A weekly commentary by Hemant Mehta, adapted from his blog "The Friendly Atheist."
Dec. 2, 2009
The Wish Me A Merry Christmas Campaign is trying to get Christians to wear buttons reading "It's OK, Wish Me A Merry Christmas" when shopping this holiday season.
A letter they ask Christians to give to store managers also lists these statistics:
- 97 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas.
- 53 percent of Americans are offended when wished "Happy Holidays."
- 90 percent of Americans "know the true meaning of Christmas."
- 60 percent say they won't shop at stores that have anti-Christmas policies.
- 68 percent of Americans want to hear "Merry Christmas" specifically.
You can pick apart all those stats, but that first one stood out immediately: 97 percent of people celebrate Christmas. And that's supposed to be a reason that saying "Happy Holidays" is wrong?
Nearly 20 percent of Americans aren't religious. And nearly three percent of the American population consist of Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.
So if any of these people are celebrating "Christmas," it's obviously not for "Jesus-y" reasons. And we certainly won't be upset if you say "Happy Holidays" to us.
A message to retail workers:
If you notice someone wearing the button, wish them a "Merry Christmas." Smile at them. Let them buy the stuff your store sells.
If you notice someone without a button–which is pretty much the entire population of America–wish them "Happy Holidays." Smile at them. Let them buy the stuff your store sells.
Your job is to make the customer happy. One way to do that is to say something nice to them as they enter your store. You don't need to waste your time trying to guess what holiday some stranger celebrates.
Personally, I won't get offended if you say to me "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays" or "Can I help you find what you're looking for?" In fact, I'll just be thrilled that you acknowledge my existence. I think most people would feel the same. So say whatever the hell you want.
Actually, I take that back.
If you see someone with a Special Christian Button, wish them a "Happy Solstice."
You might lose some business but the reaction on the person's face will be well worth it. Think of it as a holiday present to yourself!
About Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist
Hemant Mehta is the Chair of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) Board of Directors. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and is also an SSA representative to the Secular Coalition for America. Hemant received national attention, including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, for his work as the "eBay Atheist." Hemant's blog can be read at FriendlyAtheist.com and his book "I Sold My Soul on eBay" (WaterBrook Press) is now in bookstores everywhere. He currently works as a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago.