A sure sign of the season

It happened, the day before Thanksgiving.

The first of the perennial "merry-Christmas-vs.-happy-holidays" letters to the editor arrived in the inbox.

If you need any more evidence of how the seasons run together, there you have it.

I'm of two minds here. Obviously I welcome and accommodate our readers' comments on all issues, but I have to admit I find this debate a bit overblown.

Personally, I celebrate Christmas with my family, buy a Christmas tree, enjoy Christmas carols, exchange Christmas gifts. As a Christian, I try to make sure to reflect upon what I believe to be the day's spiritual significance. But I also respect the fact that others celebrate the season differently. So I've gotten in the habit of wishing people "happy holidays," especially when I'm not sure of someone's religious orientation. I mean it simply as good tidings, not as a social statement. I've never yet had someone chew me out over it — at least not to my face.

It should be simple, and I wish it were. Sadly, I think this lingering debate persuades no one to change their view, and serves only to divide us. I don't see how that fits in the spirit of the season — however you choose to celebrate it.

In closing, here's the Dec. 3, 2005 editorial we published on this subject. I still think the words ring true — though I'm not sure how many minds they will change:

"In the greater context of things, there are a lot worse things you can say to someone than 'merry Christmas.'

"Or 'happy holidays.'

"It's not just a matter of what we choose to say to each other — although that's where conversations all start. It's also a matter of how we hear these words, how we choose to react. Do we want to hear a friendly greeting at a joyful time of year? Do we want to listen for a slight that we perceive to push a religious belief — or to secularize the season?

"These are loaded questions, to be sure. But doesn't a season of goodwill lend itself not just to charitable giving, but to charitable listening? That's something our world could use more of any time of year.

"Much of our annual angst over holiday greetings is understandable. This is, after all, a time of traditional celebrations that cut across cultures.

"Christmas Day, Dec. 25, celebrates the birth of Jesus, a central event in the Christian faith. Hanukkah — the Jewish festival of lights, beginning this year on Dec. 26 — celebrates the rededication of the temple of Jerusalem after a victory over the Hellenist Syrians in 165 B.C. Kwanzaa, an African-American celebration of family, community and culture from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, was created in 1966 — but it is based on first-harvest celebrations dating back to ancient Egypt.

"To those who devoutly celebrate these dates, the 'happy holidays' greeting can seem inadequate — a pseudo-sentiment that doesn´t connect with a faith. In the effort to not offend, wishing happy holidays can have the effect of offending.

"That can happen. But it need not happen.

"In a smaller community, in another time, perhaps it was easier for us all to connect with each other immediately, and know exactly how to extend good wishes with sensitivity. But perhaps not. The fact is, we don't know a stranger´s religious beliefs on sight — any more than we can divine their politics. What a hollow world it would be if we knew everyone before we even met them. Hence 'happy holidays,' a deliberately generic greeting.

"No, it's not personalized. Nor is it perfect. What greeting is? When 160,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq — and Americans are embroiled in a bitter debate over our mission there — it's not as if the old holiday standby 'peace on Earth' is absent political topspin.

"Ultimately, this comes down to the peril of assumption, that enemy of understanding.

"Don't assume that you know how someone celebrates the season. That's the benefit of wishing a stranger 'happy holidays;' for all its shortcomings, the phrase makes no assumptions of faith.

"Likewise, don´t assume that a simple greeting is a calculated statement on religious values. That's where charitable listening kicks in. A store clerk may simply be trying to be polite by wishing you happy holidays. A co-worker is probably not proselytizing by wishing you a merry Christmas.

"If you must assume anything, assume someone means you well and wishes you no offense. That is probably the safest assumption you can make."

I HEART CHRISTMAS!!

I love the carols, the lights, the trees, the gifts, the eggnog, the stockings, the conviviality of Christmas. And not once, even though I'm an atheist, have I batted an eye when someone said Merry Christmas to me. I always wish them a Merry Christmas back.

This "war on Christmas" crapola is nothing more than manufactured outrage and short-term controversy...'Tis the season!

Happy Holidays All!

"Christmas" controversy

This is not "a short term controversy." This is part the the extreme radical anti-Christian fundamental secularist effort to obliterate Christianity from society. Catherine Millard's book "The Rewriting of America's History" documents this to the time of publication. If you don't know about efforts in the last few years to hide or ban Christian expressions, your head is in the sand--anything from telling chaplains how they can pray to efforts to ban them entirely. One very recent effort was to prohibit the military from reciting the meaning of each fold of the flag at a funeral. Have you noticed how many stores are not calling Christmas trees Christmas trees? That is stupid. What other holiday are people buying the evergreens for?

Sucks to be

Christian, doesn't it? In this enlightened age, we realize that Christianity is not the only game in town, and certainly not in our country. A chaplain should not be telling our brave soldiers that the only way to heaven is through belief in Jesus as their personal savior if the soldier is Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim or atheist...period. I don't know what you're talking about with the folding of the flag, as military code says only "The flag is folded and is then presented to next of kin, "As a representative of the United States Army, it is my high privilege to present you this flag. Let it be a symbol of the grateful appreciation this nation feels for the distinguished service rendered to our country and our flag by your loved one." Who's complaining about that?

I LOL at your "extreme radical anti-Christian fundamental secularist effort". OOOOH, that's almost as scarey sounding as "feminazi" or " liberal". You god-worshippers have had it your way for a long, long time, but your way is not the ONLY way, and it's about time you realized it.

I call my tree a Christmas tree. My neighbor calls hers a Yule tree. We don't care what you call it.

See, short term controversy and manufactured outrage.

Merry Xmas!

A fire hazard!

Pretty though.

War On Christmas

An article in the Washington Times today (11/27/07) tells of Sheriff James Alderden planning to put up a Christmas tree fully decorated with colored lights and topped by an angel in opposition to the city's banning anything religious, including colored lights. Authorized donations include "snowflakes, snowmen, snowballs, ice skates, skis, penguins, polar bears, white lights, etc." That is part of the war against Christianity.

The article also mentioned the following: 1. The Rockefeller Center in Manhatten has jettisoned even a "holiday" reference to its revels. 2. Savannah, Georgia, officials call their Christmas tree a "Tree of Light." 3. Port St. Lucie, Florida, voted to spend $11,750 to rent an artifical tree after an all-purpose "holiday arbor" planted outside city offices didn't grow.

Its concluding paragraph was that ""Merry Christmas" is preferred to "Happy Holidays" by Americans 67% to 26%. "Merry Christmas" is preferred by 88% of Republicans and 57% of Democrats.

See?

You Christians have to ruin it for everybody. What's wrong with decorating your own danged tree with all the symbols of your religion, and leaving the public ones all inclusive?

PS: You DO know that December 25th isn't really the birthday of Jesus, right? You DO know that the tree, the presents, the singing, all arose from the Roman observation of Saturnalia, and the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, right?

What gives you the right to sully OUR celebration with your god-worshipping mandates?

Merry X-mas!

X-MAS!

I hope the Ramones did a holiday album :)

I PREFER...

that you hand that grub over if you please. MMM

I want underwear and canned goods and meat for presents. I already got myself 2 dozen new pairs of socks at Kmart this month. I repaired everything else I wanted.

There's War EVERY Christmas!

What you talkin bout, Willis?

Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays

If 90% plus of the population is Christian, why do you prefer to offend us by not wishing us a Merry Christmas to possibly offending a Jew or Hindu or Muslim of Atheist by using that term? Christmas is an American cultural item and is even a legal federal holiday (holy day). If you know a person is celebrating Ramadan, you don't need to say "Christmas," but if you don't know, that person can tell you and you can correct yourself. Your argument is spurious and frankly smells like anti-Christian secularism trying to disguise itself.

LOL part 2

If 10% of the population is not Christian, why do you wish to risk offending that 10% by pushing your god-worshipping religion onto them?

Christmas is NOT an "American cultural item," and George Washington's Birthday is a holiday, not a holy day.

Stores, not wishing to offend that 10% may indeed want to give an all-inclusive holiday greeting...why would that offend you, considering you too are included in the Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings wishes? For one reason...you believe an arbitrary date in December is exclusive to YOUR religion.

And it's NOT.

Offense

That is the real issue. People are afraid of offending someone else.
So what if someone else is offended. People cannot control how others react to anything. People can only control how they react to things themselves.
NOw, If I deliberately try to offend someone, that is an entirely different story.
The spirit of the entire Christmas season, whether you believe in its religious nature or not, is simply goodwill to your fellow man. Getting all offended because someone wishes you 'Merry Christmas' (or anything else) is simply ludicrous and idiotic. Additionally, doesn't that really go against the intended spirit of this holiday season anyway?
If you wish to celebrate Saturnalia, Ramadan, Christmas, Hanukka, Kwanzaa, pebble day, national submarine sandwich burning day, or whatever, that is your perogative.
Just know that those 90% of us who wish others 'Merry Christmas' mean it only in the best of intentions, not to offend the other 10%.
He who is offended when offense is intended is a fool. He who is offended when offense is not intended is bigger fool.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Good answer

And I don't know ANYbody who is offended by the greeting "Merry Christmas."

Those who complain about the nativity scenes and crosses and angels in public venues are most likely complaining because of the lack of religious symbolism for THEIR religion's yuletide observances. This was the case at Seattle-Tacoma airport where a Rabbi asked only that if Christian symbols were to be displayed, shouldn't Jewish symbols also be displayed. This caused a huge kneejerk reaction from airport officials and Christians alike. What a bunch of foolishness.

As you read GOP's responses, wherein he claims Christmas is an American holiday, I guess I can understand why some people might be vigilant about protecting their own religious freedoms in the face of such erroneous claims, but I'm with you Heichan...Peace on Earth,Good Will Towards Man.

Happy Boxing Day too!

*except in the US where it's known as National OMG! See if you can get something decent with this, exchange it Day

Like, oops, eh?

I totally forgot about Boxing Day! Hope my freinds in Canada aren't upset.

WAIT 360 SECONDS!

90% of the "Christian" Christmas holiday is from customs of NON-CHRISTIANS.

As usual.

Whee!!!

If Christmas is %90 non-Christian, then the media, politicians, and anti-Christian people and groups have nothing to worry about!
Saying Merry Christmas should definitely not offend anyone.

Feliz Navidad
Freuliche Weinachten
Sretan Bozic
Mele kelikimaka (sp?)
Meri Kurisumasu

(I'm not sure if I intended this post ot be sarcastic or not. Take it for what you will, but have a Merry Christmas!)

Don't die until after Groundhog Day

that's the best holiday greeting I could figure.