On the Journey
By Rick Hamlin

I Believe in "Merry Christmas!"

I believe in saying “Merry Christmas.” Not the bland “Happy Holidays” or even blander “Season’s Greetings.” To my Jewish friends, when it’s Hanukkah (and it’s coming up soon), I happily say “Happy Hanukkah.” If I knew someone who celebrated Kwanza, I wouldn’t mind saying “Happy Kwanza.”

I understand the urge not to offend. It’s very well-intentioned. It’s essential to be aware of religious and cultural differences, but must we water down who we are? I’m not talking about the public expressions of religion. This is personal.

For instance, I live in a neighborhood with a significant Orthodox Jewish population. On Saturdays they observe the Sabbath with rigor and gusto. They don’t work. You see them on nice days taking walks in the park with their families or the young adults in groups. Some stores are closed. You can’t buy bread in the kosher bakery on Saturday.

Do I take offense? On the contrary; I take notice. Thanks for the reminder about observing the Sabbath, I think. Last weekend I was trudging up the hill at the end of my Saturday run and I jogged by a well-dressed couple coming from services. It made me think about what I would be doing on my Sabbath on Sunday.

In fact, I ended up singing Christmas carols with friends from choir, wandering the blocks close to our church. I would venture to say that a good share of our listeners were not Christian. Did we change the lyrics to “Silent Night” or “Away in a Manger”? Did we modify “Good Christian Men Rejoice”?

I like people who are honest about what they believe. I learn from them. Would that people say the same of me.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. They are blessings, prayers. Say them with kindness, sensitivity, generosity, enthusiasm. No apologies necessary.

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine and the author of 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without. To learn more about the book and explore your own prayer journey, watch this video.

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I grew up observing Sunday as the Sabbath. I know now that it is not the Sabbath of the Bible, it is not the Sabbath the early church observed. I know they met in small groups at someones house. They observed the festivals of the Jewish religion. Messianic Jews observe them too. They are Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah but there are former Christians who accept their philosophy. My daughter is one. I have been to some of their services and I feel I am out of place. I do not leave there feeling closer to God or even have a sense of His presence. I am finding that a lot of the customs and practices in various Christian churches today have been passed down from when Constantine was Emperor and brought pagan influences into the church. The Catholic church has many of those influences in their churches today. The Episcopalian church is not far removed from them. I attend the 7th Day Adventist Church now. Still searching for the truth and hoping I can accept it when I do. I know Christmas is not when Christ was born but I still give my family presents and I think people mellow out during during Christmas and are nicer to others. I didn't mean to write so much. Thank you for your patience.

I think I could say Happy Hanukkah if I knew someone was Jewish out of respect. Of course I would say Merry Christmas to someone but I could not say Happy Kwanzaa. The place I used to work had a sign up around Christmas that said Happy Hanukkah and when it was Kwanzaa, they put that up but no Merry Christmas. It really was ridiculous.

I don't understand why you can't say Happy Kwanzaa. Is it because you weren't allowed to at work or you don't believe in Kwanzaa? We all like to think our religion is the "right" one but who knows? Jesus was jewish and I'm a Christian. I respect anyone's beliefs as long as killing other people isn't part of it.

I cannot understand why people pointlessly seem to seek out ways to excuse their lack of basic, simple consideration.

At midnight services this evening, I'll wish everyone a Merry Christmas. If I see a friend elsewhere whose faith is known to me, I will greet them in a way appropriate to their belief. If I don't know what their faith is, I'll wish them a happy holiday season.

I find Mr. Stein's comments (I remember being incredulous at his monumental lack of insight when I first saw them, years ago) puzzling and disingenuous. If he actually is, as he states, of the Jewish faith, then he surely must be aware of friends who feel differently. I'm not Jewish, but I know friends of the Jewish faith who do not at all appreciate being wished a Merry Christmas. Sorry, but Ben doesn't get to tell anybody what they "ought to" feel.

Come on, folks! What we're really talking about is your desire to take the lazy way out, to be let off the hook for having to show consideration for the other person. When I was growing up, it was unthinkable to be discourteous to others.

You say that wishing someone merry Christmas "cannot be offensive?" Sorry, but they can and they are offensive to some. Rationalizing how they "ought to" feel differently will not change that.

James was right in his comment on the tongue, but today, we would be wise to apply his sage words to the email as well.

I have in the past thought like you, that Happy Holidays was not a fit greeting for this Special time of year.
However, a friend reminded me that holidays was originally
Holydays, which seems to be a fitting greeting for the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Blessings and Happy Holydays
Wanda Mc

I think Mr. Oppenheimer needs to read Ben Stein's essay on the subject:

"I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat."

AMEN Marilyn!!!

There is no reason at all for ANYONE to feel discriminated against. We ARE all brothers and sisters!

Thank you for that reminder!

Well said. We risk losing our identity as a nation with the freedom of religion and expression when we cater to political correctness.

well said.

Oh, good grief. And here I thought it was just a matter of common courtesy!

The writer does not wish to be bland. He'd rather risk offending others. Such arrogance.

If you know the person is Jewish, you obviously are not going to wish them a Merry Christmas. That is not offensive to some Jews, but it very definitely is offensive to others. We all know this! We don't get to tell others when they have a right to be offended. If you pointlessly and needlessly offend them, then you're in the wrong.

If the person's Christian, you know what to do.

If you don't know what persuasion the person is, then you can either say nothing at all, or wish them happy holidays. In a conflict between bland and considerate, I think consideration ought to win. It won't kill you to show a bit of politeness, and some of the folks will appreciate it.

This is an utter non-issue. Nobody is trying to tell anybody they HAVE to do anything; you have the right to say whatever you want to others; nobody with an ounce of rationality denies that. However, I will say that it is *polite* to think of the other when giving a greeting. After all, the greeting isn't about you; it's supposedly about the other person.

What kind of monsters are we becoming when folks pretending to be pious are actively looking for a rationale to insult others just because they feel insecure about their own faith?

Never have I been told that I was rude for wishing someone a "Merry Christmas". All I have ever received is a smile, proof that the heart was warmed. This is a Christian holiday, regardless, and our wish is that all would find the peace and joy we have in Jesus Christ. There really can't be anything offensive in that wish, no matter your beliefs. BTW, "Merry Christmas!"