I hope you’re not too tired of the old “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” debate. Sometimes referred to as the “War on Christmas,” it’s been a topic discussed to death for several years now. Let me take one last breath on the issue, and then I promise to let it go.
Feature writer and columnist Brian Tubbs writes “Last year, I was talking to one of my co-workers at our office ‘Holiday Party.’ Another colleague joined our conversation, and my friend, Jim, wished him a friendly ‘Merry Christmas.’ The individual so greeted was obviously bothered by this greeting. He paused and asked, "Is it?" My friend, Jim, was visibly flustered by this response. One of those heavy moments of awkwardness descended on our group. Not knowing what to do, Jim meekly offered in the form of a question: ‘Happy Holidays?’ ‘There you go,’ said the individual, and walked off.”
That incident may be symbolic of the dispute in our culture that takes place every December. Why are some people offended by "Merry Christmas?" And should it matter that they are?
Several polls have revealed that the majority of Americans prefer “Merry Christmas” (70 to as much as 95 percent) over the all-inclusive greeting that is considered more politically correct. Shoppers also prefer to be greeted with “Merry Christmas” in stores rather than the more neutral “Happy Holidays,” according to a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
If the polls are accurate, then most Americans are being asked to sacrifice their traditional greetings to cater to a tiny number by censoring out “Christmas” on retail signs, school calendars, office parties, and community festivities.
But I don’t think numbers mean anything in this controversy. If the numbers mattered, just about every store in America, every office, every public school, and every single public place would proudly have "Christmas" displays and nativity scenes, along with Santa Claus decorations — and people would unapologetically throw "Christmas" parties.
This is NOT about majority preference. It’s about our country’s single-minded devotion to political correctness. Or maybe the avoidance of ACLU-inspired litigation by even just ONE person who may take umbrage at anything the majority holds dear.
And speaking of political correctness, it’s a term reportedly created as a way to spread cultural Marxism by a German think-tank in the 1920s. And, here, I thought it was a relatively new idea thought up by modern-day offense-takers.
Wishing a heart-felt “Merry Christmas” to non-Christians or someone who doesn’t observe the holiday is definitely not on the same level of spitefully using a racially/religiously hateful term. Politically correct phrases hide the true meaning of the original words and demonstrate an inherent weakness by failing to address the root of the problem: that people won’t stop hating other people simply because they’re not allowed to use a certain term. Racists and homophobes may be forced to quit using the “N” and “F” words, but that doesn’t change their attitudes or their hearts.
So, let’s re-visit the two sides of the November-December season greetings:
On one side are the folks who will die before they sacrifice their Christmas spirit or give in to so-called “Godless liberals” telling them what to say and not say. On the other, are the folks who will quite self-righteously inform the “religious-right” that it’s rude, ignorant, and wrong to disrespect people by wishing them a “Merry Christmas” if they happen to be Jewish, atheist, or from some other belief.
Of course, it’s wrong to offend other people deliberately, especially if the intent is to embarrass or hurt them. However, when a Christian wishes a Jew “Merry Christmas,” and the Jew wishes a Christian “Happy Hannukah,” they are saying they wish the other joy during this special season for both Christian and Jew. Neither should be offended.
I’m all for publicly displaying the blue and white colors of Hannukah with a menorah and Star of David alongside the Christmas decorations since the two occasions often coincide during December. As a teacher at a Christian school, I taught my students the beautiful spiritual story of Hannukah as we lit each symbolic candle of a menorah. We even learned the dreidel song, played with dreidels, and ate latkes and gold-wrapped chocolate coins. Not a single parent complained.
So, please, wish me Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hannukah, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy St. Nicholas Day, Happy Ashura, and Happy Boxing Day. I may not believe as you do, but if you wish me happiness on any occasion and do so with a good heart, I will receive your greeting with delight.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.