‘Merry Christmas’ vs. ‘Happy Holidays’ Trivial Part of Season

How did this year’s cultural quarrel over

merry Christmas


happy holidays

ever get started? For Pete’s sake, the season of celebration is
a time for reconciliation, not war.
Christmas should be a time for peace on Earth and goodwill
toward everyone.
How did this year’s cultural quarrel over “merry Christmas” versus “happy holidays” ever get started? For Pete’s sake, the season of celebration is a time for reconciliation, not war.

Christmas should be a time for peace on Earth and goodwill toward everyone.

Unfortunately, it seems some overly zealous individuals might have forgotten the reason for the season.

Of course, there have always been people who complain about the over-commercialization and secularization of Christmas.

Shopping, yuletide icons, Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer take attention away from Christ, some folks say.

Growing up in Hollister, I remember one fanatical woman boycotting downtown businesses that had window-painted “merry X-mas” on their storefronts.

That “X” replacing “Christ” was proof, she said, that Hollister was going to hell.

She probably didn’t know the early Christians often used “X”‘ as an abbreviation for Christ.

But now we find ourselves in a pointless Christmas controversy. Christian conservatives are bullying stores with boycotts if they greet customers with “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.” And don’t dare mail out greeting cards this winter that are religiously generic.

That’s a sure sign you’re in cahoots with Satan.

The irony is, the word “holiday” has a very strong religious connotation. It’s derived from the Old English term for “holy day.” Reasonable folks find “happy holidays” a friendly seasonal greeting respecting people of all faiths and beliefs.

I have a hunch Jesus Christ would have absolutely no problem with folks wishing each other holiday good cheer.

And I highly doubt he’d be offended if retail marketing failed to convey religion in their marketing promotion. “Oy vey!” the Jewish carpenter might exclaim. “You guys have way too much time on your hands.”

Blame blabbermouth Bill O’Reilly of the Fox TV show “The O’Reilly Factor.” He’s one of the culprits cooking up this foolish Christmas pudding.

Recently, O’Reilly riled up his viewers to boycott businesses not greeting customers with a mandatory “merry Christmas.”

Place him on Santa’s “naughty” list this year.

And put a lump of coal in Fox News anchor John Gibson’s stocking, too. Gibson wrote a book titled, “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought.”

I figure these guys created this so-called conspiracy theory to generate publicity to sell the book and cash in on Christmas.

Joining him are preachers such as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell, who gain political mileage with their flocks by advancing this so-called “war.”

Jeez! Do these dudes honestly believe there’s a real conspiracy by some cabal trying to clandestinely undermine the Christian celebration? If so, this crazy scheme sure ain’t working.

Tune to local radio stations such as KBAY or KOIT this entire month, and you’ll hear Christmas carols 24 hours a day – everything from the beautiful “Ave Marie” to the comical “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”

But historically speaking, the Christmas conflict is really nothing new.

The world almost lost the sacred holiday all together, and ironically, because religious right-wingers got over-zealous in their pursuit of purity.

During the 16th century when Oliver Cromwell came to power as military dictator of Britain, his gang of Puritans had Parliament ban Christmas all together because of its pagan roots.

On Dec. 22, 1657, Cromwell’s Puritan Council passed a law abolishing Christmas traditions such as carol singing, mincemeat pies, gift-giving and all other merriment connected with the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Soldiers marched through the streets of London and took by force any food prepared for a Yuletide celebration.

Think of Oliver Cromwell as Dr. Seuss’s original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

This bizarre abolition even hit America’s New England colonies. Boston banned Christmas from 1659 to 1681, fining any one found celebrating five shillings.

The Christmas decline continued until the Victorian Age.

In 1843, Charles Dickens’s novella “A Christmas Carol” sparked a resurgence in the holiday, revitalizing it as a time for families and friends to come together in a spirit of harmony. Today, we celebrate a Victorian-inspired Christmas.

In my own personal history, during the holiday season my father would take me as a youngster to convalescent homes in Hollister to share some yuletide cheer.

He’d play the violin as friends sang Christmas carols for the patients.

I’d perform my annual rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” on my toy drum. The eyes of the elderly men and women would sparkle with happiness as we all made music together.

Those warm-hearted memories make me want to propose starting a new annual tradition for the holidays. I call it “One Day.”

I suggest we all take one day during the month of December and find time to help out someone else, be it friend or stranger.

Don’t expect any material gain from it. You simply get the joy and delight of doing good for other people.

Recently, I spent a day with Habitat for Humanity volunteers helping fix up a 100-year-old Victorian home at 13th and Julian streets in San Jose.

The thought that several families would benefit from my time and energy was far more rewarding for me than a day at a crowded mall.

In the South Valley, there are plenty of opportunities to give one day of your time.

You can make a group event out of it with family, coworkers or with people you worship with.

And if you’re too busy during this month, simply commit yourself to a day sometime during the rest of the year. Christmas helps us recognize our common humanity. It’s a time for fun, not feuds.

Instead of arguing about what’s the correct way to greet each other during the holidays, let’s ponder on something a little more profound.

Anyway, during this winter weekend, I truly wish you a combined happy holidays, happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanzaa and a most merry Christmas. And if none of these jovial greetings seem appropriate for you, well, have a nice day.