Holiday vs. Christmas
How are you? Today I would like to weigh in with my small voice on the "Holiday" vs. "Christmas" debate. Actually, during my upbringing, neither I nor anyone in my community in Upstate New York ever considered the question of whether to wish someone “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” during the month of December in the 70’s and 80’s. None of us ever gave it a moment’s consideration: “Season’s Greetings,” “Merry Christmas,” and “Happy Holidays” were for whatever reason considered to be synonymous terms. At the public schools that my twin sister and I attended, as well as in all of the local shopping malls, Christmas trees were erected and Christmas decorations were hung, and for the life of me I am unable to remember any flak from the surrounding community whatsoever.
It wasn't until the 90’s that I distinctly recall the introduction of the political correctness wave. In particular, I can remember belonging to a club where the group voted down (by a slim majority) standing a Christmas tree in our meeting place because of the tree’s “origins in Christianity” and the club’s desire “not to alienate non-Christian people.”
Frankly, while I feel that political correctness can be taken to an absurd extreme (as is the case with this year’s Holiday vs. Christmas hoopla), I do feel that the trend is positive overall because it demonstrates a willingness on the part of America to become more tolerant of diversity. Maybe, just maybe, America’s zeitgeist is becoming more enlightened, ever so slowly. This is a good thing.
As a good representative example of my own stance on the Holiday vs. Christmas "difference of opinion," let me cite an op-ed letter printed in the December 20, 2005 edition of the Syracuse, NY Post-Standard. The author is a private citizen named Karen Schwarz:
How can we greet people this time of year? I believe “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” is the way to go. Here’s why:
I feel unimportant when I am wished a “Merry Christmas.” It hurts, even though I believe the speaker, in his or her own way, means well.
This is more than semantics. Someone who wishes me “Merry Christmas” in a secular setting assumes that I’m Christian or doesn’t care that I’m not. I am a Jew, and I need consideration that I’m different.
Christians are a majority in this country. I believe that majority groups have an obligation and responsibility to respect the views and beliefs of minorities. Exclusion, at any level, can lead to division and bitterness—or worse. Stating or displaying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” is inclusive. It’s not anti-Christian, but pro-American. We need to remember that our country contains many cultures, and it is by embracing our differences that we develop strength and unity.
I suggest that those speaking with known Christians, or at Christian Church-sponsored events, feel free to declare and display “Merry Christmas,” but when the receiver’s religious heritage is unknown—as in most business and secular situations—or other than Christian, please stick to the generic and respectful “Happy Holidays.”
Kudos to Ms. Schwarz for articulating her position in such an enlightened manner!
Some staunch pro-“Merry Christmas” people I have listened to or read base their arguments on the statement “America is an English-speaking nation that is founded on Christian principles.” What these folks seem to forget is that, while the statement is essentially true, our Founding Fathers (a) were certainly not paragons of religious tolerance; and (b) kept human slaves. All I can say to this is, “Thank goodness for evolution in its manifold forms, people!”
Furthermore, I am unable to deny my highly subjective experience of finding so many “pro-Merry Christmas” arguments so shrill and…well, a tad aggressive. (Sad to say, but some of these folks sound a bit like some of the Second Amendment-espousing gun enthusiasts who tend to leverage more ad hominem attacks against their detractors then to present reasoned, principled arguments defending the right to keep and bear arms.) The mental image that springs to my mind is that of a man or woman greeting passerby in a shopping mall during the Christmas shopping rush saying “Merry Christmas…and what are you gonna do about it?” with a challenging glint in his or her eye. Scary stuff, indeed.
In the end, “Happy Holiday” and “Merry Christmas” are merely words. Yes, words are powerful symbols, as I’ve remarked in an earlier blog post. On the other hand, I dearly hope that people don’t get their proverbial underwear worked up into too much of a bunch over this situation. After all, if they do, then they run the risk of distracting themselves from focusing on their loved ones or whatever spiritual and/or religious events they have associated with this lovely time of year. Take good care.