What#039;s in a name: divisiveness in the holiday season

by Beacon Staff • December 6, 2006

Or is it the Christmas season?

Wal-Mart recently became the epicenter of a heated national debate over the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The corporation decided to revert back to using the phrase "Merry Christmas" after a period of using the secular "Happy Holidays.,With the first snowflakes of winter around the corner, the holiday season has truly begun.

Or is it the Christmas season?

Wal-Mart recently became the epicenter of a heated national debate over the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The corporation decided to revert back to using the phrase "Merry Christmas" after a period of using the secular "Happy Holidays."

The store will also play Christmas carols and label most items as Christmas rather than "holiday" items. This comes a year after the American Family Association (AFA) and The Catholic League encouraged a boycott of the retailer for using the more generic slogan.

The religious groups who took a stand against Wal-Mart's "Happy Holidays" usage argued that it violated the spirit of the celebration of the birth of Christ.

To approach the topic with this mindset goes beyond having pride in one's religion; it is arrogance. Yes, the holiday season celebrates the birth of Christianity. It also celebrates the Jewish miracle of light, an African-American sense of family and community and the yearly review of the holy Quran.

With an extensive list of holidays falling in December, why must we choose Christmas as a representation of our revelry? Why must we divide our country over terminology?

Christians have taken their plight one step further, launching online petitions to curb attempts to replace "Christmas" with "holiday." The goal? To put the Christ back in Christmas. They insist retailers emphasize Christian roots, even if non-believers are alienated.

Just because the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas doesn't mean it is right for them to tell the minority to shove it. Jews and Muslims are Americans too.

The controversy extends beyond retail stores. Trouble arose in Boston recently when the city renamed its infamous Christmas tree a "holiday tree" against the wishes of Mayor Menino and a number of religious groups. The American Chronicle magazine went so far as to say Boston city officials "ignited a jihad." Televangelist Jerry Falwell accused the city of trying to "steal Christmas."

Do we not live in a democratic country with a distinct separation of church and state? The government should not staunchly defend the "Merry Christmas" idiom while claiming to be a secular nation.

Seeking more neutral, politically correct terminology is not the same as waging a war on Christmas. The holiday's transition from a holy day celebrating the birth of Christianity's savior to a consumerist paradise was not caused by this change in vocabulary. Shouldn't the religious right be more concerned about that?

Those who actively celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas should not need the affirmation of hearing their holiday's name in stores. Nor should they be paranoid that their holiday is under attack because political correctness has become more common.

The religious and ethnic diversity in this country has to be recognized. Shouldn't we be proud of it, rather than reject those from non-Christian religions simply because they are not the majority?

Christians should not be offended when they are wished "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." Christmas is still a holiday, and to be wished a happy one is not the least bit insulting.

This season, regardless of what you celebrate, respect the religions of those around you: wish someone a Happy Holiday.