Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Christmas Armistice

One of the nice things about the aftermath of Christmas in recent years is that it marks a cease-fire in the incessant "War on Christmas" blather that certain segemnts of the American Christian community start spouting long about the day after Halloween.

(Incidentally, I have encountered a number of conservative Christians who object to the observance of Halloween, as a non-Christian holiday, and have sought to replace it with "Harvest Festivals," or other observances that seek to downplay the "pagan origins" of the holiday. To their credit, however, I have yet to hear the same individuals both work to supress Halloween and complain about others not being overt enough in their Christmas-ness.)

There was an article in the Seattle Times last week that commented on the conversion of the War on Christmas into a money-making vehicle. ("War on Christmas" pays off for some religious groups.) No matter what else about the United States changes, you know that Capitalism will find a way to infitrate anything.

But for me, the most interesting part of the article concerned how upset people have become when other people don't wish them a "Merry Christmas."

"A Zogby International poll conducted last month found that 46 percent of Americans are offended when a store clerk greets them with 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas.' More than one-third of the 12,800 adults surveyed said they have walked out of a store or resolved to avoid it because clerks didn't show enough Christmas spirit."

One side effect of the War on Christmas seems to be a war on the greeting "Happy Holidays." When I grew up, "Happy Holidays" was considered a shorthand way of saying "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," since the two observances are only a week apart. (You could almost think of it as sort of a holiday pronoun - a word to take the place of a noun - since sayin' all those nouns over and over can really wear you down...) But now that it's being perceived as a challenge to Christian dominance of the late-December holiday market, it's taken as an insult.

Being that I'm not a huge one for Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or any other observance that might have been crammed into late December, the Holiday Season is mainly marked by the sad event that is the Winter Solstace, after which my beloved nights start getting shorter. But I don't expect people to know or care that I'm not much of a holiday celebrant, and I'll take any greetings that someone throws my way with pleasure, and return the favor. Being offended that someone I've never met before doesn't how I prefer to recognize (or not) the season seems nothing less than silly.

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