Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?

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Christmas begins in a couple of days… so how will we greet people at that time?

In a recent article, Fr. James Schall writes about the lack of Christ in the Christmas Season.  This has been quite the topic as our communities become more pluralistic. I was on the local TV show, Goldhawk Live last year to talk about this subject. I shared that although I certainly believe in Christmas and that most Canadians celebrate Christmas, it still feels weird to wish people a “Merry Christmas” if I don’t know them. What if they don’t celebrate Christmas. Would it be a little weird? If someone wished me a Happy Hannukah would I be offended. Certainly not. But it still would be weird.  It’s good to celebrate all the feasts of the varous cultures… although sometimes in an effort to be inclusive we end up with holidays or feasts that are so obscure and minor that even practitioners of the religion don’t recognize it!

I know that in Quebec the use, in French, of Happy Holidays is quite common. This has its roots in the celebrations of the various feasts or holidays of the Christmas Season… the Nativity, Holy Family, New Years, Mary-Mother of God, Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord.  I love “Merry Christmas” but perhaps Happy Holidays is more appropriate a greeting for strangers. The other option is to say nothing… which feels rather like Mr. Scrooge!


  1. I find that many other religions like Hindus and Muslims are not anti Christmas at all; the people who raise the biggest stink seem to be atheists.
    My kids go to public school and they have a Christmas tree in the front hall but just recently mentioned Eid on the announcements so it is very inclusive. (of course in my own time I attend to the Catholic part of their education)
    I won’t force my religion on someone but I won’t hide it either.

  2. P.S. I do hope, Friar Rick, that you do have a blessed Advent season and a wonderful Christmas celebration at your parish.

    Merry Christmas – Joyeux Noel

  3. In December I wear my PC correct button that says

    “You may wish me a Merry Christmas!”

    Historians tell us that some sort of mid-winter festival pre-dates the Christian era in northern cultures, BUT for centuries in Europe, and then in North America, Christmas was undeniably a purely Christian holiday. How sad that westerners travel to foreign countries and embrace their culture only to come back home and and engage in cultural vandalism with our Manger scenes vanished from city halls, to be replaced by reindeer, icicle lights or weird nutcracker soldiers. No matter who you are or where you’re from, Jesus’ sacrifice, which saved humanity, is NOT “offensive.”

  4. Adrienne,

    You’re talking of manger scenes in city halls… allow me to mention what happened end of November 2008 at church in Nanterre, one of the Parisian suburbs … the Bishop of the area threatened to call in the police to evacuate homeless people who had taken refuge in the church …. for me that was a real life manger scene with a bishop who showed how the church uses cliché words inside the church and then threatens to use the police force outside. That was in 21st century on a very very cold day.

  5. Aren’t these people predominantly muslim (Iraqi Kurd, Afghan, Turkish) illegal immigrants squatting in the Church in an attempt to stay in France for economic reasons? Perhaps the Imams of the mosques of their respective countries can use some of the their personal wealth to house them.

    I don’t think the bishops have a choice-they must respect France’s laws.

  6. Adrienne,

    The doors of a Church should be open to everyone …. The Church in France in the past protecetd and hid a lot of persons who should have been handed to the police straightaway … but they didn’t …. you’re talking about two standards …I beg to disagree

  7. Micheal,

    Churches are meant for worship…not squatting. I agree that the doors of a church should always be open – lots of churches are locked when I want to visit the Blessed Sacrament – however, not for people who want to sleep there. I believe that the poor should always have a roof over their heads, and yes it’s the Church’s calling to minister to them. But don’t begrudge the Priest who wants to keep his church a sanctuary for prayer and not sleeping. The picture in the story actually looks like it’s the parish hall…not the church…but then again who can tell the difference with some modern churches out there.

    BTW…do not confuse the standard of providing sanctuary for protection, and letting people squat in your church.

  8. A Church is not a flop house or a homeless shelter, it is a place of worship. This Church/homeless story is just another drive-by hit piece of the secular media. I can guarantee that this news report didn’t ask the following obvious question:

    Why is it that Muslim homeless people don’t squat in one of the dozens of palatial Saudi-financed mosques in the suburbs of Paris? That would seem to be their first recourse, wouldn’t it? Especially since Muhammed decreed: “By no means shall you attain to righteousness until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love; and whatever thing you spend, Allah surely knows it.” (Koran 3:92).

  9. Elisabeth,

    And if you read the article you will see that the homeless cleaned the church every day.

    As for for providing sanctuary for protection …. why would an honest man or woman ever need sanctuary for protection from a church or monastery, I wonder? If you read post-war French history , for example, it’s obvious the Church “provided sanctuary for protection” to some people who had been extremely naughty with others …. need I say more …. I cannot …. as Friar Rick will censor me. 🙂

  10. Adrienne,

    Where are those “palatial mosques” you speak of in the suburbs of Paris. I’d love to visit them. Send me the addresses please – they’re not visible in the Guide Michelin 2009 !!

  11. Michael,

    I didn’t make a comment to the “suitability” of those who needed protection. And to where you were going…stop right there….we need not start that arguement.

    I remember a church in Halifax providing sanctuary for a woman who didn’t want to be deported. They housed her…but they set up her home in the basement in a very nice homey manner. She did help around the parish as well. But she wasn’t sleeping in the church. I don’t mind if a parish wants to do that…but not inside the church itself. In extreme cases a church may have have to be used, but not in this case.

    When the persecution begins…I plan to cry “Sanctuary” at the top of my lungs at my parish, but I’m not going to sleep in the church.

  12. Elizabeth,

    I’s exasperation … these people were promised homes during the presidential elections ….. I mean there is a decent limit politicians have to respect … these people are paying income tax and social security premiums …. so doing what they did was not for vitam aeternam but to attract for a few days the attention of the media and above all the politicians who haven’t kept their promise …

  13. Is it not a great opportunity for the Church to give “witness” to our faith to our non-Christian brothers/sisters? I have been thinking that the Church now is already entering into the Spirit of Vatican II.

    A concrete situation I know the Church in the midst of Muslim populace Southern Philippinnes. A filipino bishop and a Columban Missisonaries topple down the wall around the Church which had been there for along time before their coming to the area. The Muslim families around were shocked and asked each other a question “Does it mean we can now enter into their yard?”

    The wall is very symbolic that divides the Muslims and the Christians or the Church. Getting rid of the wall gives the Church a “welcoming” spirit. Since that time own slowly Christians and Muslims learned to trust one another and friendship begins. Thanks.

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