Politically Correct Merry Christmas or… Merry Festivus

By Terry Pithers | Etiquette & Manners

Dec 31

Christmas trees or Holiday trees

Occasionally our readers forward us interesting articles they find on the Internet.

The latest one has to do with political correctness:
Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for the first time this year which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which applies just as much to Canadians as it  does to Americans …

An Internet hoax?

The email went on to quote Ben Stein’s CBS Sunday morning commentary.

But the trouble was when I (Mr. Logical Perfectionist) went to include it in this blog post I found that Ben Stein had never really said what was in the e-mail and the White House has never referred to Christmas trees as Holiday Trees.


Video of Seinfeld’s Hilarious Festivus Celebration

A valid question

But the email did raise an interesting question, should we downplay our religious beliefs or customs when we are dealing with people who may or may not share them?

Here is a comment that came from another loyal reader that deals with this exact point

Hello Joanne & Terry,

We have been joking around the office about “politically correct holiday greetings”.  My partner and I agree that to say something like “Happy Non-Denominational, Trans-cultural, Winter Solstice Acknowledgement” seems silly and leaves the wish totally devoid of meaning as does “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. 

Furthermore I like to think that those of us who are not from a Christian heritage are intelligent enough to realize that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus and are O.K. with it just like I am O.K. with them celebrating Hanukah or Ramadan or whatever.  In fact I think that we, trying to dance around the issue, would insult their intelligence.  So I wish all my clients “Merry Christmas” and make no apologies.  What do you think? 

We agree

Joanne and I agree. As business etiquette experts part of our job is to point out to business people that they need to be culturally sensitive and get to know their clients so they are aware of where clients stand. But they also need to be true to themselves.

The truth

So here is what CBS commentator, Ben Stein actually said about this issue (taken from the snopes.com website that debunks internet myths Click here for the full Snopes myth debunk

I am a Jew,  and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me  even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled  trees, Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel  discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas  trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards  away.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

So next year don’t get too hung up on whether you need to wish people Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Most people, like Ben Stein, will take your greetings in the spirit they are given. It’s more important that we acknowledge and treat each other with love and respect. That will make us and the planet better.

All the best for 2013!  Happy Festivus!

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Posted by Terry Pithers – Canadian business etiquette expert and Festivus fan

About the Author

TERRY PITHERS Canadian speaker, humorist and business etiquette expert. If you are interested in booking me for a presentation, keynote or workshop, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

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