Happy Boxing Day (no offense)

Photo: Stefani

Today, December 26, is known as Boxing Day in some parts of the world.

If you don’t celebrate Boxing Day, were you offended that I wished you a happy Boxing Day? Or did you just say, “Whatever, thanks, I guess.”

And if you do celebrate Boxing Day, were you offended that people who talk to you today don’t wish you a happy Boxing Day? Or did you just think, “Well, they don’t celebrate it, so, whatever, fine with me”?

Merry Christmas and other scandals

People wish me a Merry Christmas all the time. They usually smile when they are saying it. It’s sort of nice.

I’m a non-religious person from a Jewish family. My wife is a non-religious person from a Christian family. We have a Christmas tree with lights and give each other presents, but there are no decorations on our lawn. We sometimes light a menorah when we think about it. In the spring, my wife actually makes the best Passover Seder food you ever had, although of course we don’t prepare it in the way Orthodox Jews would.

If my family’s celebrations offend you, go screw yourself. They’re our celebrations, so we get to do what we want. That’s how it works here in America.

If you want to wish me a Merry Christmas, that’s nice. There’s no Christ in my life, but hey, I appreciate the warm sentiment. If you want to wish other people, including Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and atheists a warm and merry Christmas, good for you. If you want to go to church on Christmas morning, have a blast. If you want to stay home and open presents in your jammies, please enjoy yourself.

In general, the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and atheists in our pretend melting pot here in America will smile back at you, so long as you don’t insist that they celebrate Christmas in whatever way you do. (The non-orthodox Jews were likely celebrating Christmas by going out for Chinese food, for the reason, steeped in long tradition, that they were off from work and none of the other restaurants were open.)

If I wish you, a Christian, a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, or Happy Holidays, with a smile, I hope you’ll accept in the same spirit as you would “Happy Boxing Day” — a bland smile to accept the good wishes for something you don’t celebrate.

What’s not okay

Having established that we can all wish each other a happy holiday of whatever kind we want, what’s not cool?

Assuming that you are in the majority so you are normal and the rest of us are somehow not normal or outside of the American tradition is offensive. About two-thirds of us in America are Christians, but that leaves an awful lot of non-Christians who are Americans, too. We belong here, just as you do. Our beliefs — or lack of beliefs — are just as legitimate as yours.

Wishing me Merry Christmas with an out-thrust jaw and a sneer as if it is supposed to be some sort of challenge or insult is classless and rude. It’s certainly not in the generous spirit of the holiday you’re supposed to be celebrating.

Insisting that I wish you a Merry Christmas is pretty silly; why would you insist that I or other non-Christmas-embracing types say something we don’t really mean?

Asking branches of government like the Post Office or City Hall to celebrate one particular religion isn’t really a good idea. Congress [and by extension other branches of government] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Regardless of what you may have heard about the First Amendment, it actually says that. I don’t pay taxes to have the government promote a specific religion.

So have a happy Boxing Day, even if you don’t celebrate it. And trust me — I’m smiling as I say that.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I always think about Maryland when people mention religion and tolerance. Maryland was set up as a catholic colony under the pretense of tolerance. It worked great if you were catholic (and European and rich). Same tolerant of same. How kind.

    We can be tolerant, accepting, thankful, less offended, and more about others and their actions, beliefs, looks, and more. We have that capability in each of us.

    Happy Boxing Day, no matter how offensive that is to all thinking folks. And don’t go to Canada today as everything is closed.

  2. Solstice Greetings and similar are inclusive since all religious and secular winter celebrations are simply variants of the central motivating factor (at least in the northern hemisphere) – the northward turning of the Sun. A Very Merry Solstice Season to All! Warmer weather this way comes.

    1. If you want to really upset theocratic Christians, tell them that whatever happened on 25 December 2022 years ago, it wasn’t the birth of Christ.

      Even the most cursory reading of the Bible will tell you that Jesus was not born at the height of a northern winter.

      December 25 in the Roman calendar at the time was the solstice celebration known as Saturnalia, and the early Christian church had a habit of repurposing pagan celebrations as Christian ones.

      The classic example is Easter – even the name comes from the pagan goddess of fertility, Oestre (think Oestrogen in the non-American-English spelling). Her festival, essentially a celebration of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, was on the first full moon following the equinox, which is why the date of Easter changes every year with the phases of the moon – Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the equinox.

      Her festival used to be marked with painted eggs – the egg being the quintessential symbol of fertility – and with rabbit stew (the rabbit being the quintessential symbol of fecundity).

      Even that Good Friday treat, the hot cross bun, is a slightly-Christianised version of the buns that used to be baked for the festival of Oestre, buns that contained the dried fruit and flour which had been put aside in storage in case the days failed to start to get longer, in case the sun failed to come back at the right time for planting the next year’s crops.

  3. As an atheist (not a strident one, but certainly not shy about stating that fact when asked), I appreciate your blog today. I love celebrations! Solstice, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza… whatever!! I even love to sing Christmas Carols (because as Steve Martin once said, “Atheists ain’t got no good songs!”). Humans are social creatures and we all enjoy giving and receiving, sharing good food, and making merry. Morality is not derived from whatever fairytale book you choose to follow and if anyone insinuates otherwise, I smile sweetly and wish them a very Merry Whatever.

  4. sigh Ironic that on a website that criticises being a polemicist, in the comments section of a post about not being mean to people who disagree there’s the extremely tired antitheist line calling religion fairy stories. Repeat something often enough…

  5. There are X thousand different creeds, sects and branches of religions. Their belief systems are not identical. Unless you want to claim that all of them are true at the same time, in the same reality (which is quite a story in itself), at least some of these beliefs are incorrect.

    “Fairy stories” seems like a pithy and accurate label for incorrect beliefs. Do you have a better label that’s just as pithy and well understood? If not, your criticism is misplaced.