This is something I’ve never understood. Maybe Jewish people (since the few Muslim people I know are not offended by the phrase) can explain to me what’s offensive about “Merry Christmas.”
Yes, I realize Christmas is ostensibly a Christian holiday celebrating the Messiah that the Jews believe is still to come. Yes, I realize that the holiday season brings about mangers and many Christian-oriented carols.
Nevertheless, the holiday is essentially a secular one that is celebrated by many atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians. It has come to be a holiday season about shopping, gift-giving, family, well-wishing, and eating. It should be common knowledge that the meaning of words change over time and a lot of the Christ has gone out of Christmas, which is fine by me.
I’m very much against the conservative Christian crusade to “reclaim Christmas.” I’m fine with Christmas being a primarily secular holiday—all the more reason for people not to be offended by it. If you’re not Christian, buy gifts, put up a Christmas tree and decorate it, have a festive meal with your loved ones, sing non-religiously themed Christmas carols. If you are a Christian, sing the Christian-themed carols and put up your little manger scenes, but don’t force those things on other people.
Frankly, as a Christian, I don’t see the birth of Christ as being relatively theologically significant. If you are a Christian, Good Friday should be far more important to you, with Easter coming a close second. Of course, this problem of oversignifying the birth of Jesus is just one instance of the general phenomenon of people making too big a deal of birthdays in general. Wouldn’t the day Malcolm X first encountered Allah in prison be more important in his life than the day his mother happened to give birth to him? Wouldn’t the day Susan Brownmiller wrote Against Our Will be more important in her life than the day her mother happened to give birth to her?
If Jesus is important in your life, why alienate your Jewish friends? You can celebrate Good Friday—the day Jesus died for your sins; not the day Jesus was all dirty and smelly and crying in a manger (never mind the fact that he wasn’t actually born on December 25). Let’s not reclaim Christmas for Christians. Let Christmas be a secular holiday of good cheer for everyone. Merry Christmas, everybody. Yes, I mean “Merry Christmas, everybody.”