Editorial: In defense of Christmas

Another year is passing us by and the snow has begun to fall thick. For a majority of Americans, the snow is a signal of things to come, such as family gatherings, greeting cards, festive foods and Christmas. But there has been recent banter in the media by conservative pundits decrying what they see in this country as a “War on Christmas.” Perhaps it is the times we live in where religion seems to crop up in just about every issue affecting local or global policy, but there seems to be no easy way out of what to call the festivities of December.

This year, the annual greeting cards being distributed by the White House signals that December has become an inclusive month for all religions. The traditional “Merry Christmas” has been replaced with “Happy Holiday Season.” In fact, there is pressure everywhere in this country to move from declaring a Merry Christmas to a Happy Holiday.ÿ

Last week, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., openly declared the tree on Capitol Hill a “Christmas tree” instead of a “Holiday tree.” Fox News anchor John Gibson released a book titled, “The War on Christmas” and Fox News commentator Bill O’Rielly has recently hosted several shows with the premise of a war on Christmas. The Chicago Tribune reported an organization calling for the “boycott of Target because of the chain’s refusal to use the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ in its advertising.” Instead, the retail chain is reported to have used “Happy Holidays,” but that policy was denied by Target.

In another article by The Chicago Tribune, it was reported that two conservative groups, one led by Rev. Jerry Falwell, claim to have almost 1,600 volunteer lawyers formed in a group called the Alliance Defense Fund and they are ready to battle against the war on Christmas. In the same article, it was reported that Southeastern Louisiana University told junior high and high school students they were forbidden to sing religious songs at a university holiday festival. The policy was reversed once contacted by the Alliance Defense Fund.ÿ

Are we, as a country, now moving toward inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness, or is there a prevalent attack on Christianity?

Without doubt, the intent of all this change in rhetoric was not to ignore that Christmas is in December but to pay homage to the other religions celebrated in the same time period. There is no debate that this country was founded upon Christian principles and that a large majority of citizens are, in fact, Christians, but we must also realize that our neighbors may not be Christians at all.

Yet, at the same time, it’s appalling for a person to be forced to deny their own religion and instead give a secular, politically-correct greeting. It should be OK for a person to greet someone with “Merry Christmas” and have the other person reply with “Happy Hanukkah.” Forcing someone to deny their religion with a secular greeting is an act of persecution.

Attacking a traditional greeting is the catalyst of more to come with no evident way to stop it. In today’s economy, competition is tough and businesses need to attract customers. It’s understandable that businesses would want to declare a “happy holiday” to everyone and risk losing a small customer base of Christians, as opposed to offending a majority of other religious groups. This will most likely be the eventual path of politicians as they seek to gain the majority of voters.

So if the war on Christmas is real, then it’s because our culture is changing and adapting to the mix of religions this country allows – not because of a hostile take over of Christianity. But as this trend becomes normalized in our culture, we should be careful not to force people to adapt to a popular, secular culture because to do so would be to deny a person of their individual rights. Let a person wish a genuine Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa or nothing at all instead of a disingenuous Happy Holidays. ÿ