No, Virginia, there is no “war on Christmas.” That idea arose in 2005 thanks to conservative political posturing. (Not that I’m anti-conservative. I’m just anti-falsehood.) Among the weird claims promulgated by promoters of this divisive campaign was this: wishing people joy at Christmastime by saying “happy holidays” is a way of removing Christ from Christmas.
The phrase “happy holidays” is neither some new politically-correct obfuscation nor a modern left-wing battle cry. As a phrase used by Americans, it’s over a century old, dating at least to an 1863 usage in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It doesn’t deny the religious character of Christmas, although it does suggest the incorporation of Christmas into a holiday season that includes New Year’s Day and possibly even Thanksgiving. Conveniently, it can also embrace other religious celebrations that fall at this time of year. It’s a good, useful phrase.
Besides, etymologically both “Christmas” and “holiday” are religious terms: “Christ’s Mass” and “holy day” respectively. If we want to gripe about “holiday” being misused, it should not be with reference to Christmas, which definitely is a holy day. It would make far more sense for religious people to object to Labor Day being called a “holy day” or for Protestants to complain that “Christmas” is too Catholic a term. Nobody does that, thank God. So why the whining about “happy holidays?”
Good question. We non-Christians generally don’t object to saying or being greeted with “merry Christmas,” even if some find “happy holidays” a more inclusive greeting. The U.S. may be a majority Christian nation, but many non-Christians are in our midst. And anyway, how can wishing someone a happy holy day possibly be a cause for offense? Christians have greeted each other thus for at least a century. Only when some fool decided it made a nifty political weapon was “happy holidays” branded offensive.
Said branding itself is a war, not on Christmas but on Christian values. It seeks to divide people, to make people angry, to inflame passions, even to the point of hatred. And it’s a lie. Now, who is the “father of lies?” Not Jesus. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” He called us to love one another, to love even our enemies. Culture warriors of whatever stripe don’t seem to be very much about love. They thrive on anger, division, and, yes, sometimes hatred. And that, dear reader, is Satan’s province. You don’t really want to live there, do you?
Now, I’m not Christian. I was raised Methodist, but in 1983 I became a Baha’i. I don’t celebrate Christmas for my own self, although I join family and friends in their celebrations. Baha’is revere Jesus as a Manifestation of God, but we have our own holy days, just as Jews have theirs, Muslims have theirs, Christians have theirs, and so forth. We celebrate our holy days as you celebrate yours.
If you greeted me with a hearty, “Merry Christmas!” I wouldn’t object. Why would I? I would return the greeting. I might even spontaneously say, “Merry Christmas!” to you if I knew you celebrated it. Or, taking the whole of the season into account, I might well say, “Happy holidays!” This, even though I myself don’t celebrate any holy days at this time of year. Baha’i holy days fall at other times. For example, our gift-giving season, Ayyam-i-Ha, comes at the end of February and the beginning of March. Doesn’t matter. It’s December now, not February. Merry Christmas! Happy holidays!
Either way, I’m not insulting you, not denying the religious character of Christmas, and certainly not fighting a culture war. I’m simply wishing you joy and happiness.
I sure hope that doesn’t offend you!