"Do you celebrate?"
December 26, 2006 08:39 PM
That was the question I was asked several times last week, and over the weekend. It was a new one to me. It's said with an infliction so you know exactly what the speaker is talking about: Christmas. When you answer "yes," then the response is a cheerful "Merry Christmas!"
I don't know what the response is if you answer "no."
But it's a weird social scenario, and it's obviously part of the whole overt-discussions-of-Christmas-are-a-no-no thing. And it's a strange etiquette dynamic. First you ask, basically, if someone is going to be offended by a religious remark. Once you establish that they're not going to be offended, then you go ahead and make the religious remark. How is it socially acceptable to ask someone about their religious practices, in an effort to avoid offending them with a "Merry Christmas"? It makes no sense to me, and that's just from Miss Manners perspective.
And functionally, it's like "Do you celebrate?" is a request for a password, which provided, allows one to go ahead and exchange illicit information. It's like walking up to someone in a park near CIA headquarters and whispering, "The pale man walks alone." Which I do think would be fun to do some time, just to see what kind of response you get.
But isn't it kind of rude to suggest that "Merry Christmas" is illicit or offensive? Surely that's what is being implied. Otherwise, why not just say it?
"Do you celebrate?" What a weird question. It's much more of a personal religious inquiry than "Merry Christmas." It's an interrogatory, not a declaratory sentence. It's like "hey, are you on my side? Oh. Okay, good. Merry Christmas! I didn't want to offend you if you were Jewish or anything. Thank God you're not. Offended, I mean. Not Jewish! It's perfectly fine to be Jewish! If you were Jewish, I wouldn't wish you a Merry Christmas, but since you're not Jewish, well, then, Merry Christmas!"
Yes, "Do you celebrate?" is a question I'd stay aware from, if you're ever conducting job interviews in December. Just say "Merry Christmas" and be done with it. It won't get you sued. Yet.
I think next year if someone asks me "Do you celebrate?" I'll just say "Oh no. I'm a member of the laity." Sadly, I think that will probably just confuse the questioner, and I'll get a "Oh, well Happy Holidays, then!"
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