At this time of year, the mischievous little sister in me is hard to control, especially when it comes to things that offend the overly sensitive … you know, those things that at one time bothered very few people until someone decided to make it part of their persecution complex. Because, apparently, not getting everything you want all the time means you’re being persecuted.
Case in point: “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy holidays.”
I’ll admit I chortle much more than I should when I see an Internet comment along the lines of, “Thank God we can say Merry Christmas again!”
So when exactly was that not allowed? Oh, right, in the dark days of the Obama administration, when he forbade any show of Christianity or Christmas spirit, and sacrificed white Republican babies to his dark lord, George Soros. I’m not even going to check, but I’m relatively certain someone on the Internet believes that despite it being utter tripe. We already know that some people (including the current administration) believe the Obamas outlawed all things Christmas, and mothballed the White House creche (which they didn’t). Talk about fake news.
Try as I might, I can’t find anywhere that it’s illegal to wish someone “Merry Christmas.” The only thing I found that could come close would be the Puritan settlers who banned public (not private) Christmas celebrations in New England from 1659 to the 1680s (and Massachusetts Puritans continued to boycott Christmas; it didn’t become an official holiday in the state till 1856, and wasn’t a federal holiday till 1870).
Why were the Puritans so down on Christmas, which some of them called Foolstide? Well, part of it had to do with the raucous nature of its celebration in England when, according to Christopher Klein of History.com, “Christmas revelers used the holiday as an excuse to feast, drink, gamble on dice and card games and engage in licentious behavior.” Added to the pagan origins of the holiday’s timing and the lack of biblical basis they could find for the celebration, and Puritans—not really the raucous sort—were hard-pressed to find anything good about Christmas. Such party poopers.
And this was long before “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Jingle Bells” were being played on a loop. Just imagine what they’d think now. Lord help us if they hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
The idea of there being a legal ban in the U.S. on saying “Merry Christmas” is foolish for one big reason: that little thing called the First Amendment. While there are limits to freedom of expression (such as libelous or inciteful statements), entertaining such a ban for even a second would lead to lawsuits galore.
Oh, but we can’t let facts get in the way of a good rant.
What some seem to take exception to (and thus decide that it’s an infringement of their rights even though it’s not) is that many of us recognize that other holidays from other faiths (or lack of) are celebrated at this time of year and, because we don’t wear signs to tell everyone what we believe, we tell those we don’t know “happy holidays.” It makes sense, is a nod to those other holidays, and has been in use here for at least 100 years. (And hey, “holiday” comes from the Old English word for “holy day”—“halidaeg.”)
Among others, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter used that or similar greetings on the annual White House Christmas cards. Retailers do much the same thing, believing it wise to not alienate non-Christians who might take their business elsewhere. (Pay no attention to those Christmas decorations out before the kids have even gone trick-or-treating.)
Why? Because not everybody is Christian or celebrates Christmas (though more than Christians celebrate it). It wasn’t really a problem for most until around 2005, the New York Times found, when Bill O’Reilly started his campaign against “happy holidays” and the “War on Christmas.” (Scare quotes are half off this week, so stock up!)
Ed Kilgore wrote in New York magazine of the seeming insistence that we disregard that other beliefs exist: “And so it is apparently ‘safe’ for Christians to be rude to their Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or nonreligious friends and colleagues by regaling them with sectarian holiday greetings. The war on common courtesy has apparently been subordinated to the war on ‘political correctness’.”
My mama taught me better than that. Of course, she was a little sister too, so …
Those who know me well know I dislike political correctness and the inanities it visits upon perfectly fine words—for example, I’m not vertically challenged, I’m short. In this case, the word “holiday” has a religious lineage, so it wouldn’t exactly be politically correct, would it? And, c’mon—I really don’t want to start saying, “Happy whatever doesn’t offend you.”
As a Christian I have never found “happy holidays” to be offensive, knowing that it is meant to acknowledge all holidays from Thanksgiving through early January, not to slight Christmas. When someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I say it back to them, and I do the same with “happy holidays” and “season’s greetings.” When I greet a stranger, though, it’ll most likely be with a secular greeting. That’s not being politically correct; it’s called being polite and aware of other faiths. My foot already spends too much time in my mouth, so pardon me while I err on the side of caution and courtesy, please. Besides, Christmas isn’t political, and I wish hyperpartisans would stop making it so.
But some will continue to be offended by greetings that aren’t explicitly Christian, by Starbucks cups that aren’t Christmasy enough (bring back the snowmen, dang it … never mind that they’re not a Christian symbol), and by that silly concept of separation of church and state (because government should not be seen to promote a particular religion, public land should be open to all religious beliefs or none of them … if you put a Nativity scene on public property, don’t try to keep off menorahs, freethinker displays, etc.; if you put a Ten Commandments monument on public land, don’t be surprised when others assert the right to put their own monuments up).
And as long as they’re offended for no good reason, I’ll continue to say, “Happy holidays, y’all!” Little sisters need their entertainment, and my brothers are three hours away. There’s only so much annoyance I can cause through texts.