Tuesday, December 13

The Semantics of the Season

Alternate Titles for this post include:
I Hope You Aren't Offended by My Good Wishes
Catholic Carrie and Christmas
Why I Distrust Youth Groups
Why You Should Feel Free to Wish Me a Happy Christmakwanzakah.

I'm writing out our Christmas cards right now, and -- like many other areas of my life -- I'm pretty old-school about it.

I send a traditional card -- one with an illustrated Santa or a snowman, one that opens up, one that includes a line of good wishes and our signatures. My cards say "Merry Christmas," and my stamps actually have a Madonna and Child painting with "Christmas" above them.

And as I write them and stamp them, I wonder why I go about my cards this way.

It's certainly not because I think it's the "right" way or the "better" way. I guess it's just the way that feels most natural to me. I would feel weirdly fake if I did it differently.

I love old-fashioned things, the older the better. When I'm addressing an envelope to a married couple, I like writing Mr. and Mrs. John Doe" (unless I know the Mrs. wouldn't like it) because it feels so very Anne of Green Gables. I like the Madonna and Child stamp because the image is a Raphael masterpiece. I like saying "Merry Christmas" because it's what I grew up saying (though Happy Christmas has its charms too -- very Harry Potter-esque).

However, am I one of those "put Christ in Christmas" people who gets all huffy if a cashier wishes me Happy Holidays? NO. I love jolly cashiers, and if some other customer gets huffy with them over that, I want to punch them in the face (how's that for holiday spirit?) Also, I loathe Bill O'Reilly and the face he has put on those who continue with Christmas phraseology.

I think the whole war on Christmas idea is ridiculous, but I also think we sometimes go too far to be politically correct. Happy Holidays is a lovely, wonderful wish. But we shouldn't feel like we need to say it because saying something else will enrage others ('tis the season!) If a Jewish friend sent me a Happy Hanukkah card, I would love it! Kwanzaa card? BOOM -- up on my mantle. Holiday cards -- perfect! Whatever you fancy. They are wishing me well in a very personal way, and I consider that a blessing.

All of these phrases mean "hey, I care about you and am thinking about you, and hope you feel very happy during these next few weeks and throughout the coming year." Maybe there are different belief systems behind the phrases, but the sentiment is the same.

As a cradle Catholic, I certainly have my own beliefs and feelings about what I believe to be a very holy season, but I find a lot of that holiness in the joy and love that is spread everywhere this time of year without prejudice.

I will never forget going to my one and only church retreat in high school (a requirement for confirmation). It was a positive experience for the most part, but I was totally disgusted and turned off by a "youth minister" saying something along the lines of "Have you ever noticed that Santa and Satan have all the same letters?" in his poorly thought-out attempt to make a point about the true meaning of Christmas.

Excuse me, sir. (This is a post for another day, but statements like that are one of the many reasons that I am extremely suspicious of youth groups and that sort of thing -- many impressionable kids, and in my opinion, many ridiculous adults).

I don't want to come across as the Santa/Satan scrooge by sending out Christmas cards and referring to this stretch of the year as Christmastime. Yinz, I love Santa. I love dreidels. I'm sure I would love whatever is associated with Kwanzaa.

So this is all an attempt to make it clear that, when I talk about Christmas on this blog or send out my Christmas cards, it isn't in an attempt to make those of other religious persuasions feel excluded. For the most part, I'm talking about Christmas in a Frosty-the-Snowman sense, rather than a baby-in-the-manger sense anyway. Although the baby-in-a-manger story is a part of my season, it may not be a part of yours. The overarching message is one of love, and I hope that drenches everyone's Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Holiday season.

How do you say "happy holidays?" Have I lost readers by writing about something a little sticky?

You should come back! Satan Santa says so.


  1. My favorite bloggers are all writing about the same thing this week!

  2. I'm so with you on this... as in on the same wavelength entirely. (see Abby's link above!) As long as it's "good tidings" I don't care what people say. (I have been wished a "Happy Solstice in the past)

  3. Haha, wow -- So crazy that we posted the same thing! A lot of the pushy "Christ in Christmas" people REALLY rub me the wrong way, and I felt like they were taking over the phrase "Merry Christmas." You are so right -- it's the thought that counts :)

  4. "They are wishing me well in a very personal way, and I consider that a blessing." I completely agree with this! My cards say Merry Christmas because it's from ME and that's what I'm wishing. I have several friends and family members of various religious beliefs and we've had this conversation a lot. I haven't heard from any one of them that they get offended when they get a Christmas card. When it's the first day of Chanukah I make a point to wish them Happy Chanukah- the same with the Winter Solstice. But when I am addressing my cards and mailing them out it's Christmas for me.

    I understand people in pushy camp really want to put 'Christ back in Christmas' from their perspective but I think first they should start with how they can better put Christ back into their 364 other days with Love, Respect, and Tolerance.

  5. I wish I could "like" your comment, Sara -- so well said!

  6. Perhaps the ones keeping Christ in Christmas are the Eastern Orthodox ... always the troublemaker since the great schism... who celebrate the birth of Christ on January 7. Either they are bypassing all the commercialism, or they are smart and get to take advantage of all the sales ... you choose