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Austin Cline

Merry Christmas! Wanna Make Something of It, Punk?

By December 23, 2012

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Some Christians' obsession with people using "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" causes them to act as if the issue were something like an ethnic identity. Happy Holidays still includes Christmas, so it doesn't exclude Christians, but some Christians treat it like a deliberate insult designed to denigrate and offend them. Thus they adopt an attitude that is both defensive and hostile, and that's wearing thin even with other Christians.
Those who engage in combat to remind others of "the reason for the season" would do well to remember that the Christmas season as such has only existed for about a century and a half. The 1,500-year-old Christian season that precedes December 25 is Advent, a time of fasting, penitence, and somber waiting. Protestants who eschew Advent because of an association with Rome have precedent for doing so. But the Reformers, Puritans, colonial Baptists, and others who gave rise to modern evangelicalism either passed Christmas Day with a simple worship service, or strongly opposed such a "popish" observance.

But please, the next time you're in Wal-Mart and the clerk wishes you "Merry Christmas," don't get an angry look in your eye, poke your finger into the clerk's chest, and say, "It's Advent! Christmas isn't until December 25!" That would be really annoying.

Source: Christianity Today

It should be noted that Christianity Today is an evangelical publication, but even here people are getting tired of all hype which some evangelicals are manufacturing about the so-called "Christmas Wars." A poll is cited showing that only 28% think that there is some improvement behind forcing stores (under threats of boycott and public protest) to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays."

At the same time, though, we aren't hearing so much anymore from Christians about the problem of Christmas being overly commercialized. Christians used to lament this, but not so much anymore. I guess that goes hand-in-hand with Christians now treating the Christmas season as a time for feasting, parties, and sensual delights rather than fasting, penitence, and somber reflection.

Some atheists don't celebrate any holidays at this time of year, but those who do celebrate a variety: Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, etc. For atheists, as with most of the rest of the non-Christian population, "Happy Holidays" is the most appropriate greeting. It's also appropriate for Christians because few of them only celebrate Christmas. There is New Year's, after all.

The phrase "Happy Holidays" is the most inclusive one possible -- which may be why it's such a problem. Some Christians don't want to be "inclusive" because that sends the message that they aren't special or deserving of special privileges. Being inclusive means treating others as full equals, deserving all the same dignity and respect as oneself. The fact that this is received as an insult by some Christians says a great deal about them as human beings.

Comments
December 24, 2009 at 3:02 pm
(1) Liz says:

I would still like to hear some rational explanation why “Happy Holidays” is offensive… I haven’t heard anything I consider really reasonable. We know it’s Xmas (we’ve seen the commercials); we know a majority of people celebrate Xmas (still doesn’t mean the person I’m addressing is Xian…); Xmas is a holiday (last I checked…). So what’s up?

Also, why is the focus on what retailers say? If you really want to put the X back in Xmas, why do you care about commercial aspects of this *holiday*?

December 27, 2009 at 11:15 am
(2) dave Y says:

Its because happy holidays includes jews and muslim holidays, this makes it easy to identify the racists in our midst, thats why the religious right is behind this, their just busy ironing their white sheets!!

December 27, 2009 at 5:51 pm
(3) ee says:

It seems to me that if the christians were really worried about their religion they would not want the non-religious using the term inappropriately.
Wouldn’t it me more offensive tying the words “Merry Christmas” to santa and reindeer, snowmen and scrooge?

I celebrate Christmas. It is the secular version with sugar plum, a cubby old elf and the christmas spirit of giving and time with family.

But I am really tired of those who say “it’s christmas d@mn it”. It is supposed to be a time of goodwill to mankind and charity.

December 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm
(4) Dave says:

Religion does not equal race, so racism has nothing to do with any of it…

December 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm
(5) DavidCT says:

Since happy Holy Days is no big improvement, I don’t use it. If as person uses Merry Christmas as a pleasant greeting, I see no reason to make an issue of it. I avoid the issue by simply saying “the same to you”. When it is used as a sneer then “F**k you too” seems more appropriate.

We should not forget the reason for the season – it is the major retail event of the year.

December 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm
(6) Tom Edgar says:

My response is usually (with a smile) ” Bah Humbuggery”

December 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm
(7) Sally says:

“Merry Christmas” is the gang-tattoo of christianity!

December 29, 2012 at 6:47 pm
(8) Sally says:

“At the same time, though, we aren’t hearing so much anymore from Christians about the problem of Christmas being overly commercialized. Christians used to lament this, but not so much anymore. I guess that goes hand-in-hand with Christians now treating the Christmas season as a time for feasting, parties, and sensual delights rather than fasting, penitence, and somber reflection. ”

I think it has more to do with the fact that christianity and capitalism are such cosy bedmates – especially in C21 US.

December 30, 2012 at 4:33 am
(9) Borsia says:

I’ll stick to Happy Solstice and if they don’t like it they don’t need to send me a card.

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