It’s that time of year again.
Peace on Earth and good will toward all?
Unfortunately, no, not for everyone. For some conspiracy-minded conservative Christians, both pious and merely political, it’s time to resurrect the dead horse they refer to as “The War on Christmas”.
In the last few days on Facebook, I’ve seen a particular meme repeatedly that expresses the sentiment: “It’s not Happy Holidays, It’s Merry Christmas!!!!!” Such posts are accompanied by typical comments expressing the view that to give the greeting “Happy Holidays” or its cousin “Season’s Greetings” is to somehow take Christ out of Christmas and to persecute Christians who wish to celebrate Christmas. They assert that Jesus’ birthday is the (sole) reason for the season. They also take great umbrage at anyone who dares to refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree”. Some relate anecdotes of how they loudly proclaimed the sentiment in the meme above to unsuspecting cashiers in stores who had the effrontery to wish them Happy Holidays. One, presumably young, woman expressed this sentiment, “” I don’t live my life to please others and if I offend you then oh well. “
Seriously? Is this what they think the season is all about; arguing about word choice when wishing someone the joy of the season? Do they think that such a childish and peevish attitude accurately reflects the Jesus Christ they claim to champion? Don’t they know that such an attitude totally defeats the purpose of giving such a greeting, which is meant to wish joy and goodwill to the recipient? Do they think anyone will want to become a Christian after being berated in such a petty manner?
“Love thy neighbor”, indeed. Pardon me for a moment while I roll my eyes.
Some young and not so young people apparently have the mistaken impression that the terms Happy Holidays and Seasons’ Greetings were recently invented within the last ten years just to annoy Christians, which couldn’t be further from the truth. These greetings have existed all during my 54 years on the planet and existed well before I was born.
These terms simply acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year and they were meant to cover them all. When I was a kid in the 6os, “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” were commonly used as a catch-all term to give wishes for both Christmas and New Year’s Day together and were often seen on greeting cards. In public situations with strangers or those one did not know well, it was a handy way to wish the goodwill of the season when one didn’t know which religious holidays an individual might celebrate, if any. Among family, friends, and those whom one knew reasonably well, one said Merry/Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, or whatever applied and, again, no one got offended if they got the “wrong” greeting.
For those who think “Happy Holidays” is a bit of “political correctness”, let me point out that no one was politically correct in the mid 60s or before. Back then, it was simply known as “good manners” and “common courtesy”.
No nefarious purposes were intended, and no one at all was offended by such greetings, even conservative Christians. People graciously accepted such wishes of goodwill in the spirit they were intended.
To those who assert that the season has “always” been about Christmas and that the birth of Jesus is the sole reason for the season, most Christian scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but rather in the spring or summer. Pagans had long celebrated the winter solstice at this time in December, so early church leaders picked this time to celebrate the birth of Christ and re-purposed the Pagan celebration by appropriating several Pagan traditions along the way, hoping it would make it easier to convert Pagans to Christianity. Decorated evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, giving and receiving holiday gifts, the dinner feast, are all borrowed from Pagans. The original “reason for the season”, then, was the Earth’s axial tilt; the solstice.
It’s also interesting to note that Puritans in Colonial America even banned the celebration of Christmas from 1659 to 1681, well cognizant of the Pagan roots of many Christmas traditions.
Personally, I don’t care which greeting anyone uses with me, as long as it’s sincere and meant to wish me goodwill. I’m just happy that someone took the time to give me the good wishes of the season. This time of year isn’t just about me; it’s about everyone.
There are real problems in this world. Whether a person says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays isn’t one of them — it’s a petty, first world “problem”. There are people in this world who don’t have enough to eat, a home to live in, and are dying of curable diseases. People need to take a moment and think about what really matters. A little bit of tolerance and goodwill goes a long way this time of year.
I recommend this excellent blog post written by a Christian in response to those Christians who are offended by the use of “Happy Holidays”: Happy Holidays and Other Four Letter Words.