For the first time in over a decade, Christmas is back on the greeting cards the Foreign Ministry sends out each December.
Since 1998, the ministry has been sending out cards with the religiously neutral “Season’s greetings”. This year, however, the ministry has changed that policy and is sending out cards wishing recipients a “Merry Christmas”.
Klavs Holm, who heads the Foreign Ministry’s public diplomacy department, told The Copenhagen Post that the new change is simply a matter of flexibility.
Ministry Christmas cards are sent out Danish, German, French, Spanish and English, and all except the English version wish recipients a “Merry Christmas”.
“With the English version, we have now decided to use two versions, one saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and the other ‘Season’s greetings’. This gives our diplomats all over the world more flexibility to adapt their Christmas greetings to the various cultures.”
For a country whose flag is emblazoned with a cross and who has a state-financed church, professing its religious stance is a wise move, according to experts in religion and international politics.
“The world is perfectly aware that Denmark is a Christian nation,” religion researcher Morten Warmind of the University of Copenhagen, told Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper. “So it seems a lot more honest to display your religion. Muslims would not be offended because Jesus exists in the Koran, and to them there’s nothing wrong in celebrating his birthday.”
Uffe Østergård, an expert on national identity and international relations, last year criticised the foreign ministry’s non-Christian Christmas greetings. "I’m glad to see they have changed it. It’s always good to declare your religion. Otherwise we might just as well replace our flag too”.
But according to Ole Wæver, professor of international politics, the neutral greeting is more inclusive: “People with other religions also celebrate religious festivals around Christmas time,” he said. “And they are free to read whatever they want into the neutral greeting – which they can’t really do with the Christian greeting.
Since last year, the ministry has sent out its Christmas cards in digital format.