The War on Pluralism Christmas

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65 Responses

  1. Chad says:

    You are correct – if Christmas wasn’t celebrated for so long it wouldn’t overlap so many other holidays and we wouldn’t need “Happy Holidays”. So, I propose the following for proper Christian greetings:
    You may only wish someone “Merry Christmas” from Dec.25 until Epiphany.
    For three weeks before Christmas you may wish people “Awesome Advent!”
    “Io Saturnalia!” is to be used in all other instances because I said so.Report

  2. Kyle R. Cupp says:

    One of the things that I find attractive about Christianity is its pluralism: its incorporation of elements from a plurality of very different religions and modes of thought. There’s an implicit recognition that truth cannot be possessed by human formula, system of thought, or action. Truth isn’t something anyone can possess. At best, we can hope to stand within its light.

    As for taking offense, I agree that the expression “Happy holidays,” especially with its explicit reference the sacred, is hardly offensive to Christianity, but then, while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that taking offense is itself a religion, it does seem to be a tradition practiced religiously.Report

  3. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    “the stunning lack of charity and understanding inherent in this approach to other religions and other people strikes me as a pretty clear-cut example of what Jesus specifically asked us not to do.”

    Why is this stunning? Evangelicals are prone to do many things Jesus wouldn’t approve of. For one, torture:
    “White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than six in 10 supported it.”

  4. Pinky says:

    Jamelle, I’m new to this site, but I’m guessing that you’re not a conservative. In a non-political sense, the word “conservative” refers to preservation. It approaches society as it is, not from scratch. If we were starting a society from the ground up, I’d agree with your article. But the fact is that most Americans have a Christian cultural heritage. A generalization like “Happy Holidays” replaces a specific tradition. So we’re objecting to a loss of something.

    Also, it’s worth noting that people wish people “Happy Hanukkah” on Hanukkah, “Happy New Year” on New Year’s Day, and “Happy Holiday” on Christmas. When that happens, Christmas is relegated to a second-class holiday.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

      Dude, when you say “Merry Christmas” to a Jewish guy or one of those New Atheists, expect to hear a lecture a lot longer than the one you hear from a Christian when you tell them “Happy Holidays”.Report

      • Gold Star for Robot Boy in reply to Jaybird says:

        But it would be worth it, just for the reaction, to tell an Evangelical “Happy Holidays,” and then, when hearing the inevitable sputtering about the War on Christmas, explain your actions by saying, “I thought you might be Jewish.”Report

        • I have used that very explanation successfully to change the thinking of Evangelicals (several of them) who were bothered by me wishing them Happy Holidays. “Well, actually, it’s not that I’m anti-Christmas, it’s that I can’t tell by looking at someone what their religion might be.”

          They usually got mildly embarrassed and then stopped being upset.

          (One of these people was a relative but most of them were customers at the store where I worked for a decade.)Report

      • Cascadian in reply to Jaybird says:

        I was going to launch into one, but why bother? Yule-tide greetings. Let’s preserve that old time religion.Report

    • Chad in reply to Pinky says:

      I’m curious how many people actually use “Happy Holiday” ON Christmas. Earlier joking aside, I’m a “Happy Holidays” kind of person until it actually is Christmas, at which point I say “Merry Christmas” because it is actually Christmas. I’ve always understood that “Happy Holidays” was the replacement for the seasonal greeting and not for the holiday itself.

      And if you are arguing against the cultural replacement of the “Christmas season” with the “Holiday season”, you’re replacing a retail created piece of culture anyways so it shouldn’t be a concern. Why should anyone care that businesses are no longer pandering just to your religion? Its the cultural equivalent of New Coke.

      Oh, and Uplifting Ascension, everyone! (Wait, that was yesterday.)Report

  5. Will Wilson says:

    The claim that December 25th was a Mithraic holiday is almost wholly without support. Perhaps you were looking for the word ‘Saturnalia’.Report

    • Jamelle in reply to Will Wilson says:

      “Saturnalia” was an umbrella holiday that celebrated several different Sun gods, of which Mithras was one.

      Also, the line “Mithras is the reason for the season” is funnier than any alternative using Saturnalia that I could think of on the spot.Report

      • Will Wilson in reply to Jamelle says:

        Most recent scholarship suggests that Mithraic worship had no public festivals.

        Furthermore the Saturnalia is distinct from the “festival of natalis Invicti”, which I think is what you’re referring to with the Sun gods line. I’ve seen others confuse these two Roman holidays; very different things happened on them. “Natalis Invicti” was a fairly minor holiday.

        Good references to start with include:

        Hijmans, Steven (2003), “Sol Invictus, the Winter Solstice, and the Origins of Christmas”, Mouseion 3 (3): 377-398

        Beck, Roger (1987), “Merkelbach’s Mithras”, Phoenix 41 (3): 296-316

        If you don’t have journal access, I can download and email.Report

    • Robin Main in reply to Will Wilson says:

      “The claim that December 25th was a Mithraic holiday is almost wholly without support”? Hum… The Catholic Encyclopedia itself credit’s Mithra’s Winter Festival (The Nativity of the Unconquered Sun) as claiming a strong responsibility for the December 25th date for Christmas. That’s pretty good support. Then you can go into the history of Constantine, etc.

      If you are interested in understanding more, please read chapter 5 in my book “Santa-tizing: What’s wrong with Christmas and how to clean it up.” It’s available on Amazon. Having researched everything Christmas for over 10 years, I believe that you will be intrigued and enlightened.Report

  6. Scott says:

    To me, “Happy Holiday” isn’t offensive but it does relegate Christmas to a second-class holiday when the majority of the people in the US are Christians. I’m tired of there being such concern over over hurting other peoples feeling. If you really want to talk about a made up holiday let’s talk about Kwanzaa.Report

    • greginak in reply to Scott says:

      Those damn people in the minority wanting to be treated with respect and all. Shouldn’t they just accept Christians are then majority so they get to be treated like the first class people.

      Zoroaster is the reason for the season.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    We can all agree that those Gap commercials are inane, right?Report

    • Kyle in reply to Jaybird says:

      Seconded. Hearing no objections. The motion passes.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kyle says:

        I made Maribou watch it the other day and she said that the only explanation that made sense to her was that the commercial was made by someone who hated hated hated Christmas and wanted everyone else to hate it as much as he or she did.Report

        • Maribou in reply to Jaybird says:

          Not just hated Christmas. Hated ALL winter holidays and possibly bore an enormous grudge against multiculturalism…

          I see it as analogous to those “anti-smoking” ads the tobacco companies were forced to put out. (Though in this case it would be a stealth grinch in the ranks of advertising executives, rather than a calculated plot by people trying to fulfill the letter of the judgment while not *actually* reducing their business in the long run.)Report

    • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

      Yes, but calling it inane is far too polite.Report

    • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

      Who actually watches GAP commercials???????Report

  8. historystudent says:

    Religious pluralism? I don’t see anyone being prevented from celebrating whatever they choose. However, Christmas is still the holiday celebrated by most people here, as Scott pointed out, and I see nothing wrong with a hearty “Merry Christmas!” instead of the pale and intentionally vague “Happy Holidays.” One of the reasons I give money to Salvation Army bell ringers is that I know they will greet me with a Christmas-specific response. Of course, I’m sure some “secular rights” group will soon try to get a court order barring them from expressing something “religious” in public. Good heavens.Report

    • greginak in reply to historystudent says:

      Happy HanukahReport

    • Reason60 in reply to historystudent says:

      As a Catholic, I of course am not offended by “Merry Christmas” either.
      However, this entire discussion reveals what I see as an unattractive thin-skin of the Christians.
      Mostly because we are so dominant in this culture, to feign victimhood and wail about how we are being mistreated is not only false, it is the no-so-clever trick of placing others- relilgious minorities- in our debt, the same way that the race card has been used to induce white guilt.
      I agree that Happy Holidays is a pale fiction, a generic device created by commerce to as not to exclude any potential shoppers. Its the “Dear [Occupant]” form of greeting.
      But that brings up the point- what is this all revolving around? Are we talking about how family member greet each other at gatherings? how co-workers speak to each other around the water cooler?
      This is all about commerce, and how the commercial world deals with a religious holiday. It strikes me as absurd to hear lectures about how Happy Holidays is perverting the spirit of Christ’s birth, yet Best Buy’s Christmas Eve Madness Sale does not.
      I say this in all seriousness- if Christians want to preserve the meaning of the season, we should refuse to buy anything and instead focus on a solemn and prayerful celebration. It is worth noting that in earlier times, it was the Puritans who most fiercely waged war on Christmas for this very reason. They would be appalled to see Christmas tree crosses on sale in the village market.Report

      • historystudent in reply to Reason60 says:

        I’m not wailing about it. I’m just noting that I don’t find persuasive the perspective of Jamelle’s original article.

        I certainly agree that Christmas has become too commercial, but hand in hand with the increased commerciality has been the tendency of more to want to secularize it with bland and neutral greetings such as “Happy Holidays”. And while you are right that it is a device that businesses believe will increase their sales by being inclusive, it has resulted in turning some business away as certain Christians resolve not to buy where only Happy Holidays prevails in banners and in clerks’ farewells.

        For myself, Christmas is more a religious time than a commercial one, although I don’t spurn gift-buying or giving entirely. But I cherish going to church and the family time with which Christmas gifts me. I would be happy if it became even more about Christ’s birth and less about commercial excess. I would also be very grateful if commerce would restrain itself until at least after Thanksgiving before its Christmas push. And, from a religious perspective, I like the Advent season, which, outside of church (and not all of those) has all but disappeared in the Christmas glut of materiality.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to historystudent says:

      We secularists can sue over the ten commandments, in god we trust and all that jazz, but we will never be as whiny as the Christians.

      Can’t you just let us be the whinier ones?Report

  9. E.D. Kain says:

    Jamelle, why do you hate the baby Jesus?

    On a more serious note, can’t we just say both?Report

  10. RTod says:

    What is it about this “War on Christmas” thing? I never hear anyone complain about being told “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays,” ever, in real life. It’s like cable tv, talk radio and blogs have access to some Worlds-o-Warcraft place in another world that I just can’t see. It’s probably the same place where people who ride bikes and drive cars never overlap and hunt one another or sport. Or where people who learn better from whole language rather than phonics must destroy their evil doppelgangers, and vise-versa.

    I mean, everyone here is aware that this ceases to be an issue the moment we stop fretting about it, right?Report

  11. mike farmer says:

    Those crazy conservative evangelicals — whatcha goin’ta do with ’em?Report

  12. DanB says:

    The issue is not that Happy Holidays has replaced “Merry Christmas”. The issue is that the secular members of society, in conjunction with those who tend to lean to the left have made a concerted attempt to remove all references of Christmas from our vocabulary, if not from society as a whole.

    While it is perfectly acceptable to wish someone Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa, it has become politically incorrect to state or display the words Merry Christmas, which is an affront to Christianity and discriminatory in nature.

    I have no issue whatsoever with anyone using the phrase “Happy Holidays”, yet I can not help but to take extreme exception to any attempt to stifle my right to say “Merry Christmas”, and stifling those rights is exactly what has been happening in this country for quite some time now.

    As a society, we have become a bunch of candy-asses who pander to the lowest common denominator out of fear of being labeled racist, bigotted or worse yet, “insensitive” to the plight of minorities.

    This is America, Home of the Brave, Land of Free, where countless young men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice to enable us all to live free and practice the religion of our own choosing. While I have no desire to stop any other religion from celebrating their holidays in whatever mannner they choose, I am sick and tired of those who believe they have the right to tell me that I can not celebrate my religion the way I see fit.

    Just yesterday, a flyer was posted in the lobby of my apartment building that stated very boldly, “Happy Holidays”. It then went on to give the dates and times of the Kwanzaa Celebration; the Hanakkuh Celebration, and finally, the “Cookies and Egg Nog Party”.

    I’m a Christian. I celebrate the birth of Christ, not the consumption of cookies and egg nog, and I will be moving out of my apartment building as a result of management’s decision to relegate the Holiest of MY holidays to the level of a pre-school break-time activity.

    It’s not about suppressing the rights of non-Christians… it’s about protecting the rights of Christians.Report

    • greginak in reply to DanB says:

      “concerted attempt to remove all references of Christmas from our vocabulary”

      I’m sorry you feel that way, I really am, but this is comedy gold.Report

      • historystudent in reply to greginak says:

        What’s so funny about it? Or is it just reflex to assume that Christians should accept the public devaluing of their traditions by secularists?Report

        • greginak in reply to historystudent says:

          Because I don’t see any evidence of Christianity being oppressed or wiped away. It looks to me like a simple respectful “happy holidays” or “seasons greeting”, which doesn’t favor anybody is being treated like oppression. Christians are free to do whatever they want, even wish Merry Christmas to Jews if they want. i don’t see any devaluing, just people who are irked that things aren’t done the way they want.Report

          • historystudent in reply to greginak says:

            We’ll have to disagree about whether there is oppression of Christianity. Here are some examples to consider:

            • greginak in reply to historystudent says:

              Oh I am sure people of every religion get persecuted in some way in some place. On that link I can clearly see some people feel persecuted that gay people want to be married and that abortion exists. However differing political views is not exactly oppression. Now is it. and that a Christian was oppressed in Egypt of Afghanistan does not particularly relate to a police action on xmas in this country.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                As someone who does not believe that gay marriage has any effect upon straight marriage, I cannot believe that putting on a nativity play can oppress miscellaneous (as opposed to “Protestant”) children.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                apparently some people feel homosexuals are oppressing Christians by….ummm…. urrr….being gay and wanting to get married.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                And, apparently, some people feel Christians are oppressing non-Christians by putting on a Christmas play at Christmastime.

                I’m finding it difficult to not see “thin-skinned crybabies” as the real problem here.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                One person’s thin skinned crybaby is another persons oppressed minority.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                And a group of people engaging in speech over here does not an oppressed minority over there make. (Even if the people engaging in speech believe in God and his blessing on a particular union/seasonal play.)Report

              • Cascadian in reply to Jaybird says:

                Say what ever you want, preach whatever you want. Just don’t do it with the help, in any way, of tax dollars.Report

              • historystudent in reply to Jaybird says:

                How disturbing to find this subject devolving into invective and the injection of a different subject.Report

              • Kyle in reply to Jaybird says:

                Hardly, I think I see where Jay is coming from. In one thread, Christians are lamenting excising Christ from Christmas. In the other, a different group are criticizing nativity plays for their tasteless infringement upon our secular society.

                “The Christianists are out to get us…and the childrrrreeennnn!” they cry. “The atheists are out to get us…and the childrrreennn!” cry the others. Surely they both could be right, but they both could be wild exaggerations brought about by spending too much time being wary of the untoward but often nonexistent influence of the other side’s crazies.Report

              • historystudent in reply to greginak says:

                Clearly there are levels of persecution and oppression. That does not change the fact that there are accelerating attempts to suppress Christian freedom of religious expression in the U.S.Report

              • Cascadian in reply to historystudent says:

                Religious freedom is only one of many freedoms and far from the most important.Report

              • Kyle in reply to historystudent says:

                I feel like oppression is better demonstrated by say being thrown to the lions than be told Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

                Of course by all means lets get hung up on how we express our wishing of joy to fellow man, clearly this is important.Report

              • greginak in reply to historystudent says:

                okay i still don’t see where your freedom is being removed.Report

    • Kyle in reply to DanB says:

      I was always under the general impression that if one were to rank the holidays by how holy they are, Easter is well above Christmas.

      Maybe this is a simple question but if you care this much about it, why don’t you throw a Christmas themed party for the Christians (and interested other parties) isn’t moving a bit extreme?Report

    • RTod in reply to DanB says:

      What? Where?

      Look, I’m not saying that in a country of 300 Mil there aren’t ANY people who don’t want to make Merry Christmas illegal. Just like I’m sure there aren’t some people who support NAMBLA.

      But this idea of all secular people, marching down the street with torches and pitchforks, looking to make the mere utterance of the word “Christmas” a legally punishable offense, it just doesn’t exist. Trust me! I’m a secular, I have a lot of secular friends, we live in Portland-Fucking-Oregon, and we all celebrate Christmas! And, I swear to all that is good and holy, it’s really OK with us if you do too.

      The folks that have been telling you we want you give up Christmas Trees, and stockings, and believing in the baby Jesus… well, they’ve kind of got their wires a bit crossed, or something. Because it’s really OK! We WANT you to have a great Christmas! We even want to join you in a glass of mulled wine.

      Here’s a good tip for things like this ahead. If someone who isn’t secular tells you we’re trying to destroy your way of life, come ask us. We’ll be straight with you , I promise. Like, if you decide to make a law that Jews can’t hold public office? I’ll tell ya right now, we’ll have a problem with that.

      But we don’t hate Christmas. Stop listening to people who tell you we do.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to RTod says:

        Personally, if these people are going to get militant, I’d like them to give back the tree. It’s not Christian. Quit using it. Keep to the mangers and St. Nick.

        (Went to school in Portland. It’s by far my favorite city.)Report

    • Cascadian in reply to DanB says:

      Yes, for Christ sake throw your own party and have management put you on the official flyer. I don’t care if you wish others a “Merry Christmas”, just don’t assume I want to hear about it.Report

    • historystudent in reply to DanB says:

      Well said, DanB.Report

  13. Rufus says:

    I do wish the army against Christmas was better organized. Okay, so the store greeters don’t say “Merry Chirstmas” anymore. They still play that fucking music for two months straight! If I never had to hear Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree again, it would be worth all the countless lives that are being lost on the battlefields around Wal-Mart.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Rufus says:

      I’d give my life to save my girlfriend from bad christmas music. Not for the content mind you, just the terrible quality and the repetition.Report

      • Rufus in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

        I generally like it for one week- ONE WEEK! The stores feel differently, which suggests to me that the war against Christmas is being lost. I weep for the children who will have to listen to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas (is you)” for months out of the year.Report

  14. C., Esq. says:

    The irony of ironies in all of this is the origin of the phrase “Happy Holidays.” It’s not some secular greeting created to appease the cash wielding masses; it’s a corruption of Happy Holy Days referring to the plethora of Christian feasts that traditionally fell between Christmas and Epiphany (though gift giving for the circumcision of Christ or the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents never really took off the same way).

    To claim in modern American society that because you do not hear your holiday greeting of choice in the marketplace you are somehow persecuted is laughably thin skinned. It’s also offensive to hold out such hurt feelings as “persecution” when Christians around the world truly are imprisoned, tortured or worse for practicing their faith. America is a religiously pluralistic society and our capitalist market responds to that by trying to entice as many buyers to the market place as possible. If that means using the greeting “happy holidays” who cares? How does what you hear in the marketplace affect how you celebrate your religious holiday?Report

  15. Tom says:

    I refuse to shop anywhere that doesn’t wish me a happy soltice. Looks like I’ll be spending a lot of money at the Gap this year.

    I think people often mix up individual personal expression of faith with public/govt supported promotion of a specific religion. I’m all for you turning your front yard into a living nativity scene or electro light up Jesus land. But I don’t want city hall doing it – that endorsing one religion – the govt telling the public that Christianity is the “right” religion to follow. That’s just not right.Report

  16. PresbyterArius says:

    Indeed, there was a time when Christmas itself was a controversial subject among Christians, many of whom wanted nothing to do with a celebration that hearkened back to the pagan festivals of old (if we’re going for accuracy, the Persian god “Mithras” is the real reason for the season).

    I hate to be all historical, but there was no Persian god named Mithras. There was Mithra, who is not the same deity. Scholars have dismantled the old idea that Mithras and his cult originated in Persia. Also, December 25th is not the traditional birthday of Mithras, although that supposedly took place in winter. It was the dies solis invicti – the Day of the Unconquered Sun, who was not, in fact, Mithras, although some people still try and make this very forced identification.Report