For Christians, it’s a time to celebrate the incarnation of God in human flesh (we’ll call this Group #1). For others, some of them nominally Christian, many of them non-religious, it’s simply a time to be with family, tell their kids stories about Santa Claus, and give and receive presents (Group #2). However, for others, some non-religious and some who practice other religions, it’s simply another religion’s holy day, which they were raised not celebrating (Group #3). Many in Group #1 (at least the more vocal, “evangelical” portion) often assume that everyone celebrates Christmas (recognizing that some don’t observe the “little baby Jesus” part) and can’t fathom that America wasn’t formed solely to recognize this great Christian day; Those in Group #2 are happy to have a paid day off or two, and Group #3 is confused about the assumptions of Group #1.
Group #3’s confusion over the assumptions of Group #1 have prompted some in Group #1 to declare that there is a “War on Christmas.” This “War on Christmas” is an attempt to preserve the true meaning of the holiday (which Group #3 wants to annihilate because, obviously, they hate Christ and all that he stands for). Supposedly, every year this War on Christmas is ramping up and getting more intense (this is evident in the fact that more and more news stations and “authors” — quotes added to accommodate Sarah Palin — are making more and more money exposing the War on Christmas). The “war” grows because people who like to get outraged and feel persecuted (despite owning the only federally observed religious holiday) get outraged and feel persecuted. Here’s the thing though: there’s not really a “War on Christmas.” At the most, all I see is a “War about the ‘War on Christmas.’”
This war about the War on Christmas consists mostly of arguing about whether one should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” and whether or not state and local governments should put up “Christmas Trees” or “Holiday Trees.” Seriously, this distinction will reduce somewhat normal people into raving lunatics frothing at the mouth. Even hinting that there are those who don’t celebrate Christmas in our midst, and that sensitivity to those people might be in order, will put you in the crosshairs of anyone fighting the good fight for the “War on Christmas.” You could be accused of everything from being too “politically correct” to hating everything to do with Christianity.
Recently, traveling from San Francisco to Seattle, I was attempting to view my trip through the eyes of a new friend of mine. My friend is Jewish and doesn’t celebrate Christmas and never has. He has nothing against it or against those who do celebrate it. He is not offended when someone tells him “Merry Christmas.” He even buys a gift for his postman and leaves it in his mailbox. In a nutshell, he is quite sensitive and understanding to those people who do celebrate Christmas. However, Christmas day, to him, is simply a day off of work while the federal government recognizes another religion’s holy day.
As I made my way from the hotel to the shuttle, through security, past the gate, to my seat, and eventually off the plane, I was wished a “Merry Christmas” four or five times. I gave a “Merry Christmas” back because they evidently celebrate Christmas and so do I. A child in front of me was even asked by the gate agent what they had planned for Christmas. I tried to imagine all of this through my friend’s eyes. For a month of every year, year after year, people assume that because you are American you therefore celebrate Christianity’s holy day. Frankly, my only thought was that it sure would be annoying. Not offensive, just annoying. It would be just as annoying as if everyone I met for a month every year wished me a “Happy Hanukkah” or a “Happy Kwanzaa” (just for fun, we should play a trick on the War-on-Christmas folks and somehow get everyone they encounter to wish them one of the two greetings just mentioned. Something tells me they’d launch literal wars on Hanukkah and Kwanzaa!).
You know what I would be offended by though? If every time using the phrase “Happy Holidays” was discussed, war was declared. If I was accused of being intolerant. If the same sensitivity I showed towards your holiday couldn’t be shown towards mine. If you were offended by the very idea of showing sensitivity to those who don’t share your religion, that would be offensive. Fight this war all you want, insist on keeping the word “CHRISTmas.” After all, it’s the only way I’ll see “Christ.” You won the battle, lost the war, and made the spirit of the holiday you’re trying so hard to protect a little bit uglier.