Merry Xmas!

As many of you may know, I’m not a Christian. That’s right, the whole Jesus thing kinda passed my by. It’s not that I have anything against your Lord, I just don’t give him much thought.

Except now. This is the time of year when people wish me a Merry Christmas, then back peddle, embarrassed, as if they had just told me to perform some anatomically unlikely act on myself.

So, I’m telling you all right now:

It’s OK to say “Merry Christmas” to this Jew. I realize that I’m a minority around here, and while there are certain things about being in a religiocultural minority that are problematic, having someone wish me a practically secular holiday greeting just doesn’t rate getting me annoyed.

Trust me when I tell you that people manage to find far more offensive things to say at any time of the year.

Now let’s remember that on this federal holiday (declared by President U.S. Grant along with New Year’s Day and Independence Day to give federal employees some days off), there are a whole lot of people still working. We may enjoy an easier drive to work (absent snow and ice), but we work just the same. In my little bit of life, it’s hospital employees who deserve special kudos. Most of them are, as my daughter would say, “Christmas people”, and have sacrificed important time to take care of sick people.

Many of us doctors aren’t Christian, but “other”: Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Druze, Ba’hai—really, you name it, we’ve got it. Sure, some of the doctors are Christian, but medicine is a world-wide fellowship whose identity often supercedes, or at least rests hierarchically near, religious identity. While I’d love to spend the day watching the snow fall with my daughter, there are people at the hospital who need me, who need the nurses, techs, cooks, environmental workers, all of our hospital family. As a non-Christian, I’m pleased to be able to give my time so that my colleagues can be home on what for them is a special day, and many of my non-Christian colleagues feel the same way.

Please, on this holiday, remember that many of us are taking calls, auscultating chests, lancing boils, and otherwise tending to those occurances that, like me, don’t recognize Christmas.

But don’t be afraid to wish me a Merry Christmas. I know you mean it in a nice way. And cookies—I like cookies.


  1. Trin Tragula

    Happy Monkey!

  2. I’ll settle for “Thank you” if you don’t mind. 🙂

  3. As a devout atheist, I have no problem being wished Merry Christmas, Chhhhhappppy Chhhhhahnnnukkkkah, or any other greetings of the season. I just finished my annual Christmas morning listening of Handel’s MESSIAH in its entirety (the Academy of Ancient Music, Hogwood recording for those of you who might care). And yet, I still feel firmly non-believing. Great music, nice story, good cast of characters. I’ve been known to watch BEN HUR (“We’re leopards!!!”) and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS without objection, and I think THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST is brilliant, though the book was better. It’s hard to be culturally literate (and I nearly have a Ph.D in lit, so I was professionally obligated in that regard) without a firm grounding in the various stories of baby Jesus and his adult exploits, not to mention the Bible, testaments old and new.

    Where I do draw the line is at the assumption that Christianity or any other religion is the official or unofficial faith of the land. For those who make the mistake of presuming that their favorite fairy tale has any special standing legally compared with the favorite fairy stories of others, or the refusal on the part of some of us to buy into ANY particular or general non-scientific explanations for the universe or how I’m supposed to live my life in it, please try to read a little history and show some respect for the laws of the land in which you’ve decided to live.

    So, that aside, “Merry Christmas” me all you like and I’ll gladly wish you the same. Gladly. Bill O’Reilly is full of shit.

  4. It’s hard to be culturally literate … without a firm grounding in the various stories of baby Jesus and his adult exploits, not to mention the Bible, testaments old and new.

    What he said.

    I spent Christmas Eve day with the atheist daughter-in-law, who had her first child in July. She said having a baby has readjusted her idea of Christmas–in one view, it is a culture-wide expression of the deep feelings she had after the safe delivery of a healthy baby.

    And dear PAL, Merry Christmas to you and yours. And Delightful Solstice, and all the rest of the holiday expressions.

  5. There is one rule that covers all holidays, religous and/or secular, You can’t go wrong. CALL YOUR MOTHER!

  6. Happy Holidays, PalMD. I never minded working the holidays, even when I was a believer and my kids were little. But my non-Christian friends and I swapped holidays often so they could have their “special” days off and I could have mine. Hospital folks are the best, I think!

  7. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Solstice, etc to all. I’m also on call today, though it’s a “carry a beeper and don’t leave town” type call rather than a “take primary responsibility for the whole hospital” type call. But am taking the call in order to allow my Christian colleague who hasn’t had a Christmas off in several years to be off today. Pal, may you be home in time to light the candles with your family and may you have many cookies.

  8. I got a bottle of sauce made with added capsicum concentrate.

    This makes it a good christmas.

    Any suggestions for what to put it on?

  9. When I was growing up there was an orthodox Jewish family across the street. Our families were life long friends. Every other year, we would go to there house during Hanukkah and every other year they would come to our house on Christmas day. When they came to our house we would all eat on paper plates to respect their beliefs. Every year we would say to them “Merry Christmas” and every year they would say “Happy Hanukkah” to us. I still wish people in public settings a “Merry Christmas and happy new year”, but due to PC the response I always get is “Have a happy holiday”. The season just doesn’t feel as festive and I believe that being “PC” when wishing well for others in your life is wrong. I would hope people of other beliefs would feel the same.

    My daughter had two god mothers. The official Christian one and the unofficial Jewish one. When my daughter’s Jewish god mother passed away, I said an unofficial prayer for her at the service, but I knew she didn’t need any extra help from me.

    Have a happy and healthy new year!

  10. Denice Walter

    While I’m not religious, I enjoying giving gifts at this time of year; although in this case , it might be better called “grist”( for our collective “mill”): one of our favorite woo-meisters,continuingly expanding his oeuvre,indeed, aiming at nothing less than the total nullification* of the social sciences,is now a social critic, economic forecaster,political activist trainer, and , yep, psychotherapist( getting SMI people off meds, yet)at his “retreats”. All of this will be available at the new website,1/2/2009. (* finally got to use that pun!)

  11. I’m an atheist and love Christmas (of course its funny the Christians love it so much when they clearly just swiped it from a variety of pagan solstice festivals…wasn’t even celebrated by Xians until sometime in the 4th century).

    However, a few years ago I attended a dumbass “cultural sensitivity” training seminar that my employer paid for and your situation is one the idiots acted out. The scenario was an employer who put up a fake xmas tree in the office and how this made one of the Jewish co-workers feel unwelcome and unwanted.

    I thought it was silly because I’ve never felt annoyed at people wishing me Merry Christmas or with my coworkers who put up Christmas decorations.

    OTOH…NPR ran a report the other day about the Professional Dreidel Championship held at some bar in New York. Then a few days later they reported getting a number of letters from folks who did not know what a Dreidel was.


  12. The Blind Watchmaker

    For those of you that are offended, here is a greeting I copied from The Rouges Gallery.

    Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

  13. Merry Christmas, and have a cookie– they’re gingerbread molasses with royal icing! 🙂

    I’m an atheist who celebrates Christmas. Heck, I was even raised pagan– but my dad looks forward to Christmas with a zeal normally seen only in small children, so that holiday, with all the trappings, just stuck! 😀

    Still haven’t had my mince pie. Holiday not over until all mince pie eaten! If I make enough, maybe my spouse and kid might get a bite. 😀

  14. I’m an atheist. I celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Some people may attach religious meaning to it, but that’s their deal. To me, it’s Santa and snowmen and presents and cookies and giving. It’s a happy holiday festival that has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus.

    When I was in high school, we had a student Santa every year. He’d dress up and hand out gifts and candy canes in the commons. Since my school was probably 50% Jewish, the Santa was frequently a Jewish guy. What did he care–he had cheerleaders sitting on his lap!

    I think we should all celebrate this fabulous winter holiday. Christians can go to church or do whatever they do, but the rest of us can just enjoy the season as a time for giving and family togetherness. A Xmas tree has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. Mine is decorated with snowball, mitten, and bird ornaments. Stuff like that. No Jesus. No angels. I’ve “taken back” Christmas from the Christians. I say “Merry Christmas” to everyone (that’s right, O’Reilly!), and I mean it sincerely. It’s a wonderful time of year. No Jesus necessary.

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