Friday, November 13, 2009

No war on Christmas

It’s the time of year when American fundamentalist Christians start moaning about the “war on Christmas”, something they apparently believe is real, even though it exists only in their minds. What they mean is that the word “Christmas” isn’t used by stores, in particular.

Time was, I sort of believed as they do, namely, that saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” was silly. I’m far more relaxed about that now, which is ironic, really, because there’s no absence of the word “Christmas” in New Zealand.

The photo above is of some typical sale flyers we received one day recently. There’s no shortage of the word “Christmas” (although, personally, I’m not sure that “Chrissy” or “Xmas” count—I hate both). Signs in stores and commercials on TV also talk about “Christmas”, and some—gasp!—are openly religious. I don’t know if Americans can fully grasp what that means: Fundies have nothing to complain about here.

Seriously, the word “Christmas” is definitely not missing from New Zealand. The truth is, it’s not really missing in America, either, and there’s certainly no “war” on it. But reality has very little to do with this season.


Roger Owen Green said...

Xmas actually used to bother me in my "born-agan" phase, but it actually has historic roots, and so no longer bugs me.

amerinz's sis said...

I remember Dad not liking Xmas. He would say that x stands for the unknown. He wanted Christ to be in Christmas.

Once one of my students was studying world religions and thought Christianity was pretty cool. When he learned about Jesus, the child shouted, "That's the guy who invented Christmas!!"

I don't like saying Happy Holidays, although I sometimes do. I still think it's silly. If people want me to share/respect their holiday, why can't they do the same for me? So, Merry Christmas to all, even though it's a bit early.

Mark from Slap said...

I actually kind of prefer Happy Holidays, although I'm certainly not offended by Merry Christmas.

Frankly, I find it difficult to believe that anyone is seriously offended by Merry Christmas; I'm inclined to think that's part of the myth manufactured surrounding the "war on Christmas," purely circumstantial evidence. ("Those godless secularists are offended by all of our good Christian values! They won't even let you greet each other! And they won't stop until all our traditions are dead! DEAD, I SAY!")

Plus, in all fairness, Christmas was traditionally a celebration of the winter solstice---usurped by Christianity. That doesn't negate the personal meaning it has for many people, mind you, but I do feel it's a bit disingenuous to claim that others are trying to destroy the holiday's traditional Christian roots.

(Similarly, I wonder if these same folk ever wonder why the date of the resurrection of their saviour depends entirely on the phase of the moon following the vernal equinox. Food for thought. ;)

Arthur Schenck said...

Roger: I had heard that about "Xmas" somewhere before—thanks for the link (and see next reply).

Sis: I remember that, which is probably where my rejection of "Xmas" used to came from. However, the only reason I hate it now is that it's inelegant—seriously. There's no way to use it in an ad or a headline without it looking jarring, or in body copy without it looking weird. That's probably because there are so few English words that start with "x". So, I don't like it for purely aesthetic reasons.

The thing about what you say to others is that you have no idea what their religion is—or if they have any at all. In such situations, "Happy Holidays" is much safer. Now if you're wearing a big ol' cross so people can guess you're Christian, then saying "Merry Christmas" to you is safe, but without some way for them to know for sure, it seems to me they have to err on the side of caution and say "Happy Holidays". That's not meant to disrespect you or your beliefs, but instead to show equal respect to all religions and to those who have no religious beliefs at all.

Having said that, like Mark, I can't imagine anyone would be offended by someone saying "Merry Christmas" to them, even if it's irrelevent to them, so say whatever you want, and understand why some may not say it to you.

I should add that in New Zealand, the phrase "Merry Christmas" is nearly always completely devoid of religious connotations—in a sense, it means the same thing as "happy holidays".

Mark: I'm not really worried about what phrase people use. I think most Christians are completely unaware of the pagan origins of all their main festivals and holy days (not surprising, since most people don't study history of any kind).

Roger Owen Green said...

I suppose I LIKE Xmas BECAUSE there are so few words that start with X.

A couple years ago, I DID happen to say Merry Christmas to someone in my church on Christmas Eve, and the guy said, rather gruffly, "I don't celebrate Christmas." That one fooled me; he was IN a church on December 24; what was he expecting?

The Debunkist said...

The whole war on Christmas is rather ridiculous. It's based on the belief that Christmas deserves the limelight but any instances of inclusion of other holiday traditions are a direct attack on Christmas and thus Christianity. It's quite pretentious.