“Merry Un-Christmas!” sounds like a politically correct, safely sanitized “season’s greeting”, if taken against the backdrop of recent pundit and public bickering about what to wish others during this “holiday season”. [Note: the video clip at the foregoing link is a “must watch”.]

The debate is at times so contentious that uncivil Civil War battle lines seem to have been drawn between “Merry Xmas!” and “Merry Nix-mas!” camps. But there’s another, more charming, less contentious interpretation of “Merry Un-Christmas!”, with very positive implications for workplace relationship management and life in general.

That second interpretation evokes images, not of a jolly Santa Claus, but of an engaging Alice-in-Wonderland concept seen through the fanciful prism of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass: the concept of an “un-birthday party” [more recently rendered as “unbirthday party”]. Although a simple idea, the un-birthday party is another of Carroll’s unconventional takes on conventional things—and, more importantly, a very useful tactical tool.

Even though it is likely that many of you are familiar with the concept, a concise explanation is both desirable and possible—especially given its relevance to the idea of an un-Christmas.

The Un-Birthday/Un-Christmas Nexus

Basically, the concept of an un-birthday party, which morphed into the idea of an un-Christmas celebration, denotes a birthday party held on a day that is not really the birthday of the birthday honoree. That’s it. That simple.

The normal Christmas celebration on December 25th is in all likelihood an example of an un-birthday party, depending on which historical sources you trust, if any—at least, regarding birth dates of the celebrated or celebrities.

In timeless celebration of this idea of an un-birthday party and gifts, Lewis Carroll is quoted as having said, “There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know.”

The un-birthday party also has valuable applications socially, as I’ve discovered in past social damage-control situations, e.g., having, on the very rare occasion, let a girlfriend’s birthday slip by unnoticed and uncelebrated. Likewise, un-Christmas parties, gifts and greetings can generate substantial social and professional payoffs.

The way to handle that missed-birthday gaffe upon discovering it is to quickly segue to a lighthearted invitation to an un-birthday party—as a kind of make-up exam, in all three senses of “make-up” that can be imagined here, including putting a nice face on shamefaced loss of face and reconciling by putting a patch on a punctured relationship.

Of course, the un-birthday party has to be a full-scale substitute for what should have been a birthday party, topped off with some very special atonement party-favors—e.g., a hired clown, as cheerful backup, just in case the birthday girl is not finished fuming and sulking.

An un-Christmas greeting, party or gift can be utilized and beefed up in the same way—including at work. Examples easily come to mind:

–Staying on good terms with those who, for whatever reason, including being Grinches, are irritated or offended by “Merry Christmas!” may be easier with a “Merry Un-Christmas!” greeting, to the extent that are likely to confuse it with an anti-Christmas or non-Christmas greeting.

It may be wise to say, “Merry Un-Christmas”, if political correctness is an office issue or if you merely want to be as inclusive as possible in offering season’s greetings, or if you are worried that you may, like the Salvation Army bell ringer recently in the news who got punched by another woman for chirping “Happy holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!”

–To extend [in both senses] holiday cheer past the holidays and into the re-opened workplace, you play the role of self-designated, peppy office cheerleader and continue wishing everyone a “Merry Un-Christmas!” in January.

Pulling this off requires maintaining a delicate balance between seeming playfully facetious and seeming sincere.  That’s a maneuver akin to, but better than, a rejected nerd’s retracting his invitation to go skinny-dipping with, “I was just kidding.”

 –You failed to chip in for or to buy a Christmas gift for the boss, the overworked bookkeeper or the office party gift-swap, and everybody knows it. So, after Boxing Day or the equivalent post-Christmas sales day, you get something nice and make amends, being sure to include a card that says, “Merry Un-Christmas!”

Oh, and as for singing any Christmas carol—you can always play it safe and, instead, sing this Carroll tribute: the Disney “Alice in Wonderland” cartoon “Un-Birthday Song”, replacing “un-birthday” in the lyrics with “un-Christmas”…

…if you dare.

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