It’s a bit of a stretch to attempt a connection between celebrating Christmas and being American, but some of our fellow Americans see Christmas ribbon as the tie that binds and that there is an enemy trying to shred it. The president and his wife didn’t include the word “Christmas” in their holiday greeting. While there are those who don’t like that, it’s a greeting from one family to others so it’s really no one’s business what that greeting says or doesn’t say. Using only our Christian commander-in-chief’s example, it’s okay to exchange the word “Christmas” in favor of a broader term. Acknowledging there are those who don’t celebrate Christmas but are good enough for presidential mail, our president sends the message that you don’t have to celebrate Christmas to be American. There are a good many that, upon hearing “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings,” responded with “Them’s fightin’ words.” And thus, the real culprit who declared the war on Christmas is revealed.
While I’m opposed to those who would seek to eliminate any reference to any holiday, I’ve not run into but a few of these fanatics over the years. What I have seen and am running into with more frequency are those who all about Christmas to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. I’m not hot on the idea that this time of year should only revolve around Christmas because there are other holidays being celebrated by a good many others. What does it matter that they’re in the minority? Breast cancer isn’t the nation’s number one killer either. Does that mean we should devote all research to the number one cause of death at the expense of all those who happen to die from something else?
It could be said that a few choice media stories covering a teeny tiny minority got this all started, but it would be more accurate to say that those who took offense to these stories gave this “war” its fuel and fury, and it’s title. I’ve not personally run into anyone that was offended by “Christmas” in any way, shape or form. The only thing I’ve run into are those who are offended with the term “holiday” being used in place of the term “Christmas” in the retail world. The term “holiday” isn’t new. It being used more often and in place of “Christmas” seems to be upsetting a few people. Interestingly, It doesn’t seem to upset any of these same people that “holiday” is also being used in place of “Hanukkah” and “Yule” or that “Hanukkah” and “Yule” were rarely used in the first place.
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn in the coming months that those who believe in the “War on Christmas” are just as insignificant and fanatical a slice of our population as those spouting anti-Christmas sentiment. What is significant is the number of people who have willingly and unquestionably hopped on to either of these bandwagons. C’mon people, those wagons didn’t have a lot of seats to begin with. You’re really just traffic hazards now.
So someone is calling it a “holiday” tree instead of a “Christmas” tree. That doesn’t detract from Christmas nor does it keep anyone from referring to their tree in whatever way they want to. The Christian fervor in all of this is most curious. It’s not like there were any “Christmas” trees in Bethlehem, or
“Christmas” lights and “Christmas” cards for that matter. The first Christmas didn’t take place in the winter or even in a place where there was winter. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Any recognition that goes beyond a nativity and a humble exchange of gifts is superfluous, dare I say commercial. Trees, wreathes, just the right gift (incense for a baby?), lights, the idea that Santa is watching and will bring things accordingly, decor, sleigh rides, and all that food has nothing to do with Christmas. By definition, there is no such thing as a “Christmas” tree.
What’s wrong with the commercialism of Christmas is not the commericalism itself but rather what the consumer has done with it. The consumer is to blame, or credit, for the commercialism in the first place. Sure it’s very anti-Christmas to trample people in the quest for a low-priced gaming system and it’s certainly not in the spirit of the season to have the stress of drunken in-laws taking up space in one’s home. The flip side of all that merchandizing is the availability of the things we want, things that accomodate our spirit but that we don’t have time or energy to create ourselves like chopping down a tree in the woods, blowing our own glass ornaments, and handcrafting our own nativity set.
I think Christ would be thrilled to know (and I’m sure he does know) his birthday has come to have global meaning even if it doesn’t include every single person on the globe. It’s a testament to his message that we’ve taken his birth and surrounded it with things like Toys for Tots, community caroling, and volunteering at shelters, nursing homes, and veterans hospitals. While these things have nothing to do with Christmas, we’ve allowed these things to evolve into our association with it. We all have control over our choices, from staying home the day after thanksgiving to creating a one-present-per-person tradition to focusing our money and energy on those less fortunate. It is our choices that define our spirit, not how we or anyone else labels that spirit. No one’s going to take my Christmas away and no one has threatened to do so. “Happy Holidays” is a greeting, not a gun. A wee bit o’ Christ’s message, peace on earth and good will toward others, would do well in place of anyone’s angst over terms.
Those who cry out for the use of “Christmas” can and do still say it, so where’s the threat? For the over two-hundred years that many Americans have been saying “Christmas”, those who celebrate Christmas didn’t give a second thought to those who instead celebrate Hanukkah or the Yule. Those who celebrate Hanukkah or the Yule haven’t spent over two-hundred years expressing discontent with hearing “Merry Christmas” even though that’s not what they’ve been celebrating for more than two-thousand years. So who is the enemy, really?
That the commercial industry has taken to the use of the term “holiday” rather than “Christmas” is all business. They do what makes money. If “Christmas” made more money, they’d do that – and they did when it made the most money. But graphs and charts and cold hard cash speak volumes, and those things say “holiday” is the way to go. Again, that’s business, not people. We the people are still doing what we want to do unhampered and unstopped.
I don’t recall anyone getting too upset when the word “turkey” replaced the word “Thanksgiving” on many a greeting card and merchandising display. If, on paper, you take the thanks and giving out of Thanksgiving, you can still be thankful and giving. No amount of turkey-laden tablecloths and foldout centerpieces is going to stop the reason we take that day off.
It didn’t seem to bother too many people for the longest time that an other-than-Caucasian person couldn’t find a greeting card depicting an other-than-Caucasian person prancing through the snow or topping the tree with a star. That other-than-Christian folk had a hard time, for a long time, finding greeting cards and decor for their holiday traditions didn’t seem to create much fervor either.
So is it “Christmas” that’s in danger, or something way more precious – exclusivity perhaps? The majority of the offense taken and the source of all this discontent doesn’t rest with those who prefer “holiday” to “Christmas”. It rests with those whose Christmas, whose American Christmas, whose Caucasian American Christmas no longer enjoys the exclusive domain of the retail world and the world at large. Christmas is not an American holiday and Christ wasn’t Caucasian. Tying Christmas in with patriotism is nothing short of blasphemous. Kudos to the retail world for finally acknowledging that there is more than one race celebrating more than one holiday, or rather the amount of money to be made by acknowledging this.
Even without the support of the retail world and laws on the books, Christmas is safe, and so is Hanukkah and Yule celebrations. Dr. Suess’ Grinch said it best when he said, “It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!” The spirit of our holidays was never at risk and it never will be. Two-thousand (or six-thousand or ten-thousand) years of celebrations isn’t negated just because it’s suddenly realized by some that others don’t share in their particular tradition or that there are others who celebrate something else. And it certainly doesn’t go away with nothing more than a shift in vernacular.