“Maybe Christmas, He Thought, Doesn’t Come From a Store…”

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!” – The Grinch

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Christmas has long been the center of a supposed “war”, but I don’t buy it. Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays, and there’s damn good reason for it. In some fictional world, we’ve created this division on the issue of Christmas, and somehow become massive Grinches along the way.

So I don’t really let Bill O’Reilly or Fox News or whoever the soupe du jour is bait me into this War on Christmas. You know why?

  1. Because it’s made up.
  2. Because it doesn’t matter.

On it being made up: I don’t know, neither have I ever met a single Grinch who is offended at hearing Merry Christmas, atheist, Christian, or otherwise.

I don’t know, neither have I ever met a single Grinch who is offended at hearing Happy Holidays, atheist, Christian, or otherwise.

On it not mattering: In my favorite Christmas song, White Wine In The Sun, Tim Minchin digs right into this idea, speaking to his infant daughter about what does matter:

And you won’t understand

But you will learn someday

That wherever you are and whatever you face

These are the people who’ll make you feel safe in this world

Tim’s onto something here. And here’s what no Grinch admits: Christmas doesn’t really have a lot to do with what you believe or don’t believe.

The baby Jesus isn’t really the reason for the season so much as Grandma’s apple pie is, or reliving that time that Uncle Terry danced in his underwear after losing a bet to your brother. Christmas is about fraternity, Christmas is about love, Christmas is about family.

If you’re a Christian family, that’s probably going to mean some focus on religion.

And if you’re non-religious, maybe it means the opposite.

And that’s okay, because it’s really about the people who make you feel safe in this world.

Which brings us to the last Grinch-y lesson, one that I emphasized in my last post:

Christmas is about more.

The Grinch’s final moment of character development is in the moment he finds out that Christmas can’t be bought, sold, or stolen. But what if the Grinch went a little further and realized that a season of fraternity and love couldn’t possibly belong to one people, religion, or belief?

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, he thought, means little bit more.

You are correct, Mr. Grinch, and it probably doesn’t come from a religion, either. Because maybe underneath the “Christ” of “Christmas”, what we’re really celebrating is each other, and how much love there can be, even if only for a day.

Merry Christmas.

P.S. This’ll be my last post of 2015! I’ve immensely enjoyed this year with you guys, thank you for reading and commenting and everything…see you in the New Year!

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8 thoughts on ““Maybe Christmas, He Thought, Doesn’t Come From a Store…””

  1. I can only share my own Grinch-y perspective. It’s not so much that I’m offended when people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to me, it’s that I don’t know how to respond because I’m an outsider. When people say “Merry Christmas,” they are assuming that I am in the same community of Christmas celebrators as them. To me, it’s the same as if someone said “Have fun praying to God tonight.” I feel the compulsion to let them know that in fact I do not pray to God or, in the case of Christmas, that I do not celebrate Christmas. People began using the phrase “Happy Holidays” to be more inclusive, but in my case, I don’t celebrate any holidays, so I still would feel compelled to let them know that I am not part of their community of holiday celebrators.

    We say things like “Have a nice day” to strangers not because we are invested in whether or not they actually have a nice day, but because we want to be friendly and inclusive. In the same way, people who say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” are trying to be friendly and inclusive, and I’m sure to fellow celebrators they come across as such. But to me, and possibly to other people who don’t celebrate Christmas or other holidays, I recognize their attempt at friendliness but don’t feel the inclusiveness they are going for. In fact, I feel a sense of exclusiveness because the wall separating them and me is what is being emphasized. The point of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” (just like the point of “Have a nice day”) is to express a sense of comradery and shared humanity, but that sentiment is not expressed to non-celebrators.

    All that being said, when people use these stock phrases on me, I tend to let it go and respond with “you too” or something, because they have good intentions of expressing “how much love there can be, even if only for a day” even if that sentiment is not expressed to non-celebrators like me.

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    1. Saying that saying “Merry Christmas” is exclusive is like saying “Happy Thanksgiving” is exclusive.

      They’re strangers. They don’t know you. Everyone has their own personal shit going on, but life isn’t about catering to me specifically. So to me, I’m just like whatever, unless someone’s specifically trying to offend me.

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      1. From your wording, it seems like you see “Happy Thanksgiving” as not being exclusionary, but I find “Happy Thanksgiving” exclusionary for the same reasons I find “Happy Holidays” exclusionary. Since you love Christmas, it’s probably disheartening to hear my outside perspective. I’m sure you (and others) don’t intend to express anything but goodwill when you say “Merry Christmas,” but you do. But like you said, it’s not a big deal because it’s strangers excluding me. Strangers unintentionally exclude each other all the time, which is why being excluded by a stranger is nothing to get offended about. And I don’t get offended when people say “Merry Christmas,” I just feel a small amount of tension which stems from somebody mislabeling or misjudging me. I don’t get offended by people stereotyping me and misunderstanding me before they know better; rather, I get offended when they continue to misunderstand me even after I’ve corrected their error.

        On a side note, I apologize if I came across as expecting people to cater to my whims. I don’t feel that way in the slightest.

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      2. No, not at all. You’re fine. The way that I take it is the way I take most situations of offense: I take it as it’s meant.

        When my grandmother says she’ll pray for me, she means something really nice. When a creationist huffs off after a debate and says, “I’m gonna pray for you,” it arguably means something much less nice.

        If we’re at a book club discussing Huckleberry Finn, and someone says “Nigger Jim”, it’s way different than someone telling me, “You’re a good for nothing nigger.”

        So when someone says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, I find it totally okay unless they are deliberately trying to insult or control me, such as with that ridiculous (and admittedly very small) minority who angrily respond “Merry Christmas” after being greeted with a “Happy Holidays.”

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  2. I may not be a Grinch (though I do hate xmas carols–they get stuck in my head way too easily), but I do get annoyed when strangers tell me “Merry Christmas”. It’s not even that I don’t celebrate xmas. I do, but it’s only for my family’s sake. I go out of my way to show them I can still participate in the family traditions, even though I’m an atheist. I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable about it. Mostly comfortable, yes, but sometimes it feels a bit stifling.

    So it touches on a nerve when people tell me “Merry Christmas”. I can’t even tell them I don’t celebrate Christmas, because I do (at least when I’m around my family). But it’s very presumptuous of them and it adds to that stifling feeling.

    I would far rather be wished a happy winter solstice, because that’s the holiday I celebrate, purely by my own choice, whether I’m around my family or not. No one has though. I still feel better when people at least say “Happy Holidays”, instead of “Merry Christmas”, because then I can at least interpret it as “Happy Winter Solstice”.

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    1. I dunno, isn’t it a little rough to expect strangers to say what appeals to you most? I mean, it doesn’t matter to me what kind of greeting they use, because they don’t know me. It’s general goodwill.

      However, if someone you know is choosing to continue asserting their particular holiday greeting over what they know your identity to be, that’s when it becomes about them asserting their authority, not general goodwill.

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      1. I don’t expect that from strangers, I’m just annoyed when they make assumptions and say something that’s intended to be nice but hits a sore spot instead. I don’t make a big deal out of it or anything (the most I’ll usually do is wish them happy holidays in return), but it’s annoying.

        I agree about the asserting authority thing when it’s someone who knows you don’t celebrate Christmas and still insists on saying “Merry Christmas”. When it’s strangers doing it, it’s probably most often a case of mistaken assumptions, but there are some people who insist on using “Merry Christmas” when they know full well that some of the people they’re talking to probably don’t celebrate Christmas. Some people want to assert that Christmas is the best holiday, or that everyone should celebrate it or something, and the people that don’t, or that want to be more inclusive of those that don’t should shut up or something. Like the idiots who got mad over the red Starbucks cup thing, or the people who get mad when other religious (or atheist) groups put up winter holiday displays next to nativity scenes on government property.

        I dunno, I recall some conversations when I was a kid about how stupid it was to call the school break winter break instead of Christmas break because everyone knows it’s about Christmas. In retrospect, that’s a pretty ignorant, naive, and presumptuous way to look at things.

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