The attack on and demonization of Christmas has been going on in the U.S. for decades now, if not longer. You can’t say “Merry Christmas” without someone looking at you strange in the U.S. and someone on the far left insinuating you’re not being inclusive. The far right demonizes this and makes the entire situation worse. Since I’ve spent my entire full-time working life employed by digital marketing or technology companies, saying “merry Christmas” is not something that is acceptable in a group setting, and everyone feels forced to say a generic “happy holidays” message when it is Christmas time. This is supposedly to be sensitive to those who are Jewish, Muslim, or just don’t celebrate Christmas. This is ridiculous since any Jew you know will tell you that Hanukkah, while a holiday in Jewish culture, is not a big deal at all, with no real decorations or associated gift giving (the gift giving, from what I’ve been told, only really started because of the gift giving around Christmas and that influence). In addition, even in many non-Christian majority countries or majority Muslim countries, people celebrate Christmas in a secular way, meaning they embrace the Christmas trees and decorations, Rudolph the red-nose reindeer, and Santa, but they don’t really celebrate it as the birthday of Jesus Christ (and well, any real Christian can tell you that it’s not REALLY Jesus’s actual birthday, anyway!). The majority of my friends who celebrate Christmas celebrate in a secular way and are in no sense Christian, yet even most of them feel compelled to say “happy holidays” to each other. It’s annoying and exhausting.
I had to exercise a lot of restraint and keep silent while on a work call a few days ago when someone on Zoom said, “Hope you all have a happy holiday if you celebrate this weekend (um, there’s only ONE known holiday this weekend, and it’s CHRISTMAS). And if you do not, hope you all have a restful time off.” Why couldn’t she just have replaced the word “holiday” with “Christmas?” Is “Christmas” really such an evil word? N
So you can probably imagine that when I tell friends and colleagues in the U.S. how easily and readily and often people wish each other a “happy Christmas” or “merry Christmas” in Australia that they are pretty surprised. People don’t get offended by it. My general response or thought back would be, if someone wished me a happy Kwanzaa or happy Rosh Hashanah, why the hell would I get offended? And you know Christmas is embraced by all here, even if you don’t celebrate it or identify as Christian, when there is an actual Santa Claus who walks around the major airports here with an elf and a big sack of gifts to pass out to young children in transit; this would be very hard to imagine happening in any U.S. airport, ever.
Kaia met Santa twice going to and from Bundaberg at the domestic airports here. At the Melbourne airport, Santa walked up to her at our gate and presented her with a stuffed kangaroo with a little joey in her pouch. And on our way back to Melbourne at the Brisbane airport between our connecting flights, Santa appeared again at the entrance of the Qantas lounge, where she was given a set of special edition Qantas 3-5-year old-size pajamas with the kangaroo logo redone so that the kangaroo had a glittery red nose, sparkling gold antlers, and a name on the front of the pajama top reading: Roodolph. It was so sweet and special, yet I have a feeling that Chris, Chris’s dad, and I were going to enjoy and appreciate this far more than Kaia ever would for a long, long time.
So the TL;DR of this is really: Christmas is better in Australia than in the U.S. And I can walk around with dancing Santas or blaring red and green Christmas baubles on my head here, and no one will do a double take because I will blend right in.