Why Christians should not require retailers to say ‘Merry Christmas’

28 Nov

This weekend, I saw a manger scene outside someone’s house. It had the requisite Mary & Joseph statues looking at the baby Jesus in the manger, as well as a couple animal statues.

Then something struck me as odd about this scene. There was a Santa Claus statue also positioned to be looking at the baby Jesus. Hm. Maybe Santa beat the shepherds to the manger because he has that sleigh and eight (nine?) flying reindeer.

The marriage of secular and Christian in that manger scene is the epitome of the paradox facing Christians during this holiday season. We love the joy and excitement that comes with celebrating our Savior’s birth, but we dislike the commercialization of the event.

‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’?

Merchants (and atheists) have been trying to remove any sign of Christmas from the season, replacing it with “holiday” sentiments. Sometimes, such substitution rightly draws the ire of Christians. During one segment last week, local ABC news anchor Ron Magers inexplicably called Christmas trees “holiday trees” even though no other holiday uses pointy evergreen trees.

However, when it comes to merchants, I don’t think Christians should require them to use “Merry Christmas” in their advertising. For years (including this year), the American Family Association has done an aggressive campaign to get merchants to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” in its promotions. AFA even has a handy list that grades retailers on how Christmas-friendly it is. While I’m a strong supporter of AFA, I’ve not a fan of this particular campaign.

Merchants argue that using “holidays” instead of “Christmas” is simply because the season includes several holidays besides Christmas. But let’s face it, the vast majority of gift shoppers are not buying for Kwanzaa, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Boxer’s Day, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Epiphany or Winter Solstice. Nor does anybody buy gifts to give on New Year’s Day. So I agree those defenses of “holidays” usage are mighty weak. Jewish consumers do in fact buy gifts for Hanukkah so when retailers cite “other holidays” as a reason for using “holidays” instead of “Christmas” in their advertising, the rationale does have a sliver of truth to it (although my hunch is Christmas shopping far exceeds Hanukkah shopping). Inclusiveness for Hanukkah is a legit (although arguably minor) reason to use “holiday” verbage.

But the real reason I believe Christians should not require retailers to use “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” is the very thing that many Christians don’t like about Christmas: the commercialization of it. In other words, merchants are aggressively trying to commercialize Christmas to make us want to buy as much as possible. Shouldn’t we, then, as Christians want to leave Christmas out of such commercialization? If Best Buy wants to say “Hot Holiday Deals” instead of “Hot Christmas Deals”, I say great! If Old Navy wants to advertise “Save 30% on all your holiday shopping” instead of “Save 30% on all your Christmas shopping”, please do! If given a choice, I think it’s better not to associate Christmas with that commercialization.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still one of the first to defend the centrality of Christianity. I still say “Merry Christmas” to friends (unless I know they are Jewish), and Mr. Magers, I’ll still call you out for lamely calling Christmas trees “holiday trees”. But as far as I’m concerned with retailers, they can say “Happy Holidays” all they want.

Your turn

What do you think? If you’re a Christian, do you think we should pressure retailers to say “Christmas” instead of “holidays”? Why or why not?

7 Responses to “Why Christians should not require retailers to say ‘Merry Christmas’”

  1. j. myers November 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I don’t believe Christians are FORCING retailers to say, ‘Merry Christmas”. Retailers are trying to FORCE the Christian holiday into just ‘another’ day off! They are trying to force everyone into saying ‘Happy Holidays’ to down play the reason for the Holiday. It has always been the recognized holidays of Christians in this country and now, those who don’t believe or those who have little to no heritage in this country, want everything to change to reflect where they came from or what religion is in their family tree. If you don’t like it, don’t go out or find somewhere else to live! Enough of ‘minority rules’!!

  2. j. myers November 29, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I have nothing more to say!

    • Markon December 1, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

      Well I will j. myers because you missed at least one minor point.

      Why do retailers push the “holiday” sales so much? Because they bring in the bulk of their retail dollars for the year.
      What demographic are they targeting? Those who celebrate Christmas.

      They want Christians and Christmas lovers to spend all their money at their store because it is the Christmas season. Fair enough. However, when they state they don’t say Merry Christmas in order to prevent offending some groups they are calling Christmas offensive to your face!

      Retailers like that don’t deserve Christmas business.

  3. Lola November 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I found this to be an excellent argument! I just recently did a similar blog post and wordpress pulled your page up as something my readers might enjoy. Thanks for articulating your point of view. I enjoyed it….I am going to peruse the rest of your blog…stop by my Smudges when you get a chance too!

    Thanks, Lola

    • colickyboy November 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      I too thoroughly enjoyed your post on the topic!

  4. Atealyss November 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Hi Dad,
    Pastor Lutzer metioned that in his pastor to people section in the bulletin. He said he won’t encourage merchants to say Merry Christmas. At first, I did a double take. I didn’t understand! I had to read it over again. 🙂
    I like your post!

    • colickyboy November 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

      Yes, although Pastor’s reason (it wouldn’t make non-Christians appreciate the reason for Christmas more) was different than my reason (don’t associate Christmas with the commercialization of it).


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