The Language of “Merry Christmas”

on December 13, 2013

Do you feel as if you are fighting a losing battle with “Happy Holidays”? This Christmas, remember those who risk their very lives for their faith. 

The war on Christmas has been described in numerous posts on Juicy Ecumenism. And as with all wars, we sometimes suffer battle fatigue.

It’s easier to succumb to the “Happy Holidays” syndrome than insist on using “Merry Christmas.” Especially when someone bestows a ‘holiday’ wish upon us. “And to you,” or a similar response just slips off the tongue. Legalistically speaking, you have not used the dreaded ‘holiday’ phrase yourself, and yet you have avoided the angst of contemplating, should I, or shouldn’t I, use the “C” word?

But the war on Christmas (and on Christianity by extension) here at home is less than a shadow of what our Christians brothers and sisters around the world are facing. And at Christmas, it is good for us to remember in addition to all of their other suffering, many are forbidden from celebrating publicly the birth of Jesus.

As a symbol of our ongoing advocacy for global religious freedom and human rights, IRD’s Religious Liberty Program created Christmas buttons that say Merry Christmas in the languages of our brothers and sisters who experience oppression and persecution.

We made our first button, in Chinese characters, in 1999. The inspiration for the buttons came from the report that hundreds of Chinese Christians had been arrested when authorities raided a midnight Christmas Mass. Some Chinese Christians have faced long years of imprisonment — for celebrating Christmas.

In 2003, we added a button in Urdu, to remember our brothers and sisters in Pakistan. The year before, extremist radicals had thrown grenades into a Pakistan church during a children’s Christmas Day program. Three girls were killed, and 13 other children were injured. There was also an attack last Christmas.

Then for the Christmas season of 2005, we created a button in Korean, to express our solidarity with the persecuted and oppressed people of North Korea. While conditions are horrific for all North Koreans in the brutal regime, they are even worse for Christians. North Korea used to be the home to a vibrant Christian population, but now Christians are considered enemies of the state.

This Christmas we only have several dozen of these buttons left. Next year we will do a new button, add another language to “Merry Christmas,” another language of brothers and sisters that are suffering for faith in Christ. The sad truth is that if we created a button for every country where Christians are paying the ultimate price for their faith in Christ, our clothing would be covered with those buttons.

If you make an end of the year gift to IRD’s RELIGIOUS LIBERTY PROGRAM, you may wish to request one of our “Merry Christmas” buttons. We would be happy to send one in appreciation for your support. When you pin it on, you will be reminded that, no matter what the pressures you face in this culture of accommodation to eschew Christmas for some generic winter holiday, you actually do have the freedom to say “Merry Christmas.”

And when people ask you what your button means, you will have a great opportunity to share the story of those who are not allowed to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

No comments yet

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.