Wednesday, December 14, 2005

'Tis the Season: Every year we get the same debate over whether we should say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" or "Enjoy the Yule". These discussions in the media tend to get more heated each time. I'm afraid someday someone will claim to be offended by "Happy New Year" because the Chinese New Year isn't until the end of January.

I'm a God-fearing Agnostic who celebrates Christmas with my family, most of whom are Christians who never go to church. I still say "Happy Holidays" out of habit. It just makes more sense, and I used to work at a business during high school that encouraged us to use the all-inclusive phrase when talking to customers. This same business gave each of us a $25 gift certificate and a brand new Bible as our Christmas bonus. I still have the Bible, it sits on my desk at work. Haven't quite finished reading it though.

The real issue in this debate is, of course, the extremists.

The Left side of the debate is made up of devout secularists as well as the loudest among those who are religious but haven't accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. For some reason many of them are offended by the term "Merry Christmas". If you are offended by someone uttering the equivalence of "Have a nice day", then you deserve to be offended for being such a prick. If a Muslim said something along the lines of "Happy Ramadan" to me, I would accept it as a nice gesture of his trying to be inclusive and wishing me good tidings. In short, he was just being nice.

Then on the Right side are the Christian nuts who are offended by "Happy Holidays". This is supposedly political correctness running amok. And, according to anonymous conservative friends of mine, political correctness running amok is going to drive this country into the ground. Personally, I think this country is stronger than that.

This issue could be easily settled if people would just realize that Christmas is not a religious holiday. Oh, sure, most of the songs mention Jesus in some way, and both the X in Xmas and the Christ in Christmas are meant to represent the Messiah. But Santa, reindeer, presents, candy canes, Frosty, etc. are all related to our Savior's birth as much as the Easter Bunny is to His resurrection. (And Peter saideth unto Paul, "For lo, I was collecting Easter eggs when what's-His-face showed up in a bunny suit. I thought the Romans killed him a few days ago.")

Christmas is a consumer holiday and a time set aside to spend time with loved ones. It's winter, it's cold, let's relax together by the fire and exchange presents and sing songs.

Plus, Jesus was most likely born during the springtime, according to biblical scholars. The Catholic Church chose the December 25 date as a propaganda tool to convert some German Pagans. The Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice occurs around the same time, which the Pagans celebrated by lighting candles in evergreen trees while dancing naked. Some of those traditions have been passed on, and fortunately others have not.

Obviously, many true Christians revere Christmas. And as a sign of their personal religious faith, they openly celebrate and to display their beliefs. And because the vast, vast majority of this country is Christian, these often turn into community celebrations.

Of course, we should try to be inclusive to other members of our community who don't share the same beliefs as us. That inclusiveness should come not by fretting over whether to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays", but by smiling and wishing someone a "Happy New Year" in response to whichever way someone else reaches out to you.


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