The holidays are once again upon us. We’ve already rushed through Thanksgiving, and are headlong into the Christmas season. We are now knee-deep in Christmas specials, Christmas movies, Christmas decorations, Christmas shopping, and, my favorite, Christmas cookies. That most hopeful of holidays lights up all around us, and of course, we are reminded, as we have been every year of my adult life, that there is a “war” on Christmas.The pundits of the right-wing media want us to believe that non-Christians, especially we atheists, are out to ruin their good fun. If it were up to us, according to them, we would ban all public displays, drive Rudolph, Santa and Frosty from our airwaves, and pour barrels of eggnog into our rivers and harbors in protest, all just to make our Christian neighbors feel bad about themselves. Their biggest bone to pick with the rest of us over this is the prevalence of the term “happy holidays” over their preferred “Merry Christmas.”
It seems silly to nitpick like that, doesn’t it? How can you get upset over anyone wishing you happiness? People do though, and they are ready to let you know. They are offended that you did not recognize their Christianity. They are offended that respect should be shown any other faith, which is what the more general term is intended to do. They are outraged that “those poor businesses” are forced to tell their employees to say that. Which is patently ridiculous.
No one ever forced a business to do that. There was never some big campaign, public or covert, to strong-arm retailers into training their employees to not say “Merry Christmas.” Shops started doing it of their own accord, because they realized “hey, some of our customers are not Christian, maybe we should show them some consideration since they have holidays around this time too.”
There are other fronts on this battle, of course. Public displays on government property often are the target of groups who do not like to see one religion dominating all others in these displays. Usually adding a menorah, or the icons of other religious groups celebrating holidays this time of year is enough. Yes, occasionally there are small groups of atheists that do not want any such displays, but I hardly view that as an out-and-out war.
It seems strange to me that so many would want to hold on to this acrimony during this season. Each of these faiths is celebrating some sort of festival to keep out the dark. Whether it is Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, or Yule the purpose of these holidays is to rekindle hope. Reminding folks of the conflicts between these faiths hardly seems keeping in the spirit of those festivities. Allowing others to drag you back into the dark, to keep your eyes shut and keep you fearful of others, is no way to have a Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays.