Merry Christmas to you!

Does that annoy you? It does? Well, let me say this as nicely as I may: if hearing someone wish you a Merry Christmas makes you annoyed, there is something wrong with you. You’ve got issues, my friend. You see, when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, they are wishing you happiness and joy, and if you take offense because someone wished for your happiness with this expression of good will, what does that say about you?

The latest poll shows that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas. That means only about 4% of U.S. citizens might potentially be offended by Christmas, but this whiney minority has been working for years now to pull every instance of Christmas celebration from public life. Nativity scenes can’t be on public property because someone might be offended. You can’t sing some religious Christmas carols because someone might be offended. Government and business workers are told not to say “Merry Christmas” because someone might be offended. And a 7th grader in a Santa suit was turned away from the Christmas dance because (all together now, folks) someone might be offended.

I am a Christian, and I love the Christmas season. It is a time for remembering and commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Hanukkah often lands very near to Christmas, but while I am not Jewish and I don’t celebrate Hanukkah, I would not be offended in the least if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah. I would smile and thank them graciously.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Podkayne of Mars, the title character learns that saying “thank you” to the people around her means they treat her much better than her brother, who never thanks others. “A small tip is much more savoir-fairish — and gets better, more willing service — when accompanied with ‘thank you’ than a big tip while saying nothing,” she discovers. Because of the polyglot nature of the area she is visiting, she spends time and effort to learn how to say “thank you” phonetically in many different languages:

If you say “tok” instead of “key toss” to a Finn, he will understand it. If you mistake a Japanese for a Cantonese and say “m’goy” instead of “arigato” — well, that is the one word of Cantonese he knows…. However, if you do guess right and pick their home language, they roll out the red carpet and genuflect, all smiles.

Does it really matter what language you use to thank someone? Some people think so. While traveling from Germany to Denmark, we stopped at the border to have our passports stamped. For the last two years, I had spoken either English or German, so after getting my passport I thanked the border guard by saying, “Danke.” His reply was a surly, “I’m not German!”

Was I trying to insult him? Not at all. Was he insulted? Yes. And it was his issue, not mine. I frankly wouldn’t care what language someone thanked me in. I would gladly accept the thoughtful meaning behind the phrase, but I’m not part of the perpetually annoyed class.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin is another of the non-annoyed people. As a Jew, he doesn’t celebrate Christmas in the least, but he certainly does enjoy the holiday time and the way people behave differently during this season — nicer, kinder, more giving. He is pleased when people wish him a Merry Christmas, and he happily wishes them a Merry Christmas back. Though it isn’t his holiday, he recognizes and appreciates the sentiment.

Today is Christmas. If you don’t celebrate this holiday at all and you are one of the perpetually annoyed and whiney minority, have the common decency to let others enjoy this holiday. At the very least, you should appreciate the day off from work.

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