The Other I

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: Cultural Differences,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:44 pm

For those of you who may not yet be acquainted with this courtesy, wishing friends and acquaintances in the United States a “Merry Christmas” risks being seriously politically incorrect.  The correct form is a neutral “Happy Holidays.”

I am happy to say that this is one Americanism which has not crossed the pond to England.  Quite possibly because no one has found an economic advantage in eliminating a merry Christmas.  But I was startled to realize several times this week how much I missed that simple greeting.  The owner of our local store, and even my dentist wished me a hearty Merry Christmas, and I realized how wonderful it sounded.

Strange, too, because I really don’t like Christmas, and most of the Christian myths do nothing to lift my spirits.

But Christmas was not originally a Christian holy day.  It was hijacked by the Roman Church from the pagans who were celebrating the winter solstice.  The Christmas tree itself came from Celtic tribes in Germany, where the evergreen tree remained green even in the midst of deep winter, and candlelight helped conquer the darkness.

And so I can’t see that wishing someone a Merry Christmas really should be politically incorrect, even if one is speaking to a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, or atheist.

In that spirit, I wish you the Merriest Christmas, whatever your beliefs.

(And a Happy New Year, too — though perhaps  that could become a little more religiously complicated, given the various new years we celebrate around the globe.)



  1. Helped me to learn the origin of Christmas and Christmas tree. But failed to answer the important issue whether we should observe it or not. After it’s really imformative.


    Comment by horeramtanti — December 24, 2013 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

    • Thank you – I too think you have identified a central question: Should we observe Christmas? I personally think it depends entirely upon the individual, and whether it is meaningful or not. Having children or grandchildren to celebrate with often makes a difference for people. And surely one’s culture makes a difference. Even people who no longer believe in the religious aspects of Christmas often enjoy the festivities. On the other hand, you may be like me who even as a child didn’t really enjoy Christmas.

      Whatever your preferences, I hope you have a solstice that works for you and those you love.


      Comment by Terry Sissons — December 24, 2013 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

  2. Merry Christmas, Terry! My Jewish neighbors wish me a Merry Christmas and I wish them the same (Hannukah being celebrated this year at Thanksgiving time (Thanksgivvukah) anyway. And they wish me the same.

    It’s amazing how deep the tree thing does go in German culture, isn’t it. I recently watched The Nasty Girl in which a local tree serves as a religious shrine, a post office and a place for lovers to leave each other notes. It seemed to taken for granted that a tree would serve such purposes, as it it were part of the community. I guess it goes back to tree-worship days.


    Comment by pianomusicman — December 24, 2013 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

    • Tom – I think that you and your Jewish neighbors wishing each other both a Merry Christmas and Hannukah is why I will always think of New York as my true home.

      Thank you for your merry wishes for today. I send the same wish in return. Terry


      Comment by theotheri — December 25, 2013 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  3. Hi, Terry,

    Every time I read your blog, I get a warm feeling inside – so happy to have you in my life. You are intelligent, incredibly generous of spirit, compassionate. I especially loved today’s . . . . but I feel that way SO OFTEN. Just never get around telling you. I am totally enamored w/the Winter Solstice, so I will wish you Happy Solstice . . . and Merry Christmas!

    Love you, Delia


    Comment by 1delia — December 24, 2013 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

    • Delia – Thank you for such a wonderful wonderful Christmas message. The winter solstice is for me, too, what resonates so profoundly at this time of year. May you too have a truly Merry Christmas! Terry


      Comment by Terry Sissons — December 25, 2013 @ 3:25 pm | Reply

  4. Seasons greetings and a belated happy christmas.


    Comment by lairdglencairn — December 26, 2013 @ 8:02 am | Reply

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