If you listen to people like Bill O’Reilly and/or listen to Christian radio (and I’m going to assume there’s a whole lot o’ overlap there), you’re used to hearing about the “war on Christmas” this time of year, every year.
This year, American Family Radio (a Christian radio network based in Tupelo, MS) published its “naughty and nice” list of stores that they deemed “Christian-friendly” or “Christian-hostile.” Top of their list of “Christian-friendly” businesses: Wal-Mart. As Craig Ferguson would say, “WHAAAT???” I guess things like paying a living wage, providing health care, ethical supply-chain practices, etc., don’t figure into AFR’s criteria. So what did they base this decision on? (Wait for it . . . ) Whether or not stores say “Merry Christmas” between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day (the “shopping season”) or if they say “Happy Holidays” instead. Those who say “Merry Christmas” get on the “nice” list, while those who say “Happy Holidays” get on the “naughty” list.
In the words of that great theologian, Garfield the cat, big fat hairy deal.
I’ll try to keep this brief.
1) No one “needs” to say “Merry Christmas” during the “shopping season” because it emphatically is not the Christmas season. It just isn’t. Look it up, AFR, Focus on the Family, and O’Reilly. Now, if I see someone at this time of year and I don’t know if I will see them again before Christmas, I am very likely to say, “If I don’t see you before Christmas, have a Merry Christmas!” But getting all hot under the collar because a cashier doesn’t say “Merry Christmas” when it isn’t the Christmas season makes no sense. (For those of you just tuning in, the Christmas season begins–not ends–on Christmas Eve and runs through Epiphany: January 6. It is not the Christmas season right now any more than it is the Easter season.)
2) While it emphatically is not the Christmas season right now, it is indeed the “holiday season” if we remember that the word “holiday” simply means “holy day.” There are plenty of holy days during the Advent and Christmas seasons. We just celebrated St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6. St. Lucy’s Day is this coming Sunday, December 13. Of course there is Christmas on December 25, but there are also the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5), and that period includes St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), St. John (December 27), Holy Innocents (December 28), and Holy Name of Jesus (January 1). Then there’s Epiphany on January 6. Add to that the civil holiday of Thanksgiving that has already passed, and you’ll see that it truly is a holiday season, and that “Happy Holidays” is most appropriate. Then consider that other faiths have their own holy days during this time of year: Chanukah, Islamic New Year, and many others. Christ calls us to live in charity with everyone, not only the people who are exactly like us. Good Christians are good neighbors, and that includes neighbors who are a different religion from you.
So, as a Christian, let me say, “Happy Holidays!”