Fr. Andrew Dickinson is the new chaplain of the Catholic church located at the Newman Center, South Dakota State University. For the past Sunday masses, and in a number of daily masses, Fr. Andrew Dickinson has been condemning the “Merry Christmas” greeting.

The first time I’ve heard Fr. Dickinson asking people to avoid saying the “Merry Christmas” greeting before December 24th, was that afternoon when I felt, for the very first time, the very spirit of Christmas. The moment I thought Christmas was already in the air, Fr. Dickinson cut the happy moment short. That was sad. He said in his homily that people should not use “Merry Christmas” but rather say “Have a good Advent.” He further said that whenever someone will say “Merry Christmas” to him before the 24th of December, he will not answer the same.

I understand his argument.  He contended that “Merry Christmas” is often said minus the real meaning that comes with the words. In short, people who utter the greeting without knowing what it truly carries, are hypocrites and pretenders. He said that Catholics must instead prepare themselves for Christ’s birth and start the “Merry Christmas” greeting on the 24th and on each day for 12 days thereafter (like the 12 days of Christmas).

What I don’t understand from Fr. Andrew Dickinson’s views is his generalization that everyone who says “Merry Christmas” isn’t meaning it. I don’t know, maybe some of his American parishioners are bluffers. That is why he thought everyone inside the church thinks and does like his parishioners. I have high respect for Fr. Dickinson and love his homilies. Truly. It was just this stance of his that I find a bit off.

But what about those who believe the real meaning of the words upon utterance? Why would Fr. Dickinson ask for the avoidance of the greeting when, most often, there are others who think “Merry Christmas” is indeed proclaiming the Christ Child as the center of the Christmas Season, regardless of the date?

Christmas in the Philippines usually start when the month ends with ‘ber’ — that is September. We have been known to have the longest Christmas celebration in the world. When we hear someone say “Merry Christmas” early in the year, we never condemn him or her. Why should we be disgusted with the words when the Christmas spirit never fails to bring joy, unity and peace to the community? If only Christmas can be celebrated every day, we will.

Had Father delivered the homily in my country, people will be left frowning for his unusual message. I felt sad when I listened to his homily that afternoon…maybe there were others in the church who were affected too.  I bet, had there been someone in the church who had less faith in Christmas, would surely lose his belief in seconds.

Tell me Father, am I now an enemy of Christmas for wishing family and friends a “Merry Christmas” before December 24?

Father Dickinson, there are so many Catholics out there who know that the central focus of this season is the birth of the Christ Child. I really hope that priest like you won’t ask believers to stop wishing people a “Merry Christmas”. Fr. Paul Rutten never asked us before. Or maybe Fr. Rutten understands “Merry Christmas” better.

In SDSU campus where the Christmas spirit is hardly felt, Fr. Andrew Dickinson should have made Christmas a little happier, merrier… Christmas can be MERRY and blessed at the same time, even before Christmas day.

I would have wanted to say “Merry Christmas” to Father Dickinson before the semester ended. But I did not. After all, like what he said, it isn’t yet the 24th!

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