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War on Christmas?

Here we are in December.  Christmas is right around the corner – the trees are decorated, the lights are strung, and the carols are playing.  And if it is December, we are again hearing false claims of a “war on Christmas.”  Put bluntly, it is a ludicrous notion.  There is not a single person in our great and free country that is not able to celebrate Christmas (or any of the other seasonal holidays).  Every family in the country is free to gather in their homes and churches, pray however they desire, sing carols at home or in the community, exchange gifts in their own traditions, etc.  And they can even wish each other a “Merry Christmas” if they wish.

Some claim there is a ban on saying “Merry Christmas” and that is what they cite as evidence of a war on Christmas.  First, nobody is “banned” from saying Merry Christmas.  There are certain special environments with diverse audiences such as public schools wherein the better course of action is often to use the phrase “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” to avoid ostracizing children who may not observe Christmas.  The intent is to be respectful of all members of society, not as a limitation on Christmas.  It is an incredibly small imposition, if even one at all.  Are we to believe this one attempt at consideration infringes on anyone’s ability to celebrate Christmas in their own way?  Well, there is always parochial school…  Remember, members of the public are all free to say, “Merry Christmas” or any other holiday greeting as they see fit.

As someone who does not celebrate Christmas, it does not bother me in a store, restaurant, etc., when someone, intending to be kind, wishes me a Merry Christmas.  There is nothing offensive or wrong about it just like there is nothing wrong if someone chooses to say, “Happy Holidays,” or offer some other seasonal greeting.  When you do not know the people with whom you are interacting, “Happy Holidays” may be safer as more of a catch-all.  The crucial thing is that these people, regardless of which greeting they offer, are intending to be friendly, kind, and in the spirit of the season.  Isn’t it wonderful, especially in these divisive times, that someone was just trying to be considerate and nice?  Let’s accept it in that positive spirit and not read ulterior motives into simple greetings.  If someone chooses to wish you “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” does that truly hurt your ability to worship and celebrate the holiday?  Of course not.

As a national holiday Christmas is indeed a special time of year, but especially so for those who celebrate the religious holiday.  The religious meaning and original intent of Christmas seems overshadowed by the focus on sales, vacations, government closures, office parties, etc.  Therefore, ironically, the closest thing to a war on Christmas comes from those who purport to celebrate it.  The worst attack comes from the over commercialization and focus on material things that seems to transcend the more spiritual basis of the holiday.  Christmas has become so much about gifts, fancy parties, and even extreme lighting competitions.  To be fair, there are wonderful people and organizations out there ensuring disadvantaged families have a nice meal for Christmas.  They demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas and religion generally.

For those who celebrate a holiday other than Christmas, most communities attempt to be inclusive with displays acknowledging all the seasonal holidays.  Civic and municipal displays should acknowledge multiple faiths because they represent diverse communities and all members of our society deserve fair respect.  That in no way detracts from Christmas.  Religious institutions, private entities of all kinds, and individuals are free to do as they please.  So where is this war on Christmas?  Every where I go I see displays ranging from Christmas trees, lights on facades, nativity scenes and all kinds of things commonly associated with Christmas.  Does the occasional Hanukah or Kwanza display really lessen the Christmas holiday for those maintaining a more religious observance?  Surely not, especially as the overwhelming percentage of displays, etc., are for Christmas.  After all, we do live a free society.  Nothing about these other holidays that occur during the same season detracts from Christmas or families’ ability to celebrate and worship as they please.

There is no war on Christmas.  Nobody is prevented from practicing their faith.  However, the converse must also be true.  Nobody should be forced to celebrate a holiday or faith not their own and not consistent with their own belief systems.  While all people have the right to celebrate Christmas, all people have the right not to celebrate Christmas.  The choice is theirs.  If we respect each other and traditions, we are fulfilling our great traditions and freedom, not to mention the Constitution.  Merry Christmas to all, may everyone enjoy a special time of year with family and friends.

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