Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Holidays

No Virginia, there is no war on Christmas.  It was something invented by fools like Bill O’Reilly to…well, who knows why.  Why would someone look for problems where none exist?  To bolster weak positions?  To bolster weak egos?  The people behind the War on Christmas talk a big game about the greatness of this country then completely trounce upon one of the core principles that make it great.
Semantically yes, they have a point when they say Christmas is about Christ.  That’s where the “Christ” in “Christmas” comes from.  What they conveniently forget, however, is that the people who made up the holiday Christmas (oh let’s call them Christians) did so by hijacking other celebrations, such as the Roman celebration of Saturnalia and the Germanic celebration of Yule, and slapping the Christmas label on this time of year by claiming that Christ was born on Dec. 25.  Now the time of year wasn’t the only thing said Christians hijacked to create their tradition and the fact is that this follows in a long line of religions “borrowing” from each other (though none stole a tradition and made it their own as well as Christianity did).  But to insist that this time of year must remain sacred for one dogma is an insult to that good portion of the world who doesn’t believe in that dogma yet also holds this time of year dear.
This brings me back to one of the things that make this country great.  The Founders, in their far sighted wisdom and perhaps having witnessed their share of religious squirmishes, decided that everyone should have the right to worship (or not to worship) as they pleased.  So strongly did they believe in this that they put it in our Bill of Rights.
That’s a scary thing for Christians for in their philosophy, it’s not only sinful but dangerous not to acknowledge the glory of the Christian God.  And I must point out in all this that I refer only to intolerant Christians for I know there are Christians out there who couldn’t care less if someone wished them a “Happy Holiday.”  No, to intolerant Christians, turning our collective back on God could cause all sorts of calamities to befall the country.  It’s a fear that makes them pine for “one nation under God” and helps them forget how important a freedom of religion is (because without religious freedom, they might be the ones persecuted one day.  I mean actually persecuted as opposed to the persecution they’re imagining because FOX told them to). 
The term in question seems to be the insidious “holidays” as in “Happy Holidays” (though I’m sure “Seasons Greetings” is considered just as powerful a weapon in the non-existent War on Christmas).  These are two harmless sayings that I remember in cards and decorations as a child. 
It is true that the term “Happy Holidays” has been replacing “Merry Christmas” with increasing frequency over the years and here’s why: Because we have a vibrant country with a variety of religious philosophies (including those people who hold no religious views).  These people work hard, play by the rules, and pay their taxes.  Why then is it so terrible to honor the diversity, include everyone, and call it a “Holiday Tree”?
To whine about this is akin to the fools in the United States House of Representatives wasting time in November voting to make “In God We Trust” our national motto despite the fact that a good portion of tax paying citizens don’t trust in the Christian god (or any god for that matter).  We had a perfectly good motto, e pluribus unum, “Out of many, one,” that honored the country and the diversity of its people, but those who would vote to change that motto and disenfranchise a portion of this country aren’t interested in honoring their fellow citizens.  They’re only interested in proving a point:  God rules and unless you can get on board the Christian train you’re not invited to the party.  The irony there is that Saturnalia, the festival appropriated by Christians for the purpose of Christmas, was a festival where everyone was invited to take part no matter what they’re religion was.
To put it on a personal level, I was raised a Catholic (left the faith when I was 14) so calling this season Christmas is a very ingrained thing even though I no longer believe in Christianity.  Having worked in public service for years however, I’m aware that while not everyone celebrates Christmas, they may celebrate a particular tradition at this time of year.  Plus, I appreciate that this time of year could be important even to those who don’t celebrate a religious tradition.  After all, the secular New Year’s isn’t far away.  So when I send someone on their way, I am more likely to wish them “Happy Holidays” because I don’t want to assume what creed the people follow.  That to me is more respectful to fellow Americans.
The word "Christmas" in this song is not going to stop me from loving it.
Stores have taken this tack the past few years and their attempt to be respectful to their customers is grist for the mill for the pea brains trying to pump up this mythological idea that there’s a War on Christmas.  It’s the stores business to make a welcoming and comfortable environment for every customer not just a small minded sect who has decided their god is being dissed because the store is trying to be all inclusive.
Yet now there’s a list made up by the American Family Association (AFA) that grades stores on what it feels is the aiding and abetting the enemy in the War on Christmas based on how often they use the term Christmas (not that the stores have stated that they’re against Christmas, just that they haven’t used the Big C in their advertising and such).  Even if the store sells Christmas items, if it doesn’t blast out the term Christmas in all its advertising, it’s on the AFA list of stores censoring Christmas.  In the economy we’re struggling with now, these intolerant fools are going to slash at a store because its managers had the audacity to want to make everyone feel comfortable.  This doesn’t sound like a war on Christmas.  This sounds like a war on tolerance.  A war on the very philosophy our Founders believed in.  You are not supposed to be punished because you don’t bow down to a particular creed.
I’ve had people wish me “Merry Christmas.”  I’ve had people give me religious gifts.  And I could be petty and become insulted over these people assuming I am of a particular faith.  But how stupid would that be?  These are tokens of someone’s affection.  No matter what god they believe will bestow it, they’re wishing me peace.  How could I be so rude as to throw that back in their face?
But this is a concept very foreign to those actually waging a war at this time of year.
And I can imagine after being in charge for so long, that it must be tough for some Christians to give a little when it comes to tradition.  After all, I’m sure there were faithful celebrants of Saturnalia who didn’t appreciate it being swiped by Christianity (we won’t even go into festivals like Easter or Halloween).
But it’s 2012. We need to start growing up.  No one is denying anyone’s right to celebrate Christmas.  Those who use the term “holidays” are merely trying to honor the fact that this time of year does and should have resonance with a variety of beliefs and we can all enjoy it if we can just freakin’ learn to get along!

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