Monday, December 12, 2005

Happy Holidays. So There.

I love Christmas as much as anyone. And I've always made it a point to specifically wish people "Merry Christmas." I think the Christian bent of our culture is exceedingly important (since, fading though it is, it's actually responsible for whatever success this nation has enjoyed). I think the tie between Christ and Christmas needs to always be made more explicit, not less. Furthermore, I think attempts to banish any and all Christian references from Christmas are ridiculous, misguided, and harmful to religious freedom.

That having been said, I have to admit I'm starting to get a little creeped out by the ferocity of the Christmas-mongers this holiday season. Somewhere along the line, it seems to have gone from "putting Christ back into Christmas" to an absolute shibboleth by which every individual and corporation will be judged. "You will acknowledge Christmas" seems to be the cry. Boycotts, pickets, and recriminations are now as Christmas as candy canes and holly.

The White House is the most recent target for failing to mention Christmas specifically in its "holiday" cards. George Bush professes to be a Christian, and yes, he ought to have the guts that all previous presidents (save Clinton) showed in wishing their constituents merry Christmas. But is it really our goal to force people to express what we want them too? Have we crossed a line from making it safe to wish people a Merry Christmas again to requiring them to do it?

Of course it is stupid for corporations to suddenly stop mentioning Christmas out of some misguided sense of political correctness (especially considering that it ain't Hanukkah gifts that are raking in all that money for them). And it's ridiculous for schools to change the words of "Silent Night" to "Cold in the Night." But as I recall, even back in the "good old days" 25 years ago, people still occasionally used the phrase "Happy Holidays." I mean, it wasn't just invented this year as part of the drive to destroy Christmas, and everyone who uses it oughtn't automatically become a heresy suspect.

Why, I'd venture to confess (though I may have my Religious Right membership card revoked) that even I on occasion have wished someone "happy holidays." I didn't do it to snuff Christ out of Christmas so much as to include Thanksgiving and New Year's in what I was saying, and fortunately nobody stoned me for it.

So yes, we should recognize that this nation is culturally Christian and that there's nothing wrong with that. We should be free to acknowledge Christmas in the public square however we like. But we also ought to lighten up a little where appropriate. I mean, after all, it's Christmas.

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