You know what? I’ve been quiet about this for over a month already. People started whining about this in October. I am not in the mood to tolerate it this year. I have read the same spammed Facebook statuses about Keeping Christ In Christmas that I read all last year and the year before and the year before that and you know what? I’m done with the selfish, self-righteous holiday season bullshit that attempts to police how other people may and may not wish someone well and all the comments about the topic which linger like a rash on my Facebook news feed from October until January.
So, listen up.
I will be quietly unfriending any Facebook folks who pretend that there is a “War On Christmas” or that it is somehow offensive or wrong for someone to say “Happy Holidays” to random people encountered during December just because that someone chooses not to assume that every person you meet celebrates Christmas.
It is not rude to be inclusive and wish total strangers you just met “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.” You typically have no idea if they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, or what the heck else, and it is nice to include people when you attempt to wish them good tidings during the holiday season.
Christmas Day is a holiday. Even if you stubbornly only want to wish fellow Christians well during the season, that doesn’t change the fact that Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are also holidays. One can hope that you find celebrating them a happy thing. There are several holidays–several means more than just one–so the phrase correctly references plural holidays. If someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” you should then say, “Why, thank you! You, too!”
Try it: “Why, thank you! You, too!” Not difficult. It is common courtesy. Don’t be a jerk in your zeal to “celebrate (your) reason for the season.”
As one blogger says:
I don’t care what people celebrate today. I really don’t. To the Christians who think I’m smug and arrogant because I don’t think the entirety of the universe was created just for us: Happy Holi-…I mean, Merry Christmas. That was close.
I do have to give the Christians credit. I mean, no one else would have ever thought to have their festival or holiday on or around the Winter Solstice, so why shouldn’t they get upset and boycott stores who say “Happy Holidays”? There can’t be that many other holidays celebrated this time of year…right? It’s just a short list [slightly truncated because it was not short]:
- Inti Raymi
- Bodhi Day
- Winter Solstice
- Signature of the Constitution of the Republic of China
- Chinese New Year
- Dongzhi Festival
- All Saints’ Day
- Saint Nicholas’ Day
- Anastacia of Sirmium Feast Day
- 12 Days of Christmas
- Saint Stephen’s Day
- Saint John the Evangelist’s Day
- Holy Innocents’ Day
- Saint Sylvester’s Day
- Watch Night (aka New Year’s Eve)
- Saint Basil’s Day
- Twelfth Night
- Armenian Apostolic Christmas
- Pancha Ganapati
- Tu Bishvat
- Eid ul-Adha
- Chaharshanbeh Suri
- Dies Natalis Solis Invicti
- Guru Gobind Singh Gurpurb
- Ravidass Day
- Matydorm of Guru Arjan Dev
- Guru Nanak Jayanti
- Old New Year
- Zamenhof Day
- Quaid-e-Azam’s Day
- Boxing Day
- Yulefest, Midwinter Christmas
- Flying Spaghetti Monster Holiday
- Snowflake Day
- Starlight Celebration
- Feast of Winter Veil
Let me share a personal experience with you. Once upon a time, I had to go pick up something at a nearby drugstore. Allow me to set the scene. The streets on the way to the drugstore were decorated, by my town, using taxpayer funds. They were overhung with boughs of greenery, white twinkle lights, big gold bells, red ribbons, “Merry Christmas” banners and such. Very festive. Then the parking lot of the drugstore had cute little Christmas trees tied to all the light poles in the lot. There was a speaker blaring instrumental versions of Christmas tunes out into the parking lot. When you walked in, the drugstore had different terrible Christmas music playing over the store public address system. (Personally, I could die happy never hearing a muzak version of “Little Drummer Boy” ever again, but, hey, some people like that stuff.)
The drugstore’s employees were wearing green elf hats and red Santa hats, and the more religious ones–I live in a very religious town in a deeply red state–had their crosses on display (pins, necklaces, earrings). Every single aisle featured tags with Christmas graphics in the corner announcing the prices of all the goods. Every single aisle, even the paper goods and shampoo aisles, had special holiday packaging, special holiday toiletries, special holiday gifts. The center of the store featured a huge collection of yard decorations like dancing Rudolphs and waving fat Santas, capering penguins in Santa hats, huge glittery sleighs, nativity scenes with animatronic oxen and lambs nodding along with smiling donkeys, giant candy canes, giant inflatable bells, mice, moose, geese, Disney characters, Pixar characters, Nickelodeon characters, Sesame Street characters, elves and snowmen, giant Merry Christmas banners to hang on your house, giant “snow globe” inflatable things that must make a godawful racket, corporate mascots, kiddie movie tie-ins, musical candy-colored choo-choo trains and toy soldiers and toy nutcrackers and angels of all descriptions and baby Jesuses in mangers…you name it, they had it.
Every aisle in the entire store had its endcaps featuring Christmas presents on sale. There were Christmas cards, Christmas gift wrap bundles, Christmas ribbons, Christmas CDs, Christmas DVDs, Christmas cookies, Christmas stockings, Christmas guest towels, Christmas doormats, Christmas lights, Christmas candles, Christmas hand lotion, Christmas candy bars, Christmas stuffed animals, Christmas boxes, Christmas glitter, Christmas potted plants, Christmas pet toys, Christmas kitchen tools, Christmas gift baskets. Basically, it looked like the spirit of Christmas broke into the store in the middle of the night and vomited up tinsel-wrapped Noel on every square inch. It could not be more holly-jolly (or red and green) if it tried. Christmas had “done gone and blew up” in there, and no corner of the store was spared.
Dudes. I just needed some dish soap and light bulbs.
I got my stuff and was waiting (im)patiently in line behind a little old woman (wearing curlers and bedroom slippers and with a probably handmade puffy-paint + sequins JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON sweatshirt) and witnessed the following:
Drugstore clerk (smiling teenager wearing tasteful cross necklace and festive Christmas bell earrings): Here’s your receipt. Happy holidays!
Jesus Sweatshirt Woman: What? *epic tantrum is thrown*
That lady turned (Christmas) red, drew herself up to her full height of about five feet nothing, threw her shopping bags around (and I hope nothing breakable was in them), and pounded the counter with her tiny fists. She told everyone within earshot that we were Bad People and definitely all going to Hell because we were supposedly declaring a war on Christmas and Jesus and God, America and apple pie. “Happy holidays”?! What was that supposed to mean, anyway!? Rawrgh! Jesus Lady must Hulk smash everything! SO ANGRY. She raged so hard one of her curlers almost fell out of her hair and she temporarily kicked off a slipper. I had never seen such a thing in all my life.
No, I’m kidding. I have worked in restaurants and retail stores during the holiday season and, thus, have had plenty of opportunity to witness people get huffy and angry over being greeted with “Happy Holidays.” This was just the most dramatically exaggerated version I had ever seen. This was the store she chose to make her stand in, where it would probably be next to impossible to stuff more Christmas-related stuff inside it. If you have ever witnessed people viciously engaging in a verbal slang-fest of a fight with each other in a public place, you know how simultaneously fascinating, frightening and embarrassing it can be. No one knew where to look or what to do. We customers all became very anxious and busied ourselves by picking our jaws up off the floor, exchanging “WTF?!” glances and edging away from the fracas slowly and casually, so as not to draw fire from the madwoman.
Jesus Lady was spitting mad. The young clerk was about to cry. I suppose the store manager could not help but notice that something was going on and so he came scuttling over, his mustache twitching with anxiety, and tried to sort things out. Jesus Lady just about ate him for breakfast.
Once he figured out what had happened–“So, you told her “Happy Holidays”? That was it?”–and took note of all the other customers nodding wildly and saying that yes, that was the only thing the clerk did “wrong,” he quickly took command.
“You,” he said to the frightened clerk, “Please tell this woman ‘Merry Christmas’ if it will make her happy.”
“M-merry Christmas,” she said.
Jesus Lady just huffed, “There! Was that so hard?!”
“And as for you, ma’am,” he said to Jesus Lady, “You will leave my store now and never come back.”
A chorus of clucking tongues and ERMAGERDs erupted the minute Jesus Lady stormed out while fussing about the customer always being right, saying the usual “well, I never!” self-pitying pretend-offended stuff that obnoxious people like that always say, and declaring how much she loved the little baby Jesus the whole way. There were a lot of shaking heads and some ladies fanning their hands about in front of their bosoms like they’d just escaped being clipped by a car.
“Poor kid was just bein’ cordial,” said one shopper.
“That shit ain’t Christian,” said another shopper.
Everyone agreed; everyone bonded. Customers who had witnessed Jesus Lady’s meltdown made a point of telling the clerk “Happy Holidays.” It was, weirdly enough, the most holiday spirit I’d felt all week. (I was also annoyed. All I wanted was some damn light bulbs and dish soap. I was so not in the mood for dramatic performances in the middle of the damn drugstore.)
Thank goodness not everyone acts like that. It’s just a hunch, but I suspect that Jesus Lady had some mental problems and/or had been actively looking for an excuse to blow off some emotional steam and to bully someone; she simply chose a little teenage girl working for crappy wages in a drugstore to unload upon. It’s like the whole “Happy Holidays” thing just burst whatever dam of inner self-control she had, so she had this wild overreaction, couldn’t or wouldn’t stop flailing about and yelling, dug a deeper and deeper hole for herself in front of a dozen or so shocked witnesses, and then suddenly realized that there was no apology yet invented that would ever be big enough to cover that hole back up. Oh well, she may have thought…might as well get my money’s worth and go completely bugnuts. YOLO! Carpe diem! It was her own personal Two-Minute Hate program, and the poor cashier was her Emmanuel Goldstein.
The thing is, when someone gets bent out of shape–online, in a store, in a restaurant or wherever–just because someone says “Happy Holidays” to them, all the reasonable human beings nearby who observe them being ridiculous don’t think they are being good Christians. They think they are being rude and obnoxious. Most sensible people scoff at the idea of a “War on Christmas.”
If there is some kind of war, my Christian friends, then guess what? You won. There was never even a contest. You get all the annoying piped-in holiday music everywhere, be it novelty, secular, religious. Have you ever heard a muzak version of “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” in your local mall? No. No, you have not. You get all the days off from work. You get all the community decorations on businesses, street lamps, public parks. You get all the sale days at the mall. You get all the special TV programming and all the advertisers target you. You get special holiday movies. You get The Nutcracker, and The Grinch and Charlie Brown (and some regrettable Tim Allen films you probably didn’t even want). You get public Christmas tree lightings and door-to-door carol singers. You even get the tacky red and green jewelry, holiday sweaters, Santa hats, inflatable or electronic festive lawn decor, colorful twinkle lights, brick-like fruitcakes and delicious egg nog (spiked and non-spiked). You get Midnight Masses and hymns and special coffee flavors at Starbucks. Every website you visit is probably targeted towards you. You get the Hickory Farms sausage and cheese gift packs. You get the Christmas postage stamps and novelty candy wrappers and the special seasonal goodies. You get the novelty light-up neckties and stockings to hang by the chimney with care and all the storybooks and poems (including the one I just quoted). You get flying reindeer and elves. You get all the glazed ham and all the bacon.
What more do you friggin’ want?
OK, so you probably don’t want the re-gifted fruitcake. Can’t blame you for that.
Now, you can be a decent human being and gracious in your role as conquering winners of Western culture (and much of the rest of the world) and the entire month of December (and most of November and October, and we won’t even get into the big multi-week bash Christians get to have each spring, the one with the crosses, chocolates, bunnies and eggs) and you can, as winners, be simply politely inclusive of others who just might not believe the exact same things you do. You can be minimally polite by not being a giant whiny baby if someone has the temerity to not assume anything about your personal, private, intimate business–like what your religious beliefs are–when they wish to say something neighborly and pleasant to you during the holiday season by saying “Happy Holidays.”
One of the biggest offenders stirring up negativity and bad feelings about the “War on Christmas” is FOX News. “There really is a War on Christmas, isn’t there?” they’ll ask each other while on air: Hey, you guys, we’re not wrong about this, are we? Bill O’Reilly makes bank on the topic every single year.
This year, O’Reilly is claiming that Christianity isn’t even a religion, you guys, rather a philosophy, so what are non-Christians so bent out of shape about? Here’s O’Reilly explaining his assertion (no grammatical corrections have been made):
Let’s take it step-by-step. No one tells you a person could possibly see a secular display of Christmas as an imposition of religion. When the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree here in New York City was lighted last night no one threw themselves to the ground screaming about Jesus. That did not happen. New York City police did not round up the onlookers and force them into Saint Patrick’s Cathedral a block away. Nothing religious happened at the tree lighting. It was just a fun occasion.
Also you heard an atheist on this program last night say the federal holiday of Christmas imposes religion on him. What religion would that be? He says Christianity. But Christianity is not an organized religion, a church that can be imposed. There are many different churches that promote the Christian philosophy in many different ways.
Does the atheist think the federal government is promoting Mormonism? Lutheranism? Catholicism? What? After that interview the crazy Web site People emerged screaming that I’m wrong. Christianity is indeed a religion. This people are so stupid, it’s painful. Christianity is a philosophy. You don’t have to believe Jesus is God in order to admire his view on life.
Millions of Muslims admire Jesus as a prophet. In fact the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian philosophy, that’s what shaped our constitutional tenets. Again if you are stone-cold dumb and don’t understand the difference between an organized church and a philosophy, I cannot help you.
You’d think Christians would be more upset to hear their beliefs are not actually religious beliefs (O’Reilly probably didn’t even consider the problem that would cause for Christian churches and their religious tax exempt status if everyone agreed with his assertions) than imaginary wars being launched by scary militant atheists and the ACLU (an organization that is a perennial right-wing bugaboo to blame for Stuff Conservatives Are Afraid Of).
The imaginary War On Christmas didn’t stop FOX from hosting–wait for it–a Fox and Friends Holiday Party. That’s right: not a Christmas Party, but a Holiday Party. Why, it is almost as if they realized that there are more holidays in December than just Christmas…and that not everyone celebrates Christmas.
That so-called War On Christmas that gets all the Christian conservatives so upset and agitated did not stop the Republican National Committee from profiting from the sale of these lovely “Happy Holidays” ornaments:
Or keep the GOP from throwing its own holiday parties (funny, I don’t see Jesus or Christmas mentioned anywhere on that flier):
Et tu, Rick Perry?
Seriously, now? The promotional bumpers FOX News runs between programs are clearly guilty of waging War On Christmas!
Why, one might start to think that there was no War On Christmas at all…but that didn’t stop someone from creating an entire website dedicated to pretending Christmas is endangered. War On Christmas asserts “It’s real, so let’s fight!”:
Once upon a time not all that long ago – in fact, anyone over 50 will easily remember it – the word “Christmas” was everywhere during the month of December. Everywhere you looked – in stores, in town squares, in cities, in offices, and, of course, in private homes — there were Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Christmas cards, Christmas gifts, Christmas parties, and Christmas vacations. [...]
Then something strange began to happen. The very thing that made the “season” special started to disappear from the public arena. Stores no longer held “Christmas sales.” Businesses, and soon after, individuals, ceased to hold “Christmas parties.” And on and on. “Christmas” became a dirty word, and was replaced by “holiday.” The War on Christmas had begun.
We’ve grown so accustomed to the change that we’ve lost sight of just how significant it is. “Christmas” is loaded with meaning and rich in spirit. It imparts rich feelings unlike anything else. “Holiday,” by contrast, is a bland word that can signify anything from Independence Day to Labor Day to “Sweetest Day.” At most, it means a day that you might get off from work if you’re lucky. And nothing else. Saying “holiday” and meaning Christmas is like saying “a long dead politician” and meaning Abraham Lincoln. Technically, it’s not wrong. But the whole significance is lost.
Of course, this didn’t happen by accident. Ask most people how it happened, and they’ll just shrug and say, “political correctness.” And in fact, “PC” is a cruel master, uncaring about what it destroys, and swift to punish those who violate it. So most choose to bow and submit. But not here. This site is a place to reclaim the richness and beauty of Christmas. But it’s more. It’s a place to treasure and actively work to preserve our traditional American culture. Because that culture is worth keeping. It’s part of what holds us together and makes us American…including those of us who are not Christian.
First of all, where are they living? I’d love to live in an area of the United States that is more inclusive of other celebrations and beliefs and cultures. I like Christmas decorations just fine, but I haven’t even seen any of these imaginary War On Christmas decorations anywhere. I don’t even see any non-Christmas decorations. I see a lot of yards that look like you could easily see them from space.
Where I live, just finding gift wrap for Chanukkah presents–and non-Santa-branded gifts–to give to Jewish friends is often an all-day quest, and there is actually a large and vibrant Jewish community in my town. They are just not big on putting enormous inflatable menorahs and animatronic dreidels in their yards, and it’s probably not just because Chanukkah isn’t even one of the Jewish High Holy Days. They aren’t out there putting up enormous neon Rosh Hashanah displays, either.
Let’s review, so it does not slip anyone’s mind: If someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” what do you say? Do you remember? That’s right! You say “Why, thank you! You, too!” (It is then customary among human beings to bare one’s teeth at each other, this is called “smiling” and normal people do it to be friendly.)
If you are a devout Christian conservative person and this sort of considerate behavior makes you anxious, then you can go talk to Jesus and let him know that you loved your neighbor really well that day by not being an utter asshat when someone tried to wish you joy and happiness and good tidings, but also foolishly chose a phrasing that you, personally, don’t like as much as “Merry Christmas.” You can tell Jesus that you are positive they are really a Muslim or something, but you are totally awesome at the Not Being A Giant Dickbag thing–because you were full of loving kindness and stuff. Jesus might high-five you and give you a gold star. Jesus really liked that “be excellent to each other” thing. He called it “loving thy neighbors.”
If someone says “Happy Holidays,” you have the opportunity to be a good, loving, awesome Christian simply by not being a humongous self-absorbed jerk. You can be gracious and love thy neighbor and smile and thank them for their well-wishes. I mean, heck, they may be just as down with Jesus as you are. You never know. You might have to be nice to everyone without knowing for sure if they, too, are Christian because you aren’t always going to get to hear the magical “Merry Christmas” code words first. (Everyone knows that a Muslim bursts into flame if they say “Christmas,” after all. We won’t even discuss what happens to atheists if they say “Christmas.” It’s super gross. You’ll be delighted to know that Torquemada would approve.)
So, oh my goodness, someone said “Happy Holidays!” to you. Try not to storm off in a huff. They are not declaring war on you (or Christmas). You can survive this horrible, terrible, nasty insult! You can bake extra sugar cookies, hang more boughs of holly or pray an extra couple of times to Jesus if it still offends you that you had to be nice back to someone trying to be pleasant to you.
I know, I know. Being nice is not nearly as much fun as being a pouty, whiny bully and ranting about how Christmas is somehow threatened because someone had the temerity to say “Happy Holidays” or acknowledge that, for instance, Jewish people actually exist.
Don’t be a Grinch or a Scrooge. Go forth and have a Merry Xmas (if that’s your thing) and Happy Holidays (no matter what your thing might be)!
P.S. Enjoy this festive holiday medley from all-male a capella group Straight No Chaser: The Christmas Can Can–which includes a nod to the joys of being welcoming and inclusive during the joyous season: