Saturday, December 16, 2017

Happy Holidays!!!

Schöne Festtage!
Seasons Greetings!
Frohes Fest! 
Happy Holidays!
Joyeuses Fêtes!
Genieß die Feiertage!

Those are all friendly greetings in German, English, and French to say to people in the weeks before and during the Christmas holidays. My personal favorite is "Schöne Festtage!"

But have you heard there's a so-called "war on Christmas"? That's what conservative radio and talk show hosts have been trying to get Americans to believe for about a decade, and our current chieftain has been championing that notion as well - before and throughout his campaign, and again this season.
Starbucks' scandalous 2017 holiday cup
photo credit: Dad

Their idea is that Christmas is under attack because "no one can say 'Merry Christmas' anymore" for fear of offending someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas. Starbucks had the audacity in 2015 to change their Christmas cups to holiday cups with a plain red background, and a shitstorm ensued. How dare they?!? The Obamas printed "Happy Holidays" on the annual cards they sent out, and didn't mention Christmas at all in their greeting! This put Bill O'Reilly in a tizzy every year.* "We need to bring back Christmas! The libs are trying to get rid of Christ!"

*I'm surely not the only person that finds it rather ironic that Bill O'Reilly got his knickers in a knot about people not saying "Merry Christmas". Champion of Christian values? Not so much, as it turns out...

That silliness makes me roll my eyes every year, in part because I have never met anyone personally who has acted offended by me saying "Merry Christmas." It's true I know a lot of Christians, but I also know some atheists/agnostics and have Muslim friends, none of whom seem offended by "Merry Christmas". In fact, my Muslim friends wish me a merry Christmas, when I say to them, "Enjoy the holidays"! Our Turkish butcher, who is Muslim, included "Wir wünschen allen unseren Kunden schöne und besinnliche Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr" in his weekly ad in our local newspaper. ("We wish all our customers a merry and peaceful Christmas and a good slide into the New Year.")

It seems to me the "war on Christmas" crowd are making a whole lot of fuss about nothing. I have never been told I cannot say whichever holiday greeting I wish to use. The only people who are saying "You can't say 'Merry Christmas' anymore" are those who are claiming there's a war on Christmas. They are also the only ones I've heard who seem offended by a heart-felt holiday greeting, when it is not the specific greeting they want to hear. Hm.

The thing is, I say "Schöne Feiertage" or "Enjoy the holidays" to people during the holiday season because that's what I want to say. I say "Merry Christmas" on Christmas. And the only people I'm with on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is are my family members. For the same reason I don't say "Happy Thanksgiving" in mid-November, I don't say "Merry Christmas" during Advent. 

I think Germans would find this notion of a "war on Christmas" ridiculous. It is perfectly normal in Germany to say "Schöne Festtage!", which translates to "[I wish you] happy holidays." They also say "Schöne Adventszeit!" to wish people a nice Advent. In the U.S. no one even hears about Advent unless one goes to church on a Sunday in the weeks before Christmas. In Germany we have Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, Advent markets, and we wish each other a Happy First, Second, Third, or Fourth Advent.

Happy Third Advent!
For those who want to talk about a war on Christmas, what about the fact that many stores in America are open on Christmas Day and all day on Christmas Eve? I won't mention Boxing Day, or der zweite Weihnachtstag, as it's called in German (Dec. 26) because that's never been an American thing as far as I know - but that's a holiday in Germany and all stores and businesses are closed. In Europe these are sacred days for family; in America they're an opportunity to make money - even to lure people in with holiday sales. If you've never been to an American store on Dec. 26, count yourself lucky. They have special lanes set up for people who want to return or exchange the gifts they received the day before (and they stay up until the rush to return unwanted gifts subsides, a few days to a week later). "After Christmas sales" are in full swing, and commercialism friendly customer service is the focus.

I read the other day that watching Fox News regularly increases by 5-10% the likelihood that a person will believe there's a "war on Christmas," but only about 31% of Americans have fallen for this. From the crowd noises at #45's televised rallies when he declares that he is bringing back Christmas, a good portion of them seem to be present and accounted for.

I'd like to say gently to anyone who might feel offended or annoyed by someone else saying, writing, or posting "Happy Holidays!": Perhaps that is simply the greeting the other person prefers. There's no need to get worked up about it. I'll use the greeting I prefer, you can use the greeting you prefer, and we can all go about our own holiday cheer.

I hope this last week before Christmas is enjoyable and peaceful for you, and not filled with too much stress. Some stress is natural near holidays, but hopefully joy and peace in your home will outweigh it. Would that peace throughout the world were possible as well - in all seasons. 

Frohe Festtage!


  1. You said it perfectly! I never understood the "War on Christmas" meme either. I wish the stores here would be closed on Christmas and the day after, but I guess capitalism in all its glory must reign supreme... Schöne Festtage!

    1. I'm glad I'm not alone here! Dir auch schöne Festtage!

  2. Ah, people in the UK are moaning about this as well... "it's Merry Christmas, not happy holidays!!". Oh go away! Nobody actually cares what you say! I've never known anyone of any religion be offended by someone saying "merry Christmas".

    1. Ugh - I didn't know that's hit the UK also! Some are apparently easily swayed - to believe that people get offended by a holiday greeting even though I'm willing to bet they've never experienced it personally. There's a movement in the current gov't to deregulate as much as possible, but they want to tell us which greeting we should use for the holidays?

  3. Agreed! I say "happy holidays" because my friends and people I encounter come from all sorts of faiths (or none at all) and they may be celebrating Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, etc. I told my Muslim friends "happy holidays" since they'll have time off between Christmas and New Year. They smiled and said "thank you, you too." I think that the only ones waging war are the ones with their undies in a bunch!