Oh, sorry. I’m in a Christmas mood. Because naturally, that’s the only holiday happening right now. Wait. It’s not even Christmas yet? Well, shoot. And here I was all ready to sing a few rounds of Silent Night.
I’m glad we have a few well-meaning folks to remind us that everyone should wish people Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. Unless, of course, you know for a fact that your friend celebrates something else. Then you should probably (grudgingly) accept that fact and wish your greetings accordingly.
Never mind that the same people shedding tears over the loss of Merry Christmas are also probably watching Elf or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, both of which mention Christmas but with nary a word about Jesus (who just kinda happens to be the reason for Christmas, no?). Of course, that hardly matters–why, Christmas is as American as baseball and apple pie!
Here’s the cold, hard truth: It isn’t really about Christmas or any other holiday celebrated at this time of year. If it were, people would quietly honor their religious and/or family traditions on the actual day. It wouldn’t matter one iota what people celebrated or didn’t celebrate, what greetings they used or didn’t use. I guess it would be a lot more like Thanksgiving–you know, the day that falls between Get Lots of Candy Day and Buy Lots of Stuff Month. Fairly unnoticed and not particularly commercial.
If it were really about the religious holiday, theoretically, we ought to find Christians being glad that their holiday greeting isn’t being taken in vain. After all, isn’t one of the premises of evangelism that most people do not already know Jesus? Why invoke the percent of people identifying as Christian now? Sadly, this is actually about a small number of very vocal people looking for another way to play Persecuted Christian.
There are several other things to consider in talking about this supposed War on Christmas:
- I don’t care how you greet me. Wishing me Happy Holidays is fine by me–it makes me feel warm and squishy inside. We may be strangers, but it feels for just a moment like you actually do care whether I have a happy time.
- Only about half the people I know are Christians. Sure, some of the people who aren’t also celebrate Christmas, but not all of them. When I’m with people I know personally, I’m free to wish them whatever holiday greetings they prefer. That’s not always the case. Why should store employees need to ask personal, invasive questions about your religious affiliation when a simple, generic greeting will do?
- Have you all noticed the sheer volume of Christmas-themed stuff in the stores? It’s truly staggering. How about the television ads, social media promos, and mailers? Where is this alleged War on Christmas? They may be using the words “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings,” but the intent is certainly clear.
- Don’t any of you War on Christmas types ever celebrate the New Year? That’s not an extension of Christmas; it’s a holiday of its own. I’m just guessing here, but aren’t a lot of stores/people/places that use “Happy Holidays” probably including New Year’s in their generic greeting?
- As far as school is concerned, I’m happier not having my religion stepped on. In exchange, I won’t step on anyone else’s. I also prefer that school be a place of learning. Do they really need to have a party with a lot of sticky candy canes? If my kids want to celebrate Christmas, we have friends and a church for that. School really isn’t the place.
- Have we forgotten that there are lots and lots of people who might prefer not to be greeted seasonally at all? This is a pretty hard time for many people. Fixating on the words used by store employees detracts from the love and care someone may need. Don’t waste time and energy crying foul over Happy Holidays–do something to show love to someone instead.
- Finally, a big old what. the. hell. Are you kidding me? This is really an important issue? So, rampant holiday consumerism is less significant a problem than the type of greeting the store employee offered you. I see. Well, good luck with that, then. I hope you have a damn skippy “holiday” filled with luxuries I probably can’t afford.
I’ll admit, I love this season. I like driving downtown at night and seeing the streets festooned with lights. I enjoy putting up the tree and bringing out the special decorations. I appreciate the neighbors’ outdoor displays (yes, even those giant inflatable snowmen). The song “Silver Bells” sums it up pretty well for me. Guess what, though? None of that has anything to do with my religious beliefs. It’s just a fun part of the transition from fall to winter. Spiritually speaking, it’s the traditions of Advent that draw me back to the awe and wonder of my faith. Perhaps the ability to separate the commercial from the sacred is why I don’t believe there is a War on Christmas at all.
This might be a shortcoming of conservative evangelical Christian culture–more often than not, the actual reason we get a whole month is lost on people who think High Church tradition is “irrelevant.” Those churches that do not teach or understand the liturgical year have caused their own problem. How many people in those churches know that we just celebrated the Christian New Year? This is our season of hope and anticipation, yet it’s full of shopping sprees and fighting about Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas.
Here’s my charge to you: Go do some research. Google is a wonderful thing. Search for Advent, and read about the traditions. Take a break from your usual daily devotional (if that’s your thing) and read the Advent Scriptures instead. Create an Advent wreath with your family and light the candle each night, adding another every Sunday. Read the prophets and the Magnificat.
And then do this: Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Have fun shopping and wrapping and baking and partying. Drink egg nog and mulled wine. Sing “Jingle Bells” (and maybe ride a sleigh with actual jingle bells). Watch Ernest Saves Christmas (you’ll thank me later). There is nothing wrong with any of that. Just do it knowing that really, cookies and egg nog and sleighs and Rudolph have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the miraculous event of God descending to us as a tiny babe.
Happy Holidays, all.