Wednesday, December 05, 2012

merry christmas v. happy holidays

We are in the middle of the very first week of Advent--the four weeks of waiting and preparation that lead up to the celebration of Christmas (a season beginning December 25 and ending January 6--not a season beginning October 1 and ending December 24). Please note that Advent Preparation and the usual understanding of "preparing for Christmas" are not the same thing. Advent has nothing whatsoever to do with shopping, wrapping, decorating, or cooking, and has everything to do with prayer, fasting, silence, darkness, and quiet hope.

And again there is nonsense about what greeting people use during this season. There are people boycotting certain stores because they won't say Merry Christmas. There are bumper stickers proclaiming that we're "keeping Christ in Christmas." (aside: it would have been interesting to see how many of those bumper stickers we might be able to count in the mall parking lot on Black Friday.)

So let's be clear about a few things:

1. It's not yet Christmas, so the greeting "Merry Christmas" is technically, from a Christian perspective, inappropriate. Christmas does not begin until Christmas Day. Period. Feel free to wish me a Merry Christmas on January 2, though, because I'll still be celebrating.

2. "Merry" Christmas? Really? The best greeting we could come up with for the season celebrating that God became human, took on flesh and lived among us, is "merry"? oh, right, "merry christmas" is a greeting that came from the consumer culture, not from the church.

3. The word HOLIDAY is a conflation of the words Holy Day. As in, these are holy days. Christmas is one of our seasons of holy-days. As is Advent--in fact, Advent may be some of the holiest days. When someone wishes you "happy holidays," they are actually, linguistically speaking, saying the most correct thing they could possibly say during this season (regardless of whether they realize that or not!). Another ancient meaning of the word "happy" is "blessed"--so, blessed holy days to you. Isn't that beautiful and wonderful? I want people to offer me that blessing as often as possible. And during a season that offers so many difficulties--for those with different economic circumstances, those carrying grief, those who work long hours to make our cultural christmas possible--why not offer the blessing of holy days, rather than an insistence on mere merry-ness?

Happy Holidays.


  1. There you go- being all factual and logical ;-)
    And a very blessed holidays to you too

  2. What Celeste said! A very happy holiday season to you, Teri!

  3. Your mind is so cool, Teri. And yes, Xmas as X was the Greek letter Chi for Christ in the early church before it was the secular "kiss" symbol. I always enjoyed pointing that out much like your holiday/holy day.