To me it’s really weird when people become adamant about how they’re going to greet others in the holiday season. The expressed belief is that “It’s Christmas, so I’m going to wish you a ‘Merry Christmas,’ whether you celebrate Christmas or not, whether you like it or not!”
A few years ago, it occurred to me to ask myself, “When I give someone a holiday greeting, who am I trying to cheer-up?” To which I replied:
If it’s me, then I say, ” ‘Merry Christmas’ because it’s ‘MY Christmas Holiday Season’ and it makes “ME” happy to greet you with “MY” Christmas greeting – and if you don’t like it, well, too bad for you.”
On the other hand, if I want to greet others in a way that energizes THEM to feel more cheerful, happy or alive, then I ask, “How do you celebrate the holidays and how would you like to be greeted?”
Now, I do work and live in an area that is very multicultural, so that the people I intend to greet could well be Hindi, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, or another tradition that does not typically celebrate Christmas, so it’s not an idle question. And, because I do actually care how they about how the greeting is received, I usually do ask.
As it it turns out, most people, whether Christian or not, say, “Merry Christmas is fine, we love this season too.” But then for those who do care, they tell me what to say, and I say it. Because of language differences, sometimes I have to practice it, which I do, and then we usually laugh and play it back and forth, greeting each other in the way we each like to be greeted. Everything is gained and nothing is lost.
The great take-away for me in doing this – the one thing I’ve found to always be true – is that no matter how the other celebrates the holidays, everybody appreciates being asked! And, within the exchange that follows is embedded the true spirit of Christmas of giving, caring, loving and receiving.