This was going to be a simple post: what do the words “Merry Christmas!” mean to you when/if you say them to someone and when/if someone says them to you?
But I decided to do some research first on the phrase, and came across an interesting article by one David J. Meyer called The True Meaning of Christ-Mass. Meyer says using the two words — Merry Christmas — together is blasphemous because they aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ. They are celebrating the opposite: his death.
Meyer cites various texts to back up his claims. Writes Meyer:
The World Book Encyclopedia defines “Christmas” as follows: “The word Christmas comes from “Cristes Maesse”, an early English phrase that means “Mass of Christ.” It is interesting to note that the word “Mass”, as used by the Roman Catholics, has traditionally been rejected by the so-called Protestants, such as Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and so on. The word “Mass” is strictly a Catholic word and thus, so is “Christ-Mass.” … the word “Mass” in religious usage means a “death sacrifice.” The impact of this fact is horrifying and shocking; for when the millions of people are saying, “Merry Christmas”, they are literally saying “Merry death of Christ!”
In short, his argument is people are unwittingly celebrating the death of Christ when they think they are celebrating birth — even if everyone knows that Christ wasn’t born on Dec. 25 (and that the whole holiday is really about the winter solstice, but I digress).
But Meyer’s article got me to thinking about the religious connection to Christmas and about Christ himself: Some people celebrate his birth because of the message he gave us, but more important, perhaps, because of the way he would go on to die, supposedly as a sacrifice for our sins. Christmas is about celebrating a savior being born to die for our sins. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating his birth at all.
So, Mr. Meyer is correct, I suppose, in a certain context, but I’m not sure it is such a blasphemous thing to wish someone a Merry Christmas.
For me, the “Merry Christmas” wish is more about the peace and love message that Christ reportedly taught — in truth, I’m not even sure Christ existed. But the legend and its message is about brotherly love, and I see Christmas as a time when people remind each other of that message, and celebrate it — whether they believe in Christ or not.
In essence, to me Merry Christmas! means “I wish you peace and love, dear fellow traveller.”
How about you? What does “Merry Christmas!” mean to you?