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It's OK to say "Merry Christmas"

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Let me say right up front that it is not my intention to marginalize and disparage any religious belief in this article.

I'm an atheist. Yet, I think it's perfectly OK to say "Merry Christmas" during what's become Christmas season in the US. In fact, out of respect for their celebratory feelings, I might just be inclined to respond with a "Merry Christmas" of my own. By doing this, I'm not recognizing the existence of any supreme being or the story of Jesus of Nazareth. I'm merely informing a Christian friend that I hope he or she has a merry Christmas.

I may do the same with a Jewish friend who wishes me a happy Hanukkah, although, as much as I don't believe that the New Testament is an intellectual or historical narrative, I believe that the Old Testament or Torah is even less valid. But I will tell people that I hope that their respective seasons are happy and all that they anticipate they'd be. After all, I want people to respect my lack of belief.

I've never had the opportunity to say "Happy Ramadan" to any Muslim friends. I just so happen not to know any Muslims personally and I don't even know that Muslims say "Happy Ramadan".

The same goes for Kwanzaa. I know quite a few African Americans, yet none has wished me a happy Kwanzaa. In fact, I've recently become aware that "Happy Kwanzaa" is not the official greeting of Kwanzaa, but the Swahili phrase "Habari gani?" is. Yes, it is expressed in the form of a question and, depending on which day the question is asked, the answer references one of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. With Kwanzaa, Africans reference spirituality, but Kwanzaa is not so much a religious holiday as it is a celebration of culture and family. It's for certain that I don't know enough about this celebration to greet Africans properly, but I hope that their season of celebration is every bit as satisfying as Christmas is to Christians, Hanukkah is to Jews and Ramadan is to Muslims. Why should I want any less for my brothers and sisters in the world? Why should I want to interfere with their religious celebrations?

So, with all due respect to Christians, why is it that they, like a writer to The Bangor Daily News, insist that everyone should be as enthusiastic about saying "Merry Christmas" as they are. Not everyone is Christian and, even if people like me respond with a "Merry Christmas", some, many or most, far too many for my taste, become incensed if someone else responds with "Happy Holidays".

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"Merry Christmas. What does that mean to so many? Apparently nothing. Hence, "Happy Holidays."".

This is the opening paragraph to the above mentioned letter. It's really a non controversial paragraph as it is a statement of fact. I would bet that the writer from Caribou didn't write the paragraph for educational purposes, however. The problem, of course, is that we can't extract voice intonation from the written word. The phrase "apparently nothing" may be a giveaway that this woman is not writing the paragraph as merely a statement of fact. It "sounds" a bit offensive to me, as if "Merry Christmas" should mean more to me, an atheist, that it actually does.

If "apparently not" isn't proof that the author means to express more of a message and not so much a statement of fact, what she follows the first paragraph with is, indeed, proof.

She bemoans the fact that, "Now I look around and there seem to be many stores or restaurants celebrating not Christmas, only holidays."

Would the writer expect stores owned by Jewish-Americans, Muslim-Americans or African-Americans to heretically display "Merry Christmas" in their places of business? Would she expect businesses owned and run by atheists to disingenuously display "Merry Christmas"? It seems to me that she would.

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In fact, because 78% of Americans consider themselves Christians, many Jewish, Asian non-Christians, Muslim, African-American and even atheist business owners do, indeed, display signs which read "Merry Christmas" and/or have Christmas displays in their places of business. Many businesses have Holiday Parties or Holiday Bashes for their employees, but many, even those owned and/or operated by non-Christians, have Christmas Parties for their employees.

In a land which had, until recently, encouraged other nations to:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

we have become quite selective about who we let through what has morphed from a "golden door" into a velvet rope. Only those who don't make us uncomfortable need apply.

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Michael Bonanno is an associate editor for OpEdNews.

He is also a published poet, essayist and musician who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bonanno is a political progressive, not a Democratic Party apologist. He believes it's (more...)

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Would you say Happy Kwanzaa to someone who wasn... by Nfamous on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 12:32:22 PM
Christmas is a very offensive word. It's better to... by bob yyyy on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 12:54:30 PM
about Christmas and self-professed Christians, how... by Stanimal on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 1:46:59 PM
as a life long atheist, I never cared if people wi... by wagelaborer on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 2:03:17 PM
Of course Christmas is a religious holiday, but it... by PrMaine on Monday, Dec 22, 2008 at 3:08:57 PM


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