Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas...or Happy Holidays? (My opinion may surprise you.)

Every Christmas I get emails bemoaning the sad state of affairs we're in. Stores have banners proclaiming not "Merry Christmas!" but "Happy Holidays!" Schools have a "winter break," not "Christmas break." And occasionally a decorated evergreen is called a "holiday tree."

Now, I'll admit the "holiday tree" thing is almost as ridiculous as calling a menorah a "holiday candlestick." But I'm also going public with this belief:

I'm okay with "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings." You don't have to tell me "Merry Christmas" for me to enjoy shopping at your store or greeting you in the street.

I'm a devout Christian. I believe that the Bible is true, that Jesus really was born to a virgin, and that these things are worth celebrating and sharing.

But, really, is a huge "MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!" above the Barbie and Lego pictures in a Target ad going to convince someone to believe in Christianity? And as a Christian, does "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!" really threaten the beliefs of my heart and mind? If it does, I think I've got a problem.

I think a lot of this is tied to a sense of dismay held by many Christians--dismay that America is "no longer a Christian nation." Well...we aren't. And we weren't ever meant to be. Sure, a lot of Founding Fathers were Christians. Plenty of others weren't. They very specifically did not create the USA as a theocracy.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." That's straight from the First Amendment. In order to be truly free to practice whatever religion we want (or not to practice at all), we've got to be in a country whose government doesn't recognize any particular religion as more true than any other.

If that means public schools want to call it "winter break" instead of "Christmas vacation," I'm fine with that. Just as I don't need Target ads to validate my belief in Christ, I'm not going to depend on public schools to give my children religious education. It's a break from school, and it's in the winter. Winter break. Works for me.

And that whole "free exercise" thing means that Target, Sears, & Wal-Mart can celebrate Christmas if they want (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or none of the above, or all of the above.) I'll wholeheartedly defend their right to make those decisions. I'd expect to be defended in my right to act according to my beliefs, too.

This December my family is celebrating the Christian version of Christmas, including sending out a Scripture-quoting card. And when I say "Merry Christmas," you can respond with "Happy Holidays," "Season's Greetings," "Happy Hanukkah," "Happy Kwanzaa," or "Yippeekiyay, it's Winter Solstice and the days are going to get longer again!"

I may not agree with your beliefs, and you may not care for mine...but I think most of us can concur that religious freedom is a beautiful thing, any season of the year.

20 comments:

Rachel Cotterill said...

I couldn't agree more. I hope your Christmas is merry, your holidays happy, and your season... greeted? You know what I mean!

Call Me Cate said...

I thought about writing a post on this topic. You did it much better than I would've.

I believe our freedoms allow us all to make choices, not just about the holidays. Your choice to celebrate a Christian holiday in a few days doesn't negate someone else's choice to celebrate a Pagan holiday.

I wish more people took your view and were content to live and let live on this one. Let's just acknowledge that most everyone agrees this is a special time of year and wish each other a nice one.

Rabbit said...

I rather like the "Yippeekiyay, it's Winter Solstice and the days are going to get longer again!" Sounds fun. I worked in retail one year for the holidays and it totally killed my spirit - not because people, in general, are just turds - but because it became so exhausting wishing someone season's greetings of any kind and being berated for it. I had painted our windows with "Happy Holidays" - thinking it was all inclusive - only to start a witch hunt. I ended up taking ALL the decorations down and said not another word even acknowledging the holidays about two weeks before Christmas. I don't know why we can't all celebrate whatever it is we celebrate together in the spirit of the season rather than having to "correctly" label it whatever.

Great post. Thanks for that!

beckiwithani said...

Very well said!

Laurel said...

Amen and ditto on what Becki said.

Bri said...

I completely agree... I have seen a lot of people complaining that they won't shop somewhere because they don't say Merry Christmas anymore. Who freakin' cares?! It is their belief and for most retail stores it is a way of covering EVERYONE! Now do I think they should say it in 12 different languages to accomodate everyone? No... but that is a whole other issue, now isn't it.

beckiwithani said...

Wait, I just realized ... does this mean there is no WAR ON CHRISTMAS?!? If there's not a WAR ON CHRISTMAS, what on Earth is Bill O'Reilly going to talk about? I mean, it's not like there are any other, more important wars going on...

Eternal Lizdom said...

I totally blogged on this subject yesterday and am going to go add a link to yours in it for the sake of continuity and posterity!!

AMEN!

The Clines said...

Beth-I totally agree! Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!
Teresa

Mellodee said...

A balanced, sane, rational, and fair assessment of a situation that has gotten completely out of hand. Beliefs are an individual's choice and we all allowed our own choices without ANYONE trying to tell us we're wrong! So....Merry Christmas World!

Tom said...

Your talent with words humbles me. I only wish I had said what you said.

You are so right. Merry Christmas to all.

Kristen said...

AWESOME POST!! I too thought about writing something similar, but I'm glad you beat me to it lol...I used to get offended at such things but then I realized exactly what you're talking about. I don't need anyone else's validation of my faith...just as they shouldn't require mine. We in the US are free to practice whatever religion we choose...and it should be reciprocal...not just for Christians. That's part of the problem people have with Christians...many of us are quick to point out what's wrong with EVERYONE ELSE but ourselves. Things have to be OUR WAY. That's not how it should be at all...and although we should "go forth and spread the good word/news" (I'm not the best at quoting scripture lol) it doesn't mean we have to shove it down other people's throats. It's taken me a long time to get where I am in my faith...and I'll be proud of it. I want people to be understanding of that...and I should be just as understanding of them. (I recently read something somewhere that suggested that most "religions" worship the same God anyway...they just call him different names, etc...but I don't know that for sure...I'm barely getting the hang of Christianity lol!)

And yes...the Lego ad is annoying. ;-)

Kristen said...

PS...I love the new look! (Been reading in my reader so sorry if I'm a little slow!)

InspiredDreamer said...

You know it's funny, I've taken up saying "Happy Christmas" this year. It's not a huge change in tradition (and in fact it's what Santa says in The Night Before Christmas) but I like doing things a bit differently. If I wanted to expouse my beliefs entirely through what I said, I'd be walking around saying "Happy Jesus' birthday, He's got a party waiting for you in heaven--will you be there?"

ElleBee said...

Wonderful post, Beth! Hope your family has a beautiful Christmas!

Grand Pooba said...

People spend WAY too much time worrying about political correctness these days.

Lighten up peeps!


P.S. Cate approves of this post

Roy F. Tottie said...

Thank you so very much. Finally a Christian who gets it (actually I believe that many if not most do, but the ones who don't are as usual the most vocal). My standard retort to ones who get offended at my greeting (and honestly I'm usually a Merry Christmaser because that's the holiday I grew up with) and want to smugly opine that "Jesus is the reason for the season.", is to smile and say, "Well he may be your reason, but he's not the reason for mine." Usually this hushes them up.

Personally I think you are setting a wonderful example for your kids and friends, a little tolerance and mutual respect for diversity of beliefs is part of why I haven't given up on US yet.

Keep The Faith!

Roy F. Tottie

2cats said...

You said it all so perfectly.
I have Jewish friends. I call them and wish them a happy Hanukkah and they wish me a Merry Christmas.

Megan Fletcher said...

very well written Beth.
i just saw a post that reminds those who celebrate Christmas and talk about the "true meaning of Christmas" to live it out. What good does it do to know the true meaning if you don't act like it by being generous, kind, loving, forgiving, and gentle, etc? who care what you know? it's how you live that really matters. i think your post echos that with being respectful and not allowing the freedom of others to get your undies in a wad!

Barga said...

As a Jew who loves my holiday candlestick and little hat, I agree completely, and wrote about it on my site