Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why avoid using 'Merry Christmas'?

CSM reported The all-inclusive "Happy Holidays" greeting has become an annual December puzzler for towns, public schools, and businesses: How do we respect the holiday traditions of one group of citizens without causing detriment to another?

The answer is simple. If there are a significan number of Jews in your market area, have promotion for Jewish holidays. If there are a significant number of Muslims in your market area, have a promotion for Muslim Holidays. If there are a significant number of people that actually celebrate Kwanzaa (most don't), have a promotion for that holiday. And since at least 80% of your market area are practicing Christians, and since 96% celebrate Christmas, have promotions for that holiday, including not just Santa and reindeer, but also have nativity scenes, since it is Christ's birthday the Christians are celebrating.
While Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and in some years Ramadan and Diwali, share the same season, last year's polls show around 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. For a pluralistic nation that prides itself upon embracing both freedom of expression and the separation of church and state, the widespread public celebration of Christmas poses a unique quandary.
Why should it. The constitution does not say that Walmart, Target, or Sears may not celebrate religious holidays. (It does not even say that state or local governments can't. It just says that Congress cannot declare any particular church as State Church for the entire country.
Guiding public displays of Christmas cheer are a patchwork of inconsistent, local-level policies - the perfect conditions under which litigation emerges. Successive years of legal action by civil libertarians have effectively curtailed the public promotion of all things "Christmas," giving rise to more politically correct - and judiciously safe - "Holiday" observances. In doing so, public officials and retailers alike have nurtured a well-founded hypersensitivity to the opinions of a minority group. But just when the scales of political correctness seem to be gaining balance, along comes a new backlash. This year, it's the majority group of Christmas adherents who are alleging a persecution of beliefs.
Good for them!!!!!
After nearly two decades of watching community Christmas parades slowly evolve into Holiday parades, school Christmas vacation into winter break, and town hall crèches into snowmen, Christmas observers are revolting. Among the recent reactionary signs:
  • More than 800 lawyers are enrolled for the third year of The Alliance Defense Fund's Christmas Project initiative, which supplies legal aid to towns and schools nationwide that face challenges to their traditional Christmas celebrations.
    I wish them luck.
    Last year, the initiative successfully defended Christmas displays on public property by the town of Cranston, R.I., and the school district of Bossier Parrish, La.
  • During a Nov. 9 broadcast, FOX news commentator Bill O'Reilly launched the first volley in an all-out television-based offensive against retailers which shun "Merry Christmas" for "Happy Holidays," going so far as to list specific offending merchants that should be boycotted.
    And John Gibson wrote The War On Christmas
  • After threatening a boycott of Wal-Mart stores in early November, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights successfully won concessions from the retail chain after an employee offered up his own explanation to a customer via e-mail for the store's policy of wishing customers "Happy Holidays" in lieu of "Merry Christmas." Wal-Mart stood by its all-inclusive "Happy Holidays" greeting, but did publicly apologize and promptly fired the offending employee.
    They should reverse their policy, and until they do, we should boycott Walmart
  • The Rev. Jerry Falwell and the conservative Liberty Counsel have launched a "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." Armed with 750 lawyers, the group promises to "reclaim Christmas" by filing suit against anyone who, in their view, limits the public celebration of Christmas. Reverend Falwell recently publically criticized the city of Boston for a reference on its website to the annual lighting of its "Holiday Tree."
    Good for them. The Congressional "Holiday Tree" is now a "Christmas Tree" again, thanks to Speaker Hastert
  • The conservative 150,000 member American Family Association has called for a boycott of Target stores for not utilizing the specific phrase "Merry Christmas" in their holiday advertising.
    Good for them. Boycott Walmart, Target, and all other stores that do not promote Christmas.
  • A California organization called "The Committee to Save Merry Christmas" has garnered national media coverage with a grass-roots campaign to boycott Sears and Federated Department Stores Inc. for changing their advertising from "Merry Christmas" to "Season's Greetings."
The fundamental message of today's Christmas crusaders is not new; merely the societal context has changed. In the early 1950s, groups of clergy first began organizing against what they considered the disturbing commercialization and secularization of Christmas. While their efforts were largely confined to using the power of the pulpit, today's pleas are most likely to leverage the power of the judiciary and the court of public opinion.

In the end, the balance between sensitivity and celebration may always be elusive. A CNN/USA Today/Gallop poll conducted last year showed that Americans were evenly split on whether the public shift from "Christmas" to "Holidays" was a change for the better.
That must have been a very biased poll. I would like to see a real poll.
Such societal ambivalence exemplifies how the masquerading of traditionally held beliefs with insincere modern sensitivity ultimately serves no one well. When towns hold "Community Tree" lightings, do we all - majority and minority alike - not understand on a deeper level that it is really an old-fashioned "Christmas Tree" lighting redefined for the modern, politically correct era? Is it any big secret that the $435 billion dollar "Holiday shopping" bonanza currently under way is comprised primarily of "Christmas" gift buying? And when school children go on vacation for "winter break," do we not accept that it will always occur during Christmas week? By softening the "Christmas" connection simply for December etiquette, we neither fully show sensitivity toward the views of the minority nor genuinely celebrate the traditions of the majority. We are left then with a sanitized holiday season, fraught with fears of politically incorrect missteps. Then, no one has a truly happy holiday of any sort.


Anonymous said...

You want me to use "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays"?

What if I want to observe New Years as well, and include that in my holiday message? It's much easier for me to say "Happy Holidays" than "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year"

Don Singleton said...

You want me to use "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays"?


What if I want to observe New Years as well, and include that in my holiday message? It's much easier for me to say "Happy Holidays" than "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year"

You can always say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Everyone seems to want to be so inclusive by saying Happy Holidays to cover many different religions (despite the fact that 80% of Americans are Christians.

Well there are many different New Years: the Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashanah takes place in the month of Tishri (September and October on the Gregorian calendar) - it was October 4, 2005, and will be September 23, 2006; Islamic New Year is Maal Hijra, the first day of Muharram, the first Islamic month - it was Feb 10, 2005, and it will be Jan 31, 2006; the Chinese New Year is January 29, 2006 Year of the Dog); Hindu New Year is Diwali - it was Nov 1, 2005, and it will be October 21, 2006