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Happy Holidays

December 8th, 2005

Just a short note about the conservatives who claim there is a “war” against Christmas, and thereby against Christians, because people say “Happy Holidays” instead, and engage in other heathen practices in which the name “Christ” is not mentioned at every possible opportunity. I don’t for a moment see this as a war that Christians are claiming is going on; this is a conservative made-up non-issue as much as gay marriage or the pledge of allegiance. And all observations of an arrogant majority proclaiming they are persecuted and victimized aside, there’s one note I’d like to make here. Republicans like to claim that they’re inclusive. But demanding that “Christmas” be everywhere and “Holidays” beaten back is the opposite of inclusivity; it is, in fact, the very act of shunning those not in the majority. Unless Bill O’Reilly is suggesting that “Happy Holidays” be replaced by a list of greetings including Christmas, Chanukah, Ramadan (when the lunar calendar comes around to it), Kwanzaa, and let’s not forget that Godless New Year’s holiday. “Happy Holidays” and “Holiday Season” are inclusive. So what are conservatives?

Update: I couldn’t resist adding this quote from Jon Stewart, in response to O’Reilly’s use of a year-old clip to demonstrate how Stewart was waging an ongoing war against Christmas:

If Bill O’Reilly needs to have an enemy, needs to feel persecuted, you know what? Here’s my Kwanzaa gift to him. Are you ready? All right. I’m your enemy. Make me your enemy. I, Jon Stewart, hate Christmas, Christians, Jews, morality, and I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together at Osama’s homo-abortion-pot-and-commie-jizzporium.

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  1. Brad
    December 9th, 2005 at 14:33 | #1

    (By the way; if I put my e-mail address in the field above:

    a) Is it published with my comment and hence ripe for spammers, or is it hidden, only stored behind the scenes?

    b) Do I get an e-mail message if other people respond to this blog comment of yours after mine?)

    Can’t agree with you on this one, Luis. In fact, I made a negative comment to another blogger a few minutes ago in the entry where she was talking about her company’s lunchtime ‘winterfest’ … at which carols were sung. It took me a minute to work out that this was the politically correct version of a Christmas celebration/lunch. Couldn’t believe that the USA has sunk down yet another rung of the politically correct descent into cultural cowadice/blandness. And so I’m charging in here on a wave of emotion.

    (Did you mention in your ‘rules for on-line debate’ that one should write his message, wait 24 hours to cool off, and then read it again before sending?)

    I’m not an American but I’m a citizen/resident of another Western country that just happens to be predominantly anglo-saxon, settled by the British, etcetera. And I see red when this politically correct nonsense goes on. If I were to immigrate to a country which was non-Christian then I wouldn’t expect that country to change their customs to suit me, nor should I try. Newcomers to our shores (USA, etc) should accept that they’re entering a predominantly Christian culture, and we shouldn’t continue this PC trend of backing down and erasing our cultural mores, slice by slice, for fear of a noisy minority abusing their freedom and making a ruckus. It’s *our* country and we’re allowed to maintain our traditions on a country-wide basis. Just like any minority has the freedom to practice theirs. All those greetings you mention are available and welcome to anyone in the USA who wants to use them. The majority like to employ the ‘Merry Christmas’ one, and shouldn’t be persecuted for doing so.

    We don’t say ‘Happy Holidays’ and all that other politically correct nonsense here in Australia, thank Gosh, but I expect one day this deplorable practice will be assimilated like many of those which seep into the Western world from America.

  2. Luis
    December 9th, 2005 at 14:52 | #2


    Email addresses are not published here; if you include an email address but not a URL, then your name will appear in plain text, no hyperlink to a “mailto:” address. Your email address will remain only visible to me. Spammers can’t see it as it’s just not there. As an example, I posted this comment with an email address; as you can see, it does not appear, as a link, or within the HTML for the page.

    As for the Christmas thing, it’s not cowardice or blandness, it’s inclusivity or exclusivity. If even just 5% of your audience is celebrating a different holiday, you include them in the greeting. If you know they celebrate Christmas only, then you name it Christmas. But since general public utterances always include the minority, you either include all names or you generalize. It’s not PC, it’s common courtesy, public politeness.

    Don’t think so? Consider: you’re addressing a group of 40 people. 38 are men, two are women. Do you address them only as “gentlemen,” or as “ladies and gentlemen”?

    I rest my case.

  3. Brad
    December 9th, 2005 at 17:11 | #3

    Do you address them only as “gentlemen,” or as “ladies and gentlemen”?

    The latter, sure. If I’m going to say something I want them all to hear. But if I’m going to talk about the latest fashion in mens’ suits I’ll gladly preface my talk with “for you men out there”. So if you’re worried that non-Christians are going to take offense at generalised ‘Merry Christmas’ greetings I’d be quite happy to preface that with a “to all Christians”. But then, proceeding further, the selection of the target audience for a ‘Merry Christmas’ is implicit in the message itself, as you’ve said. So what’s the problem? It’s a holiday based on Christ, “Merry Christmas” underpins that, and any non-Christian would/should simply ignore the greeting; it’s not relevant to them. Not a problem.

    What do they do in Japan? Or, flipping the coin, for any non-Christian, Japanese-culture holidays?

  4. Luis
    December 9th, 2005 at 17:47 | #4

    I think we’re at slight cross-purposes here. If you want to only address those who celebrate Christmas, then of course you’d say “Christmas.” In the same way that if you faced that crowd of 40 and just wanted to address the 38 men, you’d limit it to “gentlemen.”

    My point is that the kind of genericized “holiday” greetings are being made not just to Christians, but to everyone in the general audience–some of whom celebrate holidays other than Christmas. Therefore saying “Happy Holidays” to a general audience is exactly the same as saying “ladies and gentlemen” to a mixed crowd, even though there are only a few women present. Exactly the same idea. Genericizing holdiay messages to a general audience is no difference than that. If you want to limit it to Christmas and exclude others, fine–but most businesses (who are mostly responsible for these public messages we hear criticized) are aiming at everyone, not just Christians. Since Chanukah and other holidays come at the same time, they’re greeted all together.

    Tell me, is it really so offensive for Christians not to be the only ones greeted? Demanding that messages to a mass audience be specific to the majority and exclude the minority seems a bit petty to me…

    As for Japan, the only real holiday greeting here at this time of year would be New Year’s, and that’s greeted with “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu,” or “congratulations on the new year.” People might say “Merry Christmas,” but it’s just mouthing the words–imported language spoken for effect, not meaning. Christmas is a KFC-Love Hotel-Cake affair–see my post on it here.

  5. Paul
    December 11th, 2005 at 12:14 | #5

    Personally, I think the whole thing is just stupid. I’m Buddhist. It doesn’t bother me a bit for someone to wish me a “Merry Christmas”, because I know what they mean.

    And it certainly shouldn’t bother a Christian if a Jew says “Happy Hanukkah”. In fact, I’m sure that most of the religious righties who’re whining about the whole deal don’t get upset if that happens.

    So why are they bent out of shape about “Happy Holidays”? Are they seriously trying to say that there is a “war against Christmas”? I hear that all the time and have to think that they’re kidding themselves- as someone in a group for separation of church and state was quoted saying… Christmas is doing just fine on its own.

    No, what it’s really about is something that Pat Buchanan talked about several years ago at a Republican convention. There was a culture war in America.

    The thing is that Pat didn’t realize it, but his side “lost”. Gays are accepted as being human beings by a large portion of society, indeed probably a majority. Religions other than Protestant Christian ones are perfectly acceptable. We’re not going to force kids to be subjected to prayer in the schools anymore. There’s lots of stuff that they don’t seem to realize- they “lost” in the sense that their version of things isn’t going to be forced on people as much anymore.

    And America is a better place for it. A nation where Pat and his pals are welcome to be Christian and say “Merry Christmas” to people, where others can say “Happy Holidays” and intend for it to convey good wishes towards ALL religions and ALL people during this time of year.

    Seattle, WA

  6. Luis
    December 11th, 2005 at 12:49 | #6

    I think at one level, it’s about leverage; the right wing is trying out a new non-issue, on the order of the Pledge or Gay Marriage, hoping to get another weapon to use in elections–after all, they have found that cultural and not political issues win far more votes (something the Dems have yet to capitalize on).

    On another level, it’s something that can be used both cynically (by those who don’t believe it’s really an issue but think they can get something out of it) and honestly (by those who truly believe they’re being put upon) to strengthen the idea of the persecuted majority–that white male Christians are somehow the downtrodden group, discriminated against and beaten down from all sides.

    The “War on Christmas,” and more generally, the “War on Christianity” fit nicely into these paradigms.

  7. December 14th, 2005 at 05:12 | #7

    excuse my language but f**k Christmas

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