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.
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?