You’ve mistaken “head exploding” for “laughing at your expense”

I despise internet hyperbole, no matter who does it. It’s one of the things I like least about the left-leaning news site Raw Story — they periodically erupt with click-baity inane headlines on the order of “Internet Decides Donald Trump is a Moron”. No, the internet decides nothing, and all you’ve got is a collection of tweets from people who don’t like Republicans. Of course, the right wing does it too, perhaps even more, and here’s an example: Trump Makes “Merry Christmas” Great Again; Leftist Heads Explode. How are your heads feeling today, fellow lefties?

We may not all have stopped saying it, but we did feel the weight of it outside of conservative regions like the South. We understood that “Happy Holidays” was preferred and that we risked offending and insulting others—or losing our jobs, i.e. mine in academia—by uttering the words “Merry Christmas.”

I felt it when I lived in Massachusetts, as I’ve attested in a post about my experience with this socio-cultural and economic pressure. No one said, “if you say ‘Merry Christmas,’ you’re out of here.” They didn’t have to. The left uses the fact that conservatives and others on the right don’t want to offend or upset others. They know we don’t like to make a fuss and that we are likely to turn the other cheek or remain silent when we are attacked or in the face of controversy . . . particularly when our jobs are on the line.

Unbelievable. The whole point of that post is the claim that Donald Trump successfully annoyed the Left and was pushing leftist buttons — that he was trolling and doing this specifically to rile up others.

You know, that’s kind of the opposite of not wanting to offend or upset others. This twit is openly chortling about offending and upsetting leftists! That was the whole point of Trump’s tweet!

In case you’re wondering about the referenced post about their experience, it’s more of the same — imagined offenses against kind, gentle, well-meaning conservatives.

In Massachusetts, I worked in Boston but lived in a smallish, mostly blue collar town. In Boston, it was “Happy Holidays” . . . if one dared recognize that there even was a December holiday (or reason to be happy). Out in my town, it was the general sense that “Merry Christmas” was preferred, but I had to say it first, and the person to whom I said it would look around nervously, blush, and then finally, with a sense of strong defiance or of quiet camaraderie, say “Merry Christmas” back.

Look, this is just plain stupid, and the reverse of the facts. If you are working in academia or living in a large city, you know that some of the people you meet are going to be Jewish, or Muslim, or atheist, and wishing them a merry Christmas is rude and insensitive (although I’ve also noticed that those people are usually willing to take the greeting in the spirit it is given, and not sweat the implications). We’re actually aware of the context and the environment, and being able to wish someone well in a non-sectarian way is a good thing. The only people nervous about saying “Merry Christmas” are conservatives who are vaguely aware that they’re being exclusive.

The reason people were laughing at Trump is not that they were angry, but that 1) it’s another Trumpian lie, and 2) it was clearly aimed at the kind of narrow, hypocritical, conservative white Christian dumbass who wrote that post. If you want to know how we really feel, ask the Rude Pundit.

One of the fun parts of being a total atheist is that you don’t give a damn what religion someone believes. Seriously, someone can tell me they think that God is a toilet and shitting is the way to give thanks to Him for His blessings of indoor plumbing. It doesn’t fucking matter. In fact, unless you are making laws according to your religion and imposing them on me or you’re harming others based on your faith, why should I care? You’re just a harmless person who believes that fairy tales are real and, c’mon, who gives a fuck? You think Cinderella really went to a ball so you wear glass slippers around your neck? Groovy, man. Enjoy.

So when President Donald Trump made a big fuckin’ deal about being “allowed” to say, “Merry Christmas” again, I wondered who the fuck was stopping him. I mean, you wanna say, “Merry Christmas” or “Hail Satan” or “I fuck unicorns,” I’m not gonna care (ok, I’ll be a little judgmental about the unicorn fucking – or at least curious as to what that fucking is like). Who said you couldn’t say, “Merry Christmas”? Everyone I’ve known ever has always said, “Merry Christmas.” I say, “Merry Christmas” and I think that Jesus is a fictional character in an overlong, poorly-plotted book.


  1. antigone10 says

    I have never in my life seen any evidence that conservatives care about not offending and upsetting anyone they deem lower to them in a hierarchy. And this includes in interpersonal relationships.

    But this just shows that “Merry Christmas” is much like “I’m praying for you”. They mean it as “fuck you, non-Christian” not as a comment of good cheer. People can tell, thanks.

    “Happy Holidays” is a good thing to say to people whom you don’t know what they celebrate. “Merry Christmas” is just fine for people you know celebrate or won’t be upset by it. The fact that they feel better knowing they can be culturally dominant is telling.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I live in Massachusetts and there is never any objection to “happy holidays” nor embarrassment at “merry Christmas”.
    Conservatives are never known as complacent and unwilling to offend. It is liberals who invented “holidays” as a generic to prevent offense at presuming Christmas as the default.
    As PZ points out, this is wrong totally opposite of actual. As though “4(“ himself was spewing his faults as the faults of the left.

  3. says

    My paternal grandfather, born in 1900, used to tell Christian proselytizers, “The bible is a collection of fairy-tales for the feeble-minded”. I was born mid-century and am a more sensitive snowflake, I usually just say, “Sorry, I’m not superstitious”.

  4. says

    and that “Sorry, I’m not superstitious” comment is not in response to “Merry Christmas”, I say it myself, it’s in response to “Come to my church to celebrate the reason for the season”

  5. taikonotaiko says

    The whole ‘ban on Christmas’ thing is somewhat alien to me. But that might be because I’m British and we don’t walk down the street wishing every person we see a Merry Christmas like we’re all starring in our own personal version of It’s A Wonderful Life. :D (I’m figuring the conservative types wished they lived in some kind of Hallmark Christmas movie village, complete with giant nutcrackers, and where every problem can be solved with a hefty dose of cookies. I dunno, just rambling here now.)

    To be fair, I’m a weirdo and love Christmas despite being atheist. Then again I’ve never had to go to church or anything, so it’s never really been about religion, as least as far as I can remember.

    I’ll echo the first comment though, and agree that in general it’s just good manners to not offend people you don’t know well enough to know their religious beliefs.

  6. says

    After this kind of stuff was brought up at a recent family get-together (I’m not entirely sure if we were actually celebrating Christmas, though for the first time in my life there was a decorated tree present) I looked and found this page on Snopes about Obama.

    Before the visit, I wondered if this controversy was the reason we were scheduled to visit my grandparents on the 24th (rather than some random other day). As in: I suspected maybe they were celebrating Christmas this year, because of the date (and because in the past I thought they were sorta getting into it too). After thinking this, I wondered if maybe the reason they were celebrating Christmas was because it was a big deal now. But I’m not sure, it might just be a coincidence. My grandparents have a complicated relationship to Christmas. Grandma has long been fond of it I think, so that’s an explanation for where the Christmas time and decorations came from. But I don’t think she was really into the controversy, unlike Grandpa (who I’m not sure actually wants to celebrate Christmas at all).

  7. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I grew up in a middle-class suburb of Boston in a family that was nominally Protestant, which felt kind of weird because most of my classmates were either Jewish or Catholic. You knew who the Jewish kids were because they missed school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and you knew it was silly to wish them a merry Christmas (and you were jealous because they got eight nights of presents). Otherwise, not an issue.

    Boston is even more Catholic and in many ways very conservative, so it’s really not a problem there.

  8. vucodlak says

    Of all the things Trump does, his stupid “I saved Christmas” routine is pretty far down the list of things that would keep me up at night. I mean, it’s more evidence that he’s a liar, a jackass, and a fool, but that case was settled before he was even elected.

    It does get a little irritating, here in the land of Limbaugh, because I’m surrounded by people aggressively saying “Merry Christmas” in a way that makes it clear they’re looking for a fight. I know this because they’re saying it in the exact same way that the bullies of my childhood would say something like “I fucked your mother last night.” Which, for the record, didn’t work when I was kid either- I’d just roll my eyes and say “oh, grow up.”

    I think I’ll start doing that again. I actually rather like Christmas, but if assholes are going to insist on spoiling it, I can spoil their fun, too. Few things deflate smug superiority faster than a contemptuous dismissal.

  9. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Internet hyperbole is the single most destructive force in the universe.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @What a Maroon:

    Why thank you. It’s nice to be appreciated.

  11. says

    PZ: “some of the people you meet are going to be Jewish, or Muslim, or atheist, and wishing them a merry Christmas is rude and insensitive”

    Is it? I’m an atheist, and I don’t get offended by that. And while I have never been wished a Happy Hanukkah or Ramadan I don’t think it would offend me either. Actually I think I would appreciate it, even though I detest religions in all it’s forms.

  12. DonDueed says

    My head is not exploding, but I have had a low-grade headache most of the day. I blame Trump.

  13. anbheal says

    @14 Erlend Meyer — I agree. I don’t get offended, and particularly not when it’s between, say, the 23rd and 26th of December. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood south of Boston, and I went to a very liberal college across the river, and nobody ever got mad at hearing Merry Christmas. Yeah, we had a good idea which kids were Jewish, and wished them a Happy Chanukah. And sometimes we said Happy Holidays. And sometimes the cards said Seasons Greetings.

    I think the only time people in Massachusetts get offended is when some asshole says “Merry CHRIST-mas….if it’s okay to say that in the People’s Republic of Cambridge!” He’s saying as an insult, not as a cheerful parting felicitation as he leaves the store counter and heads out into the snow. And a lot of communities decided about 50 years ago that Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings were probably more appropriate for the banner outside City Hall or the local high school. Between individuals, it is utter bullshit that people around Boston judge you as “rude or insensitive” for wishing them a Merry Christmas.

    And most of the Jewish families in our neighborhood put up Christmas trees and lights. They just drew the line at wreaths (that whole marking our front door as Christian thing).

  14. kimmer says

    I’m eclectic pagan, and my family is Jewish – even though I’m not Jewish but my husband is, we are members of a Reform synagogue and raised our children as such – I generally respond to being told “Merry Christmas” with the same. It depends on the situation though. One year I was in a store, and the cashier asked if I was ready for the holidays. I politely informed her that my holiday had already occurred, since Hanukkah had ended a week or so earlier, and she was a bit embarrassed and said she hoped we had a happy Hanukkah. I still haven’t had the nerve to respond to “Merry Christmas” with “Glad Yule” or “Blessed Solstice”.

    Growing up all I saw on store decorations and city decorations was “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”. My mom sent cards with “Merry Xmas” on them. Back then I was a church-going MSLutheran and saw no offense in any of that, even when I was old enough to care about such.

    Do these zealots really want to see “Merry Christmas” become just another greeting, without any religious meaning whatsoever?

  15. Artor says

    Merry Christmas, wingnuts. But you can die in a fire for New Years.

    Funny, autocorrect tried to write “wingnuts,” as “wrongness. ” it might be smarter than I gave it credit for.

  16. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Interesting how I could buy sets of cards without “merry Christmas” in any form on them from Walmart and Target. Evidently “Happy Holidays” is good enough for greedy companies….

  17. says

    @ anbheal #16: Intent matters. If you want to offend someone you can say pretty much anything and still get the point across.
    I was raised non-theistic, but we still celebrated Christmas. The Christians may have appropriated the Yule-celebration, but that doesn’t give them monopoly on it.

  18. says

    It is because of Trump politicizing Christmas that the phrase will no longer pass my lips in public.

    Same sort of thing for why I no longer honor the anthem and flag.

  19. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I’m figuring the conservative types wished they lived in some kind of Hallmark Christmas movie village, complete with giant nutcrackers, and where every problem can be solved with a hefty dose of cookies. I dunno, just rambling here now.

    They wish they lived in an episode of Leave It to Beaver. Including the casting.

  20. says

    Some people have a need to control, but what they try to assert control most often ends up with them losing what control they had. As for me, I hope everybody had a Sunny Saturnalia.

  21. laurian says

    PZ omitted The Rude Pundit’s punchline:

    Real, confident atheists don’t think it’s offensive to say, “Merry Christmas.” We think it’s adorable.

  22. TheGyre says

    I got a few “Merry Christmases” this season. Some of them sounded like a dare. A chip on the shoulder thing. My usual response was a “same to you.” I try to say with it an “up-yours” tone of voice. Strangely, the most aggressive Merry Christmas I got was from a Salvation Army bell ringer in front of the ABC store. I was walking toward the front door and suddenly heard this piercing, feral shriek of “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” I turned and saw a middle-aged white women with an elf cap manically ringing her bell with a twisted, deformed grimace staring hard at me. I gave her a tight smile and escaped indoors.

  23. photoreceptor says

    I lived in NYC a long time ago, when I was a postdoc. I was unaware of this “problem” when the festive season came around, so I wished Merry Christmas to the other lab members. One of the jewish postdoc’s corrected me in a very matter-of-factual way to say I shouldn’t use that term for him, not offended at all (and it didn’t cost me my job in academia). I took to saying happy holidays as it was a mixed bunch, religious and atheist. It would be a bit tricky to have to tailor your greeting for each person… But incidentally I don’t know at all what one should wish a muslim at this time of year (other than HH), since Ramaddan is earlier on.

  24. jack16 says

    #1 antigone10
    Do you ever have any reason to wish that someone should NOT have a merry Xmas? It seems to me that anything else casts misfortune.


  25. Curious Digressions says

    I wasn’t previously offended by “Merry Christmas”, but now that Trump has made it about him, I’m suspicious of the ethics of anyone who still chooses to say it.