It isn’t that big of a deal, but it still is somewhat of a deal when Christians in the month of December, who mean well, greet everyone they meet with a “Merry Christmas.” Look, no one is going to die because they are greeted by an inconsiderate jerk, but when you are trying to greet someone, you probably should be mindful of how your greeting will be received.
Most retail stores have instructed their employees to greet potential customers with a more generalized greeting like, “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” because they don’t want to alienate any potential customers. If you are a Christian and you want to genuinely greet someone and you don’t know or don’t have a reasonable expectation that they are either Christian or celebrate Christmas, then you might not want to alienate the person you are trying to greet with a greeting like, “Merry Christmas.”
If you are trying to greet someone, you should probably be considerate and try to greet them in a fashion that might be well received. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but apparently it isn’t. I actually had to argue this with people late last night. Apparently, it is more important for people to bullishly say “Merry Christmas” than it is for them to be considerate in greeting others.
One person even said that she would greet everyone with a “Merry Christmas” regardless of their religion… even orthodox Jews. Now, while I think it is inconsiderate, presumptuous, and even rude to greet someone who you have no reasonable expectation to be a Christian or who celebrates Christmas with a “Merry Christmas,” I think it is downright dickish to greet someone who you know isn’t a Christians and who you know doesn’t celebrate Christmas with such a greeting. Instead of a warm greeting, that seems more like a slap in the face and then these people are surprised that everyone thinks they are assholes.
While many non-Christians find such a greeting to be rude, few will actually say anything about it. The greeter walks away believing that he or she has warmly greeted the person or people they intended to greet. But just because the people being greeted didn’t call attention to the inappropriate greeting doesn’t excuse the fact that the greeting is inappropriate. They might have been embarrassed or afraid to correct the greeter. Maybe they just didn’t want to get into an argument about it. It is pretty trivial compared to other problems in the world. But it still probably bothers them slightly. Not enough to lose sleep over, but it probably will stick in their mind that the greeter is an inconsiderate person and it might reinforce the feeling of alienation from society due to Christian privilege.
As it is with all things, it is the thought that counts and if someone gives no thought that the greeting they are offering may not be appropriate, then the greeting doesn’t really count. The greeting at best falls hollow and in the worst situation comes off as rude or dickish. No one is going to die over it, but if the intention is to extend a warm greeting, being considerate is kind of important.
Context of course is everything and another problem with the “Merry Christmas” greeting is that it is viewed within the context of Christian privilege and the so called, “War of Christmas.” Apparently, some fundamentalist Christians believe that everyone should be Christian and they get insulted when someone points out that not everyone is Christian. So they wage this war every year trying to force retailers into saying, “Merry Christmas” to everyone even if the person being greeted isn’t a Christian.
In this context, being mindful of the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas just seems like the polite and considerate thing to do. When someone greets me with a “Merry Christmas,” I generally thank them for the greeting, but politely point out that I don’t celebrate Christmas and that they might want to think before they greet. Be considerate of the fact that not everyone is a Christian and that not everyone celebrates Christmas. It also might not be such a good idea to wish a Native American a Happy Thanksgiving. I’m just say’n.