My least favourite Christmas carol used to be ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ but now, it’s ‘You can’t say “Merry Christmas” anymore.’

There’s no melody to this song, as far as I know, but its refrain is repeated so often in the month of December each year that it’s becoming an anthem of sorts. And I, for one, am quite tired of it.

After dealing with 400 other customers that day, a bank teller or cashier manages to convincingly smile and say ‘Happy Holidays,’ and we’re offended that they didn’t say ‘Merry Christmas?’

I bet that this kind of behaviour makes Jesus feel like roasting our chestnuts.

Talk about seeing the ol’ Eggnog Mug as half-empty. Repaying seasonal well-wishes – whether they’re specific or generic – with frowns and grumbles is both Grinchy and Scroogey, in my opinion.

I’m not saying I’m never guilty of the sentiment, mind you. Religiously speaking, Hanukkah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday that enjoys its current prominence mostly due to its 20th-Century role as an alternative to Christmas. And Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 – also to serve as an alternative to Christmas for African Americans. The majority of people in our society still celebrate Christmas in one way or another – and it’s of enormous significance to North America’s largest religious group – so it really ought to be in a class by itself, as far as December holidays go.

But with that said, we Christians aren’t really showing our love when we whine about generic holiday greetings. We’re not helping the situation by replying to a cashier’s ‘Happy Holidays’ greeting by barking a curt, insincere, ‘Thanks. Merry Christmas!’ at them, either.

Now, I’ve heard that the tide may be turning on this anti-Christmas trend. More shopping malls and radio stations are playing Christian carols, and allowing/instructing their staff to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ according to some reports.

That’s probably a good thing. Christmas is the one time of the year where Christian music and themes can be on public display, and God sometimes uses these Nativity Scenes and Christmas Stars to help people take their first steps toward Him.

But from another angle, I’m OK with the idea of separating the tinsel and shopping from the Manger and Myrrh. If we ‘can’t’ say Merry Christmas while we’re in the midst of buying mechanical snowmen and Darth Vader tree ornaments, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

The word Christmas is often abbreviated to Xmas – a term that has in recent decades been associated with the commercial side of the holiday. But according to Wikipedia, this word has an undeserved bad rap. Xmas apparently owes its origin to a need for brevity in an age where one conveyed the written word painstakingly with quill and 18th-century printing techology rather than a ball-point pen or computer keyboard – not to cynical Black Fridayish consumerism.

Perhaps a better term for Santa’s side of the season – the ring-ting-tingling and cha-ching-ching-gingling of cash registers, rather than church bells, would be Exce$$mas.

I’m not sure how going deeper into debt just to buy Uncle Louie a singing lobster helps us to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of God in the Flesh – particularly when people in the developing world don’t even know when their next bowl of gruel will come.

On that subject, a recently heightened awareness of this ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ sensibility has me feeling decidedly uncomfortable with the whole notion of Santa Claus. With one side of our mouths, we tell our children that the Jolly Man in Red will deliver hundreds of dollars’ worth of gifts to each of the well-behaved boys and girls in the world. With the other, we have them pack up shoeboxes full of meagre pencils, harmonicas and underwear for their peers in developing countries. Hmm, instead of turkey this year, let’s serve our children mixed messages with a side of whitewash.

When I told my kids that their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes might be the only gifts the recipients ever receive in their lives, I immediately felt quite dirty about my previous efforts to perpetuate the Great Red and White Lie of Santa Claus.

I’m all for keeping Christ in Christmas, but maybe we should keep Him out of Exce$$mas. Therefore, maybe ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Season’s Greetings’ have their place.

Merry Christmas!

Peace be with you.


About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
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2 Responses to Exce$$mas

  1. Pingback: (Red and) Green Blogging | Disciplehood

  2. Pingback: Note to Self: Be Merry, Stupid! | Disciplehood

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