The War on Christmas, Vol. 11, Issue 19

For some time Etiquetteer has had a presence on Facebook, which is the source of today's query: Dear Etiquetteer:

What does Etiquetteer think of the people who are griping about being told "Happy Holidays" instead of Merry Christmas? I think people should just take the salutation at face value, and not get ornery about how it's given!

Dear Greeted:

Etiquetteer, with increasing dismay, has seen something that is really quite trivial become a flashpoint for annoyance. Really, some people take offense at any other holiday greeting but the one that they celebrate themselves. And yet in a democratic society which enjoys Freedom of Religion, it's inevitable that one will encounter at least 12 people who Choose Another Holiday Than One's Own.

You may not be responsible for the behavior of other people, but you are certainly responsible for your own. There's nothing to stop you from replying "And a Merry Christmas to you!" What Etiquetteer finds tedious is lengthening what is supposed to be a brief greeting -- "Merry Christmas!" "And a happy holiday to you, too!" --  into a drawn-out discussion about what holidays one does or does not celebrate and why. It doesn't matter! Can't you all just wish each other well without getting lost in a Quagmire of Specificity?

Actually, for social and professional acquaintances, Etiquetteer does understand. Knowing what holidays a person celebrates helps others to understand that person. Responding to "Happy Holidays!" with "Thank you, I'm looking forward to a beautiful Christmas this year" establishes oneself as a Christmas celebrant* without offering offense. Nor should offense be taken. Further discussion, however, easily becomes unctuous and should be avoided.

Those who truly wish, as the saying goes, "to keep the Christ in Christmas," do so best by receiving greetings other than "Merry Christmas," with Christlike forbearance, in the spirit in which they were intended.

Another issue which Etiquetteer has watched with increasing dismay is the bitter battle between those advocating for and against the display of nativity scenes on public property throughout the United States. This honest disagreement has led many Christians to behave in ways other than what is espoused in Christian doctrine. What is the best way to display Christian values or virtues? Is it insisting on Christian precedence in a nation that enjoys Freedom of Religion? Is it by emphasizing the display aspects of an important holiday over its intended message? Opinions vary widely.

Etiquetteer has come to believe that the best way to display a nativity scene in public is in one's behavior. This is done by treating all one encounters, regardless of sameness to or difference from oneself, with kindness and forgiveness. It also means obeying established rules of behavior, both written and unwritten. For instance, the able-bodied should not be parking in places reserved for the handicapped, bargain hunters should not be switching price tags, and no one should be cutting in line.

Now, let's get on with everyone celebrating the Holidays of Their Choice!

*So many non-Christians celebrate Christmas, Etiquetteer can't really assume that saying you celebrate Christmas establishes you as a Christian.