Happy Holidays!

by Maria on December 7, 2007

Fiji bliss
I moved to the US a few months ago (It’s been a bit of a shock to the system. Let’s just say that on account of me not being a blonde, big-titted wannabe from the flyover zone, it was never my life’s dream to live in L.A.). Going to church makes me feel at home for an hour or so a week. At Mass last week, the priest gave a good but very rambling sermon. A propos of nothing at all, he said parishioners should make a point of wishing others a ‘Happy Christmas’ or even ‘Happy Hanukkah’ instead of the ubiquitous ‘Happy Holidays’.

Now, this being a very cool, gay-friendly church with great music, one person shouted out ‘why should we do that?’ as the wave of applause moved from the front benches backwards, faltering somewhere around the middle. I happen to feel the same as the priest, but kept my hands firmly in my lap.

‘Happy Holidays’ (pronounced Halliday, as in Fred, or perhaps Johnny) strikes me as fake and saccharine. Partly because in English as I know it, a holiday is simply a group of days you choose to take off, and it would make more sense to wish people happy holidays in the middle of July. But mostly because it’s annoying to be informed by workmates that, no, that’s not a Christmas tree in the lobby. Despite appearances, it’s actually a Holiday Tree. To me, a holiday tree is one linked to another by a hammock in which I lie, reading Anna Karenina in three days straight. (Ah, Fiji!) But no, that non-shedding coniferous covered in baubles has, actually, nothing at all to do with the feast you Christians call Christmas.

You could say the Christians have just latched onto a well-established mid-winter festive tradition that has given northern Europeans something to look forward to for millennia. The historic rationale for a non-religious December/January festival is strong (though not in California), and it’s arguable that all this Winterval nonsense is just post-post-paganism re-asserting itself as the natural order of things. So there’s a strong argument for just not being bothered by it.

But in the same way as some feminists (or even a Surrendered Wife. Tricksy!) might successfully argue that taking your husband’s name name after marriage is no different to keeping your father’s, it still irks. I could argue myself out of the happy holidays hump till the cows come home. Sure, it’s all just a bit of harmless meme adaptation driven by the logic of late capitalism. Yet I’m still peeved to be surrounded by symbols of the festival of the birth of Christ and be told by people who don’t give two flying fucks about any of it that I mayn’t call them by their names.

But just as I can’t immerse myself in the fakeness of a rampant consumer fest that’s lost its cultural moorings, I can’t bring myself to care about the annual American debate over Winterval, either. Taking the ‘Happy Christmas’ stance in the US is a far more reactionary prospect to doing so at home. Here, saying Happy Christmas and sending religiously-themed cards means aligning yourself with the put upon ‘minority’ of right wing religious nuts. It means striding into battle with a scarlet letter C on your forehead, brandishing the Bible (Old Testament, naturally) and smiting any lily-livered relativists who get in the way.

At home, insisting on traditional Christmas cards and greetings is a) overkill since most people are happy either way and don’t need to imagine themselves part of an epic battle between good and evil, or b) stupidly picking a fight by trying to find things to be annoyed about. Either way, it’s unsatisfying and just beside the point. Besides, whatever happened to ‘peace to all men (and women)’?



Flippanter 12.07.07 at 7:25 pm

We don’t all live on Fox News, you know. Only a self-selected minority will get on your case about a stray “Merry Christmas,” but a certain amount of ecumenism is a legitimate interest of the liberal state, and in a mass media society the only sort you’re likely to get people to agree to is abjuring calling things by their true names in the public sphere.


Will 12.07.07 at 7:25 pm

Actually in America it’s Merry Christmas not happy Christmas as in:”Merry Christmas & Happy New Year”

Also I’m with you it’s a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree.

I feel if you know someone’s religious affiliation then use the appropriate greeting, otherwise “Happy Holidays” if fine with me, tis the season to be polite & not be a obnoxious dick. I’m looking at you Bill O’Reilly


Dave 12.07.07 at 7:51 pm

I agree with your distaste for the shift to, “Happy Holidays,” which strikes me as a the worst of all possible worlds (although I think it is actually more accurate, for exactly the reasons you articulate — Christmas, in America, has lost virtually all semblance of religiosity or spirituality, and has become simply a holiday). But I take the lack of an adequate replacement to by symptomatic of one of the attendant ills of pluralization in a late-modern world; in the average day, we encounter a lot of people who we neither no personally nor can assume much about.

For better or worse, I’ve settled on, “Good Yule!” as my phrase, figuring that, like all good compromises, it will satisfy no one.


Dave 12.07.07 at 7:52 pm

In the above, of course, `no personally’ = `know personally’.


Mo MacArbie 12.07.07 at 7:53 pm

I’m with Will. It’s supposed to be a small kindness. Why does this have to be controversial?

Another tradition we have here in America is exploding in rage in the letters-to-the-editor tomorrow when our local paper fails to pretend it’s 1941 sufficiently today. Infamy!

What do Pastafarians say, Merry Nara?


Matt 12.07.07 at 7:55 pm

A bit testy, are we? I must admit that this all sounds a bit like “you idiots! Why can’t you do things the way _I_ like them!”, a bit much, really. When Americans do that abroad they are rightly called “ugly” for it.


Maria 12.07.07 at 7:57 pm

Well, my attitude is that I have a personal preference which is just based on a rather unworthy feeling that I should be able to argue myself out of, but that expressing any opinion in the church context was marking myself as part of a debate I have no interest or stake in. So why I felt the need to blog about that, well, hmmmmm.


Vance Maverick 12.07.07 at 8:04 pm

…[I]t’s annoying to be informed by workmates that, no, that’s not a Christmas tree in the lobby

Did this really happen to you, Maria? Literally? Your casual usage of the term “Christmas tree” was corrected? I’ll bet your “workmate” then turned around and spat on a returning Vietnam veteran.


a sentient being 12.07.07 at 8:05 pm

Maria, dear, you sound like a stand-up comedian who doesn’t realize the joke is on you. Some of your casual remarks, even if meant ironically, are mildly offensive. Consider this one:
‘a blonde, big-titted wannabe from the flyover zone’. If the ‘blonde’ were ‘black’, your remark would be racist. But as it stands, it just sounds like envy.


Chris Bertram 12.07.07 at 8:22 pm

Hmm, Matt (and others).

You know since Americans dominate the blogosphere, those of us who come from elsewhere end up reading all kinds of commentary about _our_ allegedly quirky ways. Maria can write about how it looks to her without you all jumping up and down, surely?


Maria 12.07.07 at 8:30 pm

I’ve never wanted to be blonde, but I wouldn’t mind bigger tits.


Matt 12.07.07 at 8:38 pm

Do Americans dominate the blogosphere? I thought that wasn’t true but don’t really know. I’d think it’s not really the point, though. It was a silly post, and at least mildly offensive. It would be so if it were about any country. Generally, telling people how fucking stupid they are has that feel, no? I suppose that’s true even when it’s Americans it’s told to.


Sk 12.07.07 at 8:43 pm

Agree with poster #6. It sounds like you agree with religious folks in America, but hate the sound of that, so have to insult them in the smarmy, elitist holier-than-thou manner of 21st century tolerant liberalism (this post has it, but if you really want to see the casual cruelty of modern academia, read the post on the Golden Compass). What are you afraid of-are Chris and Henry going to kick you off the reservation?


“and be told by people who don’t give two flying fucks”

“’ve never wanted to be blonde, but I wouldn’t mind bigger tits.”

Ah, yes. Casual profanity as a sign of sophistication. You’ve got it all!


Mo MacArbie 12.07.07 at 8:44 pm

Well, I don’t want to pile on or anything, but one person’s “Commentary about our allegedly quirky ways” is another person’s Fox News War on Christmas BS. ‘Tis a minefield that Maria’s stepped in, so that’s one reason for a somewhat enthusiastic pushback.

But hey, war is over if you want it!


Vance Maverick 12.07.07 at 8:47 pm

I don’t so much mind being told Americans are silly — but this line of controversy is one we’re already wearily familiar with at home, and we’re inclined to regard it as specious. (Wikipedia’s Christmas controversy entry isn’t great, but it’s a start. Or see this op-ed from a couple of years ago.)


Chris Bertram 12.07.07 at 8:50 pm

Matt, hard to know how to respond. Bill Bryson (American) has made a whole career out of poking fun at various British idiocies. We don’t get offended, we laugh at ourselves, or shrug at outsiders not getting it. Being offended is way too insecure.


Bernard Yomtov 12.07.07 at 8:55 pm

I absolutely do not understand the annual ruckus about all this.

Despite being non-Christian I have no objection to being wished a Merry Christmas. December 25 is Christmas, after all, whether I regard it as a religious holiday or not. Why should I be offended at being wished a merry day? Nor do I object to being wished a Happy Holiday or any other variation, though being wished a Happy Chanukah after Chanukah is over is a bit strange.
Still, it’s all meant well, so why all the discussion? There are some awfully thin skins on all sides of this non-issue.


novakant 12.07.07 at 9:00 pm

About that tree: as far as I know it was invented by pagan germanic tribes.


bob 12.07.07 at 9:06 pm

The world would be better if everyone just said “Happy Festivus”!


lemuel pitkin 12.07.07 at 9:26 pm

You should move to New York, Maria!


Megan 12.07.07 at 9:40 pm

I have a hard time with people characterizing an incredibly diverse city of twelve million people as any type of caricature, but it sounds even sillier from someone who (I guess?) is living there now and might have noticed that lots of other types of people live there too.


abb1 12.07.07 at 9:42 pm

December 25 is Christmas, after all, whether I regard it as a religious holiday or not.

Not necessarily. To some people January 7 is Christmas. By wishing them a marry Christmas in December you might be asking for trouble, they are very unpredictable. Ah, it’s a mess.


novakant 12.07.07 at 10:04 pm

and in the spirit of ecumenism I wish you all a happy Hanukkah


lemuel pitkin 12.07.07 at 10:08 pm

You know Megan, until not long ago I would have agreed with you. But my brother moved to San Diego two years ago and so for the first time I’ve had occasion to spend time in Southern California.

And you know what? People there really do exercise more, drink and smoke less, consume more (and better!) coffee, read less, are more likely to be from blond Midwestern stock (but also much more likely to be Mexican), drive bigger cars on bigger highways, and put a higher value on tanned, athletic bodies but somewhat lower on other aspects of personal style. The stereotypes are there for a reason!


Megan 12.07.07 at 10:18 pm

Maybe. But I grew up there and if there were six blond people in my high school of twenty-five hundred people, I never saw them. My point is that LA is wildly heterogeneous. Describing it any one way is facially ridiculous. Choosing a frivolous description makes me wonder why the rest of it doesn’t make an impression on the viewer.


Maria 12.07.07 at 10:21 pm

Eh? I haven’t classified L.A. as anything, I’ve just said I’m not the sort of person who aspires to moving here.

Well, I should have known that posting something about how I really shouldn’t get my nose out of joint about something trivial would put people’s noses out of joint about something trivial. Tant pis.


Salazar 12.07.07 at 10:30 pm

For all the nitpicking — for that’s what it really is — about what Maria said, I think her central point stands: The whole “War on Christmas” thread makes you feel as though, by wishing someone a “Merry Christmas,” you are taking sides in a cultural war of some sort and aligning yourself with the Catholic League, Bill O’Reilly and the like.

Personally, I mostly tell people Happy Holidays, not so much because I’m an Atheist, but rather because 1) many of my friends are Jewish and 2) I tend to include Christmas and the New Year in my holiday greetings. Having said this, if I greet a Christian friend, let alone a devoutly religious one, I’m happy to tell him “Merry Christmas.” As another commenter put it earlier, such greetings are a small courtesy.

Having said this, I decided a couple of years back that anyone who tries to pull this “War on Christmas” business on me will never, ever again receive end-of-year greetings of any sort from me.


Megan 12.07.07 at 10:41 pm

Well, I’m thinking that the very large majority of people who aspire to move to Los Angeles are third world immigrants looking for economic betterment. Perhaps that isn’t you either and you’re surprised to find yourself in LA and running up against the culture shock.

But if you can live in LA and still think of it as a place that primarily gathers in would-be starlets, you’ve misssed, like, nearly all of what is going on in a huge city.

Eh. My own rule is to give posters and commenters the best possible reading of what they’ve typed, and I’m not doing that. You’ll make of LA whatever you do. I hope you enjoy your time there [sincerely].


eszter 12.07.07 at 10:45 pm

I don’t like being told Merry Christmas on November 28th, December 2nd, December 8th, December 14th, etc. I don’t mind if people say it on the day of or even a day or two before, because yes, then it’s actually Christmas. But hearing it for a month when you don’t even celebrate it is tedious. And it’s especially weird when it’s said on the day that is not Christmas, rather, is another holiday that you might actually celebrate. Basically, among close friends who I know celebrate Christmas, I will wish them a “Merry Christmas” the last time I see or talk to them before the 25th. But with other people, I just don’t want to assume too much.


Kenny Easwaran 12.07.07 at 10:47 pm

I’ve always thought “Merry Christmas” sounds quite odd unless it’s actually December 25, or you specifically know that you won’t see the person again until after December 25. And if you won’t see them again until after January 1, then “Merry Christmas” is leaving out New Year’s, which happens to be my favorite holiday.

I suppose when you’re sending an actual card, then it’s harder to know what day it’ll arrive, so you might as well say “Season’s Greetings” or something of the sort.

Also, referring to “the flyover zone” is arguably far more offensive than “blonde, big-titted”.


abb1 12.07.07 at 10:58 pm

“Flyover country” is offensive? Are you saying that there is actually intelligent life in there?


notsneaky 12.07.07 at 11:31 pm

I like ‘flyover country’. People there really are nicer and less phony than the coasts. I’m particularly fond of Wyomingians.


paul 12.07.07 at 11:50 pm

Is that a soft “g” in Wyomingians, as in “whinge?”


Russ 12.07.07 at 11:53 pm

If one has spent any time in the ‘flyover country’ they’d know what an ignorant thing it is to say.


Martin James 12.08.07 at 12:20 am


From out here in flyover country I loved your post!

Your comment above reminded me of the old Christmas ditty:

“All I want for Christmas is my two front t…”


matt mckeon 12.08.07 at 12:33 am

Anyone who parses out holiday greetings, or even thinks about them more than a minute is nuts. Who, besides a blowhard like O’Reilly gives a damn? It’s cool, Maria.

There’s not a War on Christmas. Christmas is fighting a war on us. Dragging us to tense office parties, jamming us into malls like cattle, emptying our bank accounts, forcing us through painful and ridiculous rituals(hanging the lights on the bushes outside, in the freezing cold, hauling boxes of decorations from the attic, turning our children into greed crazed zombies. Oh God, and the freaking in-laws! It’s like we’re rats in a horrible experiment, a green and red maze we can’t escape.


Maria 12.08.07 at 12:37 am

Actually I do agree that it is a bit telling that for me most of this fascinating country is literally a flyover zone. But I do plan to rectify that while I’m living here. So point well taken on that front.


R 12.08.07 at 12:41 am

I’m also with Will. People celebrate a bunch of different holidays at this time of year, and I’m happy to hope they’re all happy unless I know which one the person I’m talking to is particularly attached to.

And frankly, if the right-wing message is that saying “Happy Holidays” is a sign of rampant tolerance and secular humanism, I’m even more pleased to keep saying it.


Martin James 12.08.07 at 12:45 am

Interesting how out here in flyover country one of our states had a naming battle over the 3rd Monday in January. It was named Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Day (to be inclusive and all) but the purists got it changed back to the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Holiday names are a treasure trove for the culture wars. Why not Right-to-Work day instead of Labor Day, Invaders Day for Columbus Day, No Thanks, I’m Atheist Day for Thanksgiving Day, the possibilities are endless.


vivian 12.08.07 at 1:46 am

Maria, it’s a good try at a Friday night light post, in the tradition of Ezster and DD. Of course, Ezster used to engage us as geeks rather than flamers. Post about a game, we waste some time with it and come back here to say thanks. Dsquared instead does the full frontal flamewar thing, just slightly over the top, offensiveness-wise. This post here is neither fish nor fowl though. You’re discovering things about the states that, well, are a little cliched, but no harm. I think people here are mostly bothered that it’s so ordinary. Next week, if you’re so inclined, either stake an outrageous and unusual claim full-on, or aim for consensus community-building with something nerdy.

By the way, I’ve known some anti-fundie Christian folk who are uncomfortable wishing people Merry Xmas during Advent – a completely different holiday. Just because it irritates the right wing doesn’t make it ‘political correctness.’


SG 12.08.07 at 3:26 am

what’s with these people and their objection to mild swearing? novakant, sk, etc. I just can’t understand how people can even see a relationship between occasional swearing and sophistication. Has it occurred to you that in some countries, occasional swearing is just a way of speaking, and is not intended to project any kind of image?

And Americans getting angry at non-Americans commenting on their quaint customs? Priceless!

I’m an atheist and I agree with maria: call it what it is and enjoy it how you like.


Cryptic Ned 12.08.07 at 4:56 am

Partly because in English as I know it, a holiday is simply a group of days you choose to take off

Not in English as I know it. That is referred to as a “vacation” in the US.


BillCinSD 12.08.07 at 5:34 am

In my flyover country (South Dakota), Columbus Day is now Native American Day


Delicious Pundit 12.08.07 at 6:02 am

Let’s just say that on account of me not being a blonde, big-titted wannabe from the flyover zone, it was never my life’s dream to live in L.A.

Me neither. But now that I’ve been here awhile I find it fascinating. It’s still becoming — it’s like someone on the end of his/her growth spurt trying to how to dress in a decent mass transit system like a grownup.

And don’t worry about your tits — I’m sure they’re fine. You don’t even need big tits out here unless you’re audtioning for the part of a doctor.


brooksfoe 12.08.07 at 9:01 am

Was your priest suggesting that Christians ought to say “Happy Hanukkah” to other Christians, rather than “Happy Holidays”? I mean, how are you supposed to know which ones are the Jews? Most of us manage to successfully conceal our horns, and in America the greed thing isn’t so much of a distinguishing factor.


bad Jim 12.08.07 at 10:46 am

If anybody even cares, it’s cold and rainy here in Laguna Beach.

So cold that I was wearing the thick sweater and light leather jacket I bought in Edinburgh a few Mays ago as I took my ancient asthmatic mother, in her long black leather coat, a scarf about her throat, downtown for Santa’s arrival, the high school marching band and the Presbyterian singers warbling carols.

Not spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica.


Bruce Baugh 12.08.07 at 10:49 am

I’m firmly convinced that tone is more important than content on this kind of conversational filler almost all the time. Anything with about the right meter said in a way that suggests polite good wishes will fly with most people, and the ones who object to the specific filler will end up finding something to object to because (at bottom) you’re just not the right sort of person. The real meaning of any year-end greeting I deliver is “despite all, I’m working at having a satisfying, pleasing time with the people I care about commemorating the occasions that matter to us, and I hope you’re able to do the same, whatever the people and moments may be that matter to you”. The whole War on Christmas foolishness boils down to the hard-core on sundry sides, but most vehemently and coordinatedly among the theocratic right-wing, who don’t mean that at all but want to have no fun or celebration but their own. I wish them happiness too, but not at the cost of others’.


Tim Worstall 12.08.07 at 11:26 am

“Here, saying Happy Christmas and sending religiously-themed cards means aligning yourself with the put upon ‘minority’ of right wing religious nuts. It means striding into battle with a scarlet letter C on your forehead, brandishing the Bible (Old Testament, naturally) and smiting any lily-livered relativists who get in the way.”

Those associating Christmas with the Old Testament would be slightly missing the point of the whole affair, would they not?

(As, of course, many of those who wave it about rather miss the point about Christianity as well.)


abb1 12.08.07 at 11:31 am

Yeah. Personally, I’ve never had enough courage to penetrate vast terrains of the flyover country. But an acquaintance of mine assured me, from frequent experience, that the inhabitants of that sad place definitely have no soul.


Slocum 12.08.07 at 2:49 pm

Well, I’m no expert (not having been confined to church since I was a kid–and thank God for that), but if you come out of a Christmas time service peevish and and swearing and sneering at big-titted blonde bimbos out in yokel-land, it seems like maybe you’re not doing the whole church thing properly, because I’m not feeling much of a warm, peace-on-earth, love-of-your-fellow-human vibe.


Russ 12.08.07 at 3:04 pm


Wow, your friend sounds very sophisticated and deep. You and he better just stay away from there.


marcel 12.08.07 at 5:47 pm

brooksfoe (#45) wrote: Was your priest suggesting that Christians ought to say “Happy Hanukkah” to other Christians, rather than “Happy Holidays”? I mean, how are you supposed to know which ones are the Jews? Most of us manage to successfully conceal our horns, and in America the greed thing isn’t so much of a distinguishing factor.

It used to be possible to identify the men when we dropped trou, but between the influx of Muslims and modern medical practice, that is no longer true.

While the greed is not a distinguishing factor, facility of money mgmt probably is – e.g., we don’t celebrate Xmas.

My shiksa wife, neither blond nor big t—-d (can’t speak the name of the holy of holies), and whose atheist family was part of a peculiar schismatic Polish Catholic strain, told me that her family used to joke that Xmas was a Jewish plot to transfer money from foolish goyim into Jewish (merchants’) pockets.


Cala 12.08.07 at 10:48 pm

I always thought that ‘Season’s Greetings!’ was the worst of the lot. It sounds so studiously neutral, or as if it originated from a badly translated English-Martian guidebook. “Salutations appropriate to the earliness of the hour!” “Appropriately romantic greeting of affection!”

maria’s right in that it’s hard to hear a deliberately delivered ‘Merry Christmas’ (especially when said as a correction to an overworked shop worker’s ‘Happy Holidays’) without an undertone of ‘fuck you, too’


engels 12.09.07 at 12:21 am

I’d always thought that “Seasons Greetings” was the silliest of all of them too, until I saw Dave’s alternative at #3: “Good Yule!”


Everett 12.09.07 at 3:07 am

Sweet fuckity fuck! This is a whole shitpile of meaningless bitching and commenting about a single blog post that bitched and moaned about meaningless shit. Blond-titted flyoverians wishing us all a happy mertmasukah holiday with neutral trimmings on the yulemekah and swizzyschiss. Merry Fucking Festivus y’all. Please, whatever you do, get zonked on the egg nog and eat some babka before you post again. It WILL make you happier and put all this BS in perspective.


maria 12.09.07 at 5:41 am

Amen, Everett, amen.


Ezra 12.09.07 at 6:41 am

I’m curious about #8 as well. As a professional observer of the “War on Christmas,” I am extremely interested to hear of this Ebenezer who reprimands you for calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree. Of course I know they have been created in laboratory conditions, but I’ve never seen one in the wild. In our studies we’ve found the officious do-gooder who gives things generic names to be an unrelated strain.

If you’re pleasantly upset that you’ve managed to get people’s hackles up, I’d hate to interrupt your Tocqueville dreams, but I don’t think it’s much of a confirmation of the War on Christmas you’re looking for in your life. The idea that there’s a “debate” is a fraud, perpetuated by a comical political fringe (which, tragically, has a lot of pull), hell-bent on proving that there is someone out there, somewhere, oppressing them. Saying “Merry Christmas” doesn’t put you on the side of the Religious Right, but ranting about a supposed “PC” conspiracy against Christianity kind of does.

But I think the real problem is you haven’t spent enough time shopping yet. The 1,000th time you hear Bing Crosby croon “Happy Holidays …” over the PA system, maybe you’ll change your mind about what the phrase represents.


Anne 12.09.07 at 7:18 am

Saying “Merry Christmas” doesn’t put you on the side of the Religious Right, but ranting about a supposed “PC” conspiracy against Christianity kind of does.

That hits the nail on the head. Just keep saying “Merry Christmas”, pretty much nobody will care. This isn’t a genuine issue outside of outraged talking head land.

Caveat: Some places like universities do have policies that ban overtly Christmas-specific decorations (eg creches), but allow “season” specific decorations (eg pine tree, snowman); the mandated language there would be one of the neutered phrases. But in practice in conversation, I’ve rarely run into anyone who takes “Merry Christmas” in anything other that its intended spirit.


glenn 12.09.07 at 7:52 am

Jesus christ, can people just get a grip?! Why are so many people looking to be offended?!

Here I am, living in a heterogenous city in a Muslim country and can think about nothing except joining my family in Flyover land (central IL) for Christmas. Not the Holidays, but Christmas. I’m an atheist, too, but it’s still Christmas. And I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Maria, please spend some quality time in Flyover land as your live and visit our great country. It lacks alot, no doubt, but offers alot, too, and something that many other places cannot.


Mary Catherine 12.09.07 at 2:57 pm

Well, Maria, I hope you’ve learned your lesson. If you can’t say anything nice about America, you can’t expect America to say anything nice about you.

So your priest’s “Happy Hanukkah” recommendation is just a thinly-veiled expression of anti-Semitism, and if blondes weren’t blonde your remark would be racist, and you probably don’t even know how to go to church properly, and anyway, you’re just jealous.

Have a nice day.


Keith M Ellis 12.09.07 at 4:40 pm

I mused upon what Maria wrote about “holiday” after I read her post. She didn’t say this, but I wondered if “English as I know it” implied “correct” in the way that many Brits and Irish folk will often claim that American English is a perversion. Again, Maria didn’t say this and her wording implies to me that she didn’t think this; but it’s such a common complaint that I couldn’t help but consider the possibility. And, of course, it’s the case that holiday is the etymological precedent, from “holy day”, and the overseas usage applying to any sort of secular vacation is arguably the perversion. :)


d 12.09.07 at 10:56 pm

“In my flyover country (South Dakota), Columbus Day is now Native American Day.”

I am also from South Dakota, and I thought that was a really smart move on Gov. Michelson’s part. Why do we have a Columbus day? Well, to make Italians and other Catholics feel like part of America. In South Dakota ignorance about Native Americans and Native American alienation are far bigger problems than making South Dakota Catholics feel special. And actually a lot of schools focus on Native America history etc. on that day.


Crystal 12.10.07 at 1:34 am

I have to wonder – are Americans the only ones who send one another holiday cards with Far Side cartoons or off-color jokes about Santa’s Sluts on them? Those are the kind I give and send and even if they do say “Merry Christmas!” I don’t know if the religious right would approve.


tzs 12.10.07 at 3:21 am

Speaking as a misanthropic American, I love the idea of a holiday greeting that sounds like it came from a Martian-Earthling phrase book. “Merry Festimas!” “Salutations to Plastic Tree Day!”

And although atheistic I listen STRICTLY to traditional German and French Xmas carols at home, simply because if I hear “Frosty the Snowman”, “Rum-a-Pum-Pum”, “Winter Wonderland”, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, or any other of the secular stuff that we are bombarded with any more times I will be sticking very large skewers into my ears.


jay bee 12.10.07 at 1:47 pm

I suppose there’s no possibility that the War on Christmas is actually organised by the anti-catholic elements of the religious right?

Think about it for a moment: “Christ-Mass” – the very name reeks of popery …


SamChevre 12.10.07 at 2:53 pm

Hey–65 posts in and someone gets it! (I’ve read entire book-length treatises on how Christmas is Roman Catholic, and also pagan, and thus we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas and Catholis are pagans.)

I’m sure that somewhere, in this vast land of opportunity, there are soem sane, normal people. I, however, have so far met interesting, committed, thought-provoking people, most of whom were on at least some topics raving loons. (And I think the ones that did might have been faking it.)


richard 12.10.07 at 3:08 pm

you know, it actually is a holiday tree – in that non-Christians also use it. But you may call it what you wish, and tell anyone who twits you that Richard said it was OK.

has given northern Europeans something to look forward to for millennia
This, on the other hand, offends my sense of Hobsbawmian (or Andersonian) scepticism – it soudns downright Northern Nationalist. Where s your evidence that it was in use before the 15th century?

late capitalism is also hard to prove. I suspect we may still be in early capitalism, and I’ve long since given up waiting for the cleansing Revolution.


MSS 12.10.07 at 4:19 pm

Maria said:

“The historic rationale for a non-religious December/January festival is strong (though not in California), and it’s arguable that all this Winterval nonsense is just post-post-paganism re-asserting itself as the natural order of things.”

Why not California? Mediterranean climates have winter, too. Shorter days, cooler, etc. I detect some climaticism in here. As if winter meant snow all around.

Seriously, Chanukah was built around a pagan winter solstice festival, too. With Jerusalem and San Diego being almost exactly the same latitude, that makes a lot of sense in these parts, if one stops to think about it. Which few do, of course…


MSS 12.10.07 at 4:22 pm

On “holiday tree,” when I heard, on the morning of December 6, that Congress had taken a break to dedicate its Holiday Tree, my first thought was an 8-branched “tree.” But that they had put it up one day too late.


Martin James 12.10.07 at 4:50 pm


Wow, I’d never before realized just how WASPy a part of flyover county I grew up in. I’ve never heard Columbus referred to as Catholic and Italy was only mentioned as the place he couldn’t get funding. Where I come from Columbus brought Christianity not Catholicism.

What a country!


Stuart 12.10.07 at 7:40 pm

I have never found “Merry Christmas” offensive. I’m Jewish. Why would someone giving me good wishes be offensive? If anything, “Happy Holidays” is worse because it’s fake. If we’re being honest, we should admit that December gets a fuss because of Christmas. I say, leave the Christ in Christmas, and everyone chill.


mollymooly 12.12.07 at 11:42 am

“Season’s Greetings” strikes me as something on a letter sent to someone you don’t see or write to very often; not something you would ever say in person. Within its written confines, it seems quite acceptable to me.

I don’t like “Happy Holidays” or “The Holidays” simply because, like Maria and unlike #42, “holidays” means something different Over Here. But then, the expression isn’t used over here, so it’s not an issue. I wouldn’t have a problem hearing or using it in America. When in Rome etc.

For me, the New Year is part of the Christmas Holidays, not a separate holiday that happens to be close by. There aren’t many Jews in Ireland, but I have said “Happy Hanukkah” on occasion.

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