How to Win the War on Christmas

Just for fun, let’s assume I didn’t alienate my entire audience with my denunciation of “White Christmas” in a previous blog. (Also just for fun, let’s assume I have an audience.)

While we’re on the topic of Christmas, I’d like to propose a solution to the War on Christmas. This is a bit tricky, as I don’t buy that there really is such a thing, war-wise. I celebrate Christmas, and I don’t feel the least bit threatened by those who don’t celebrate the holiday. Hey, it’s not like they were going to get me anything anyway.

Others feel differently, though, and they fume and feud in public skirmishes. This article traces the history of the WOC from Henry Ford and the John Birch Society to one Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host who rallies the troops every holiday season.

For the past decade, a major battle has been waged over words used in seasonal greetings. Years ago corporate leaders of retail stores, thinking that some non-Christian customers might feel alienated when wished a merry Christmas, instructed employees to instead say, “Happy holidays.” I don’t know if any customers had actually complained about hearing “Merry Christmas,” but when zillions of dollars are on the line, the corporate guys probably figured, “Why take the risk? Let’s keep it generic.”

Here’s why: A backlash of alienation and outrage came from the other end of the spiritual spectrum. Apparently, many Christians want to be regularly reminded that their “team” is still No. 1 in this country, and a greeting of “happy holidays” became equivalent to “Welcome to hell. Satan will be with you shortly.”

So “happy holidays” became fightin’ words in the WOC. Oh sure, there are tussles over nativity scenes in public squares and school parties in homerooms, but the yuletide greeting controversy is more widespread; it sparks up every time someone utters “holidays” and not “Christmas.”

I understand the struggle. I do. Throughout my work history, I’ve sat on plenty of team-building committees that feel the pain of planning Christmas/holiday celebrations for a work community made up of various faiths and traditions. We try to figure out how we can be festive but considerate. We want to celebrate a season that is rooted in Christian faith without stepping on non-Christian toes.

This consideration for non-Christians smacks of “political correctness,” thought by many to be an overreach of concern for other people’s feelings. (Wait. PC is supposed to be a bad thing, and that makes it sound decent—almost, well, Christian.) But for me, it boils down to this: Once you’re aware that you’re doing or saying something that offends, alienates, or insults people, how can you keep doing or saying it?

Oh, I know there are people who are overly touchy. But if reasonable people are offended, aren’t we being unreasonable if we persist in being offensive?

So that’s the challenge for all of us, whether we’re team-building committee members or store greeters or regular hey-howya-doin’ people. And while I can’t solve the office party issue, I think I can engineer a truce in the fight over season’s greetings.

Just say, “Merry X.”

For those who don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, but rather, as a cultural milestone, “Merry X” would be innocuous. It’d be, like, fill in the blank. As in algebra class, they can simply solve for X. It’s … whatever.

But for Christians, “Merry X” would be acknowledging their religion at its very roots. Christmas, of course, means “Christ’s mass.” The reason we sometimes shorten it to “Xmas” is because in the Greek alphabet, X is the symbol for the letter “chi,” which is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. And in the early days of Christianity, believers used the letter “X” as a secret symbol to indicate their membership in the church. (Back in those days, Christians had real reasons to feel persecuted. Hear what I’m saying?)

So if a store greeter says, “Merry X” to your everyday atheist, he or she can interpret it as “Merry Whatever.” But a Christian who hears “Merry X” can nod in understanding. Smiling. “Yes … Merry X to you, too.” We in the cluuub.

So that’s it—that’s my white flag in the War on Christmas: Merry X. And if you’re feeling especially festive—regardless of religious standing—just say, “Thanks. And happy N-Y.”

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