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Something strange is happening this holiday season. People are saying it. You know, the phrase that’s sort of gone by the wayside: Merry Christmas.

I noticed it earlier in the month, and it’s a trend that just hasn’t waned. The first sneaky salutation happened at A.C. Moore. Granted, I was buying ornaments for my Brownie troop, but still. The cashier at a large retail chain handed me my receipt and said it: “Merry Christmas! Enjoy!” I was so shocked I paused for a moment before saying it back to her. I walked out feeling very weird. After all, Merry Christmas, like Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa, has been off-limits for a while.

It happened again in the liquor store. I was buying a bottle to bring to a holiday party. The nice, gray-haired woman in the Santa hat handed me my purchase (Patrón XO Café), and wished me a very Merry Christmas. Whoa. I glanced around. Wasn’t she afraid of the holiday police? After all, she could have offended someone. And since then it’s happened again and again and again. It even happened today at the end of an interview! The executive and his PR guy were on the phone. We’re wrapping up our call, and the exec goes there: “I’d like to wish you both a very Merry Christmas!” An exact quote since I record my interviews!

As someone who is an honorary Jew (three of my best friends are Jewish), I couldn’t believe it the first time or the last — and I’m Catholic! Sure, I expect it at church or from my religion students, but wow, to hear such a religious-sounding phrase uttered in public. Well, it was weird.

But you know what? Emboldened, last week I started wishing my friends who are Christian Merry Christmas and saying a belated Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends. I felt so naughty! It was an almost perverse pleasure to put it out there: We’re all different. We all celebrate different holidays, and we can acknowledge it, darn it! I even started looking for my Muslim friend at yoga so I could wish him a blessed Al-Hijira. (Take that, holiday police!)

Before anyone gets offended, I hope you realize that this was written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Yes, the facts are all real and accurate, but I wasn’t as offended as I was flabbergasted. Was it the seemingly bipartisan legislation that’s inspiring everyone to take down those “holiday” blinders? (After all, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is unprecedented.) Or maybe everyone is just shellshocked after watching E! Online’s Bridalplasty. (I know I feel numb and dazed after watching two episodes.) Who knows. Either way, I am actually really happy that Merry Christmas is making a comeback. I hope for the sake of my Jewish friends that more people feel so comfortable with our differences that they aren’t afraid to say L’shanah tovah next September 28. After all, it’s sort of silly to replace specific holiday greetings with the generic (and very annoying) Happy Holidays. If you KNOW I celebrate a specific holiday you should NOT be afraid to wish me a merry or happy or joyous one. Got it? Good.

How about you? Are you offended if someone says Happy Holidays? Or do you prefer it to the more exact tidings? I’d like to know.

One Response to “Yes, You Can Say It: Merry Christmas”

  1. Hey, Karen! I noticed it too. I wondered if it was because Hanukkah was celebrated so early in the month that there’s been no confusion or worry these past few weeks about what to say. Whatever the reason, I like it. :) Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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