Now that the Big Day is past, allow me to fire one last salvo in this year’s War on Christmas.
As hinted at previously, I find the whole Merry Christmas / Happy holidays battle pointless and irritating. On the one hand, the phrase “Happy holidays” does recognize the potential that the wishee might, in fact, celebrate one of the many non-Christmas holidays that occur during the winter season, such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Saturnalia, the winter solstice, or even Festivus (“for the rest of us!”). On the other hand, the phrase itself has become a problematic on two counts:
- first, it’s become a symbol of political-correctness taken to an extreme, and
- second, it really drives evangelicals insane, so then yell about it at great length and therefore drive everybody else insane with it,
so clearly this is a lose-lose proposition.
Is it possible to find a “holiday greeting” that simultaneously recognizes the many potential celebratory “reasons for the season” while also keeps vocal evangelicals happy?
It think I have one.
Let’s just all agree to call the general American holiday season — that portion of Winter that begins on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and ends on December 31 — as X-mas. Why? Three reasons:
- The symbol X here refers to the the generally recognized symbol one first learns to represent a variable quantity — the little x from your first algebra class. In this case, this variable can represent any of the religious or spiritual or secular reasons one might find to celebrate the holiday season; for example,
- X = Christ if you’re Christian, or
- X = Yahweh if you’re Jewish, or
- X = Flying Spaghetti Monster if you’re Pastafarian, or
- X = Santa is you’re under 5 years old, or even
- X = if you’re an atheist.
- The suffix mas is derived from the Late Latin missa, which meant dismissal. It is the etymological root of the modern phrase mass, which should make the devout happy. However, the term literally meant “Go! You’re dismissed!,” which I think is an excellent sentiment to express vacation time, something that should appeal to the secularist.
- It’s what they call the holiday in the year 3000 anyway (as foretold by Futurama), so it’s gonna happen anyway. We might as well get on with it.
The symbol itself should be pronounced as ecks-mas, but recognizing that the symbol X is also called a criss-cross, the symbol could also be reasonably pronounced as crisscrossmas, which can be conveniently abbreviated to criss-mas.
So why would this symbol work? Well, it addresses the two concerns listed above.
First, a greeting of Merry X-mas or Merry Crissmas would make all those evangelicals happy, since all they hear is, well, what they want to hear. Moreover, those guys have been abbreviating the December 25 celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as “Xmas” since the mid-sixteenth century, which should effectively answer any complaints they might make about this symbol “taking the Christ out of Christmas.”
Second, the greeting and symbol were specifically designed to address to a wide range of potential religious, spiritual, or secular sentiments. Moreover, there’s an appealing subversiveness to it — a sort of modern reclaiming of the symbol Xmas and the sound Crissmas from the noisy and divisive to, well, the rest of us.
So… Merry X-mas, and Happy New Year, too!