I’m aware that this post may make me unpopular, and I’m okay with that. I didn’t start writing to earn brownie points; that was never my intent. All I ever wanted to do was to share my thoughts with the general public in hopes that you might begin to see things from a different perspective. I say this because what I want to discuss may be a sensitive subject for many of you, but I promise I will provide another take on this so you can understand why it was important to me to bring it up. I want to explain from my perspective why someone saying “Merry Christmas” to me bothers me so much.
This time of year, many people use this phrase quite often without really thinking about it…especially here in Texas. They’ll finish up their shopping, and, as they’re taking the receipt from the checker, will say, “Merry Christmas,” and head out the door. Maybe they’re chatting with a coworker as they’re leaving for the day and sign off with their festive salutation as they each head off in different directions to their parked cars. Happens all the time without a thought.
Now…here is where I’m hoping you’ll begin to see this from my perspective. Let’s take a little journey together into our imaginations.
Pretend you’re me and you were raised Jewish in a predominantly Christian area and are constantly on the receiving end of this everywhere you go your whole life during this time of year (which seems to have gotten longer and longer as the years have passed). You try listening to the radio, but it’s nothing but Christmas music. The same thing is piped into every store’s music system. You can’t walk into a single business anywhere that doesn’t have a Christmas tree and decorations or Christmas specials everywhere.
Then, imagine that your marching band contests were always scheduled on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, two of the holiest days of the Jewish year. You were expected to join in when there was prayer said in your school or at your sporting event and if you complained you were looked at as a horrible person despite the fact that school was supposed to be safe from that. This same band or orchestra that you were in always put on their Christmas concert and you were expected to play various tunes celebrating a messiah and holiday you did not believe in but couldn’t complain about because it makes the majority Christian happy, so you should be happy as well.
Imagine schools and businesses being closed on Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas and Good Friday, but you always had to take an excused absence or a vacation day or miss an important event when you needed your holiday off and then had to play catch up afterwards because everything didn’t shut down for your religion. Imagine people who claim to be “good Christians” telling you from a young age that you’re going to Hell or that they can’t date you because they don’t believe in inter-racial dating. (That seriously happened to me.)
Imagine all of this with the realization that you can’t simply tell what religion someone practices or doesn’t practice just by looking at them.
Now, imagine how you would feel when your existence was further ignored and someone said to you, “Merry Christmas,” and then had zero clue why that would bother you or then got upset with you when you politely explained to them that you weren’t Christian. “Merry Christmas” is not a greeting like “hi” or “howdy.” It is overtly Christian and there is no way to get around that. Full stop.
Not every person you encounter follows your religion. When you’re a minority religion, this is blatantly obvious because you feel invisible or are made to feel inferior quite often…or at least I was.
Now let’s look at this in a little different way because this kind of thing happens at other times of the year, too. A perfect example of this is Mother’s Day. After all, on that day and the days leading up to it, “Happy Mother’s Day” is used just as frequently as “Merry Christmas” is used during this time of year.
Most people don’t give it a second thought. This phrase is said as some ends a phone call or is said by a server at a restaurant and so on. It’s as if “it’s just what you say” that time of the year. This one can be a little easier to detect at times since quite often a mother may actually have her kids with her calling her “mommy,” so it’s fine. That’s not what happens though. I have lost count the number of times someone has said this to me. Seems harmless, right?
Now…let’s take a stroll down imagination lane again…
Let’s imagine that despite your appearance, you actually don’t have any kids, and not by choice. Imagine that others can’t see that you went through years and years of heartbreaking attempts to get pregnant without success. Let’s pretend that the only picture you have of what would have been your child consisted of only eight cells. Let’s imagine that despite doing everything within your power to get pregnant your body just wouldn’t work. You spent tens of thousands of dollars with no explanation as to why it didn’t work and your marriage ended as a result.
Try to imagine feeling like a failure and spending countless days crying because things didn’t work for you. Imagine the ache of motherhood that you’d never get to realize while you watch countless friends and family members get to experience, and take for granted, what you only dreamed of having. Picture yourself smiling through it all so no one sees the heartache that would always be there regardless of how many years pass.
Now, imagine how it would feel to run to the store on Mother’s Day just to pick up some milk only to be told “Happy Mother’s Day” by the checker who never went on this pretend journey with you.
Yeah…it stings. In fact, it can feel like a knife to the heart and can cause you to quickly leave a store before bursting into tears.
My point is this, my dear readers. There are things you can not tell about a person just by looking at them, and even the simplest phrase to some can be taken as insensitive or extremely hurtful by others. Some of these things run deep, as all that I’ve mentioned has happened to me personally. It is because of these experiences that I do my best to be considerate of others’ feelings because I just don’t know and choose not to assume everyone is like me. I’m not saying not to be polite, but occasionally, take a quick detour to imagination alley as we have, and you’ll soon understand a little better where Ms. Unpopular is coming from and why that simple phrase could cause such a strong reaction.
Love you Sis! Your brother from another mother, Jason. ❤
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Love you too, bro!
Another excellent, clearly written and well-thought-out essay, Robyn.
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Thanks so much!!