I cannot believe how many people ask me about this, so I’ll just state it here and hopefully be done with it:
1. I most often call it Christmas, as opposed to the yuletide, the holidays, the season etc. The reason for this is that I was raised that way and invokes the traditions I have generally been part of and the culture to which I am a member. I don’t care what word or words you care to use. They are all fine by me.
2. No, I do not believe that using the word “Christmas” implies religion. That is simply the name that is most recently associated with the midwinter festival, which has been called many things and symbolized many beliefs. The fact that some modern traditions are based on Christianity means nothing. Many others are based on paganism. It’s an amalgam of different beliefs. You can have a religiously-inspired festival and continue to celebrate it despite dropping the original religious basis.
This happened with Halloween. We still go out and give candy and have parties, yet very few really stop and consider it to be “The Feast of All Hallows’ Eve.” Hence, you can keep the name. You can keep the customs and you can expand on the and invent new ones. You don’t have to actually make it a religious thing.
3. I will take any excuse to be festive and do things like give gifts, take off time, spend time with the family etc. It’s not like we have enough of those to begin with.
4. I’m opposed to the notion that Christmas, being religious in origin, should be dropped as a national holiday and I think the atheist groups that are for that are idiots. You have to pick your battles. If you are going to fight tooth and nail to take away everyone’s day off of work, you will gain no allies. Lets face it, even religious Jews who in no way recognize Christmas like the fact that they generally get a day off work, and hence have established the Jewish tradition of “Chinese food day.” So please, you are fighting to get rid of Christmas as an official holiday, find yourself something else to fight for.
5. You can say Happy Holidays and I appreciate it and am not offended. You can say Happy Yuletide, Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Haunaka. I appreciate the sentiment for all of them. Personally, I tend to use “Happy Holidays” in general public discussion. I tend to use “Merry Christmas” on the actual 25th of December and also in conversation with those I know to celebrate Christmas, but really, it’s all interchangeable and I don’t make a big deal out of it.
6. Christmas does not end on the 25th and it is valid to say that “Merry Christmas” tomorrow and the day after. Christmas day is the start of the twelve day Christmas celebration which ends with the Feast of the Epiphany. Hence, it may not be Christmas Day tomorrow, but it’s still the Feast of Stephen and therefore, still Christmas. Religious in origin? Sure, but again, it’s an excuse to celebrate even if you secularize it. It’s a “FEAST!” Why on earth would you say no to a feast? There can be no rational justification for turning down a reason to feast.
In many countries it is known as “Boxing Day,” which again, is a great excuse to celebrate. The name, by the way, is of unknown origin, but may comes from the tradition of gift giving to workers, who would have been off on Christmas. Regardless of the origin, it is almost certainly not related to punching people in the face, so please, do not celebrate Boxing Day by punching someone in the face. (Well, unless they are really asking for it.)
7. No, I don’t have a problem with commercialism. If Christmas, as secularized, is associated with things like buying and putting up holiday lights and decorations, then fine. I like flashy colorful things. Who doesn’t? If it is associated with shopping, then fine. It’s good to give things to other people and consumerism is not inherently bad.
As long as it is not mean-spirited or dominated by stress, then I’m all for it.
8. If you consider the stresses of implied expectations to be a bigger deal than the festive and happy aspects of the holiday, you are doing it wrong. Take a deep breath and reevaluate it. You are not *required* to get anything for anyone or to even observe it. It’s supposed to be enjoyable.
9. Holiday lights use up almost no electricity compared to major appliances. Even the old incandescent ones are very low power devices and the increase in electricity as the result of holiday displays is hardly noticeable to utilities. It’s nothing compared to the surge in the summer from air conditioning. If I hear one more person suggest we should all turn off our festive displays because it’s killing the earth, I just might feel the need to celebrate boxing day as the name might imply.
10. Merry Christmas to everyone reading this.