christmas is going to get a cheerful “Oh, good, I’m not the only person who doesn’t worship Mammon” and possibly a rant about overblown consumerism, debt, and people who think the value of a present or gift card is the right way to measure love.

  29. #29 Denice Walter
    December 14, 2009

    @SkeptVet; @ catgirl: You sound similar to me, however, I have the luxury of living a few miles west of NYC- not so many conservatives/ evangelicals here in our neck of the (non) woods. But if you drive an hour or so west or south to the hinterlands, it’s surprisingly traditionalist and horrendously apparent if you look at voting pattern maps.

  30. #30 Calli Arcale
    December 14, 2009

    It is true that many of the trappings of Christmas have little to do with the actual religion. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are trappings of Christmas. It doesn’t matter where Aunt Bess got that coat; it’s still Aunt Bess wearing it.

    I say “Merry Christmas” a lot; it’s kind of reflexive, and indeed, I generally only mean it like “have a nice day”. I do try and use “Happy Holidays” when I’m not sure of the other person’s religious affiliations. “Happy Holidays” is great; it applies in any case, since at the very least, everybody’s aware of New Years. I’ve never understood why some fundies get upset about “Happy Holidays”.

    As an amusing addendum, there *is* a form of Christmas which is utterly secular and has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity. That would be Christmas as it is celebrated in Japan. It’s kind of a paradox, in that Christmas is heavily celebrated, but Christians are a very small minority there.

  31. #31 Blake Stacey
    December 14, 2009

    “Happy Holidays” is great; it applies in any case, since at the very least, everybody’s aware of New Years. I’ve never understood why some fundies get upset about “Happy Holidays”.

    Perceived threats to group identity trump logic in the authoritarian mind.

  32. #32 Calli Arcale
    December 14, 2009

    Yeah; I think it’s a form of territorialism. The “war on Christmas” meme is an aspect of that. It’s not that these traditions are objective all that significant from a theological perspective; it’s that they’re THEIR traditions, and they’re gonna fight for ‘em, dammit. It all strikes me as . . . well, pretty contrary to the spirit of Christmas, frankly, which I always thought was supposed to be about giving and charity and embracing one’s fellow humans. Unfortunately, for some, it’s about ME and MINE, not about you and yours, and I find that sad.

  33. #33 James Sweet
    December 14, 2009

    Re: The greatness of “Happy Holidays”… my mom once mentioned in an e-mail how annoyed she was that she couldn’t find a Christmas card that actually said Christmas, that they all said “Happy Holidays”.

    My general response: First of all, bullshit. It is trivial to find cards that say “Merry Christmas”, and the only reason someone would claim otherwise is if they had a persecution complex.

    Secondly, I pointed out to her that since my wife comes from a Jewish family, she and I actually celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah (despite being atheists), so “Happy Holidays” is actually more accurate in our case than either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Chanukah.” I also expressed surprise that she would be so insensitive to this.

    She didn’t reply. :)

  34. #34 bridget
    December 14, 2009

    Thanks for reminding us that we aren’t the only ones in the universe! As an agnostic who was raised Christian, I celebrate Christmas every year with my family, and I’ll admit that rarely has it even crossed my mind that there are people out there who don’t celebrate Christmas. I live in the midweat and sometimes it feels like the bible belt. The place where I work has a holiday party each year that is very Christmas-like, even though they call it an “employee recognition” party. There is a Christmas tree and work and I doubt that it ever occured to anyone to do anything different. Don’t blame us – we mean no harm. It’s just that if the only color you’ve seen is red, it doesn’t even occur to you that blue might exist.

    I work with a guy from Albania who is, I think, a non-practicing muslim. In my ignorance, I often ask him what he is doing to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever, not because I expect that he is celebrating like us but because I’m curious to get his take on things. Never once has he said that his family hates turkey or doesn’t have Christian beliefs, but if he did say that, it would be ok with me. I’m just trying to make interesting conversation.

    I may be clueless, but I am open minded! And I do like to celebrate the solstices by attending drumming circles or enjoying nature in a peaceful way.

  35. #35 Caro
    December 14, 2009

    I just think everyone needs more Yule in their life. It’s a holiday that goes from beginning/mid of December…ish, to about New Year’s. And then some. Depends on how long the leftovers last and how much alcohol you have and how dark and miserable the weather is, I guess :P

    But yeah. A good Yule to you all, and yours. ‘specially you “reason for the season” ignoramuses. Read your histories! Reason for the season: Well, it’s miserable and cold and dark out. Let’s have a party. Best argument for a holiday, EVER. Bring out the tasty foodses!

    I love living in Norway. It’s always so easy to beat down the people who say “Jul is all about Jesus”. Uh, what about no? :P I tell ‘em to sod off and take their Kristmesse (Christ-mass) to where it’s welcome and let the rest of us have “en god Jul” (a good Yule). Most people around here aren’t religious anyway so we don’t get many weirdos like that, though :)

    If I’d lived in an English-speaking country I’d probably go with a neutral greeting like happy holidays or maybe happy solstice or something cos “Christmas” is so very Christian and I’m not, but the solstice bit is the heathen, sun-addicted (like we all are) Norwegian in me :P

    I generally return greetings as they’re given (like, if someone wishes me a good Sabbath (yes, this happens), I will say, “thank you, and you too” or something like that), and if I know people of some kind of religion and I know they have a holiday, I’ll greet them along those lines. I tell my Muslim friends good Eid, for example. Important holiday for them and they’re glad that I remember, and care :)

    Either way, a good Yule to you and yours, and a happy new year!

  36. #36 bridget
    December 14, 2009

    Good point Caro! Who’s to complain about time off work and “holiday” cookies? Takk!

  37. #37 Mu
    December 15, 2009

    I can’t wait for one of these “war on Xmas” lawsuits to reach the supreme court. Scalia has already declared the cross a universal (non-religious) symbol for the memorial of the dead, lets see if the creche becomes the universal winter holiday symbol.

  38. #38 James Sweet
    December 15, 2009

    Reason for the season: Well, it’s miserable and cold and dark out. Let’s have a party. Best argument for a holiday, EVER. Bring out the tasty foodses!

    Being from Rochester, NY, I whole-heartedly agree. Of course, if you grow up as part of the majority climate, you are unlikely to intuitively “get it”, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  39. #39 Calli Arcale
    December 15, 2009

    I work with a guy from Albania who is, I think, a non-practicing muslim. In my ignorance, I often ask him what he is doing to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever, not because I expect that he is celebrating like us but because I’m curious to get his take on things.

    Of course, Thanksgiving really is a secular holiday, right up there with Memorial Day. It has some vaguely spiritual overtones, but it’s not explicitly Christian. Many American Muslims do observe it, though in the same manner as any other secular holiday.

    Caro: a god jul to you as well! Though I’m an American, I come from a Scandinavian background, and there are lots like me in this part of the country (Minnesota), which had a major wave of Scandinavians and Germans in the late 19th Century. I attended St Olaf College, for instance, which has an annual feast consisting of meatballs, ham, lefse, rommegrot, lingonberries, glorified rice, and even the dreaded lutefisk. Me, I’d rather have pickled herring than lutefisk. Scandinavian sushi! So a “god jul” to you too, and don’t forget to leave some porridge out for the julenisse. ;-) Tusen takk!

    Mu: Apart from horror at the ludicrous expense, I’d like to see such a lawsuit go through, so it could be shot down with extreme prejudice.

  40. #40 James Sweet
    December 15, 2009

    Of course, Thanksgiving really is a secular holiday, right up there with Memorial Day. It has some vaguely spiritual overtones, but it’s not explicitly Christian.

    Ah, but you still need to be careful, because of those damn Canucks. At least two of the Canadians I know (which, unless I’m forgetting any, is all of them) have responded to “Happy Thanksgiving” with “Uh, you’re about two months too late.” ;D

  41. #41 Chris
    December 15, 2009

    Calli Arcale:

    and even the dreaded lutefisk. Me, I’d rather have pickled herring than lutefisk. Scandinavian sushi!

    I actually like lutefisk! Oh, and the pickled herring I had at the local reform synagogue’s KlezFest (my daughter and I also enjoyed watching her friend perform in the KlezKidz band).

    Now I have to see if my very late Yearly Letter printed. With the stuff I have to do over the next week, all I can say is Bah! Humbug!

  42. #42 Perky Skeptic
    December 17, 2009

    I have done some thinking and broken down all winter holidays into the essential elements that appealed to me and all the children I’ve ever associated with. After completing this analysis, I have come up with my new holiday greeting.

    Happy Shiny Lights And Presents, everybody!!!! :) :) :) Or, have a SLAP-happy holiday!

  43. #43 Caro
    December 17, 2009

    Ugh, lutefisk! NO THANKYOU :O I’ll go with the yule sausage, meatballsy thingies that are way too greasy but it goes down with akvavit anyway, potatoes (never underestimate well-cooked potatoes with a bit of parsley and butter), and root mash (swede/rutabaga, celeriac, parsley root, and carrot, mashed with butter and cream, nom nom nom) and cookies and mum’s rice pudding with pears cooked in mulled wine and so on >_> I won’t eat pinnekj√łtt, though (steamed smoked lamb/mutton ribs), nor those greasy pork ribs. Ew!

    That’s one downside about Yule in Norway. Half the food’s disgusting :P Thankfully the other half is rather awesome :D

  44. #44 Chris
    December 17, 2009

    :p … Many long years ago I was in a conversation about various foods with a bunch of Swedes. One mentioned that there was something worse than lutefisk, something that sounded like “rottenfisk.” Then one of them piped up say “But I like it!”. There is always one.

  45. #45 OleanderTea
    December 18, 2009

    @Sandra Wooten: “Those who INSIST on saying only “Merry Christmas” are not giving warm greetings, they are pushign their religion on other people. Same with that “have a blessed day” stuff. ”

    Yeah…those people drive me nuts, too. I had to move 1200 miles away from that weird subculture (there is far less of it in New England than in the southeast).

    But if I get the vibe that the “blessing” or “Merry Christmas” -wisher is actually making a religious point, I ususally reply to “have a blessed day” or “Merry Christmas” with, “Thanks, but I have other plans.”

    I’m not usually re-blessed.