Happy (Christian) Holidays

In the ongoing kerfuffle over the use of “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas,” we seem to be forgetting something: although “Happy Holidays” has, in the last couple of decades, taken on some overtones of being an all-inclusive, even secular, benediction, it is itself originally and historically Christian in character.

What exactly are the “holidays” (holy days) that this allegedly non-denominational salutation honors?  Winter Solstice?  Kwanzaa?  Hardly–the use of “Happy Holidays” precedes the popular recognition of either of those (Kwanzaa, remember, only dates back to the late 1960’s).  Hanukkah?  Perhaps, as Hanukkah has long been recognized on American calendars and on the cultural consciousness, though it is not nearly as publicly visible as the three main holidays that the phrase truly recognizes.  (It should be noted, by the way–as many frustrated, patronized Jews point out each December–that Hanukkah is not a major holiday to them, the way Christmas is to Christians.  It isn’t even one of the high holy days.)

Throughout most of the years it’s been in use, “Happy Holidays” has referred to the entire “holiday season” in general, which has always been understood to start with Thanksgiving and to end with New Year’s. 

As I showed here about a month ago, Thanksgiving is a religious, Christian holiday.  New Year’s, also, is a Christian holiday, as it marks the change in years on the Christian calendar.  In less than two weeks we’ll be moving from 2010 to 2011 A.D., Anno Domini–“in the year of our Lord.”  (It’s interesting that many secularists prefer to label our years as “C.E.”–Common, Current, or Christian Era–but this still admits that the watershed event in Western history, around which our very calendar revolves, is the life of Jesus Christ.)

Finally, if this isn’t enough to demonstrate the special place Christmas and Christianity have had and still have in American society, remember that of the eleven official federal holidays recognized in the United States, three of them are distinctly religious in nature–the three covered by the phrase “Happy Holidays.” 

Christmas has been a national holiday in the United States since 1870.

Christmas Is For Christians (And Their Friends)

I just re-read a thundering post I put up a year ago about a major concern of mine this time of year.  The mainstream culture’s war on Christmas has me wanting to mount a backlash.  In light of the economic meltdown and bailouts, a lot has been said this year about Ayn Rand and striking against the system.  I wonder if it’s time for Christians to “strike,” at least in terms of taking back their holiday from the secular mainstream that has watered it down and now wants to deny the validity of the original completely. 

The language in my original may have been a little harsh–I don’t really think that only Christians should celebrate Christmas.  It’s important to be able to share our traditions and beliefs with others, and certainly I don’t mean to deny the celebration of Christmas to anyone just because they may not exactly be devout.  However, yes, it does bother me when that growing body of society that denigrates Christians, that belittles God, and that wants to flout the Western world’s–and especially America’s–Christian heritage, or strip our public realm of it entirely, still wants to put up a tree and get presents. 

If atheist warriors like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins want to put up lights or a tree this year, they’d better face a huge groundswell of protest from outraged Christians. 

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Should Non-Christians Celebrate Christmas?

Non-religious friends and associates often ask me if I’m offended when they express a lack of belief in traditional religion, usually with the tone of an apologizing diplomat. I assure them that such ideas are not inherently offensive. However, ironically, few people seem to worry about something which truly is offensive: the warping of traditional religious belief itself.

We’re trained to resist offense and be as accommodating as necessary so that nobody feels that their toes are stepped on.  To that end, the public celebration of Christmas, enshrined for generations as a bedrock part of American culture, has been quietly stripped of religious significance.  We’re now to the bizarre Orwellian point where we see many voices in the media complaining that the secular holiday of Christmas is being infringed upon by nosy Christians. 

Glancing at the news this morning over my breakfast, I saw a local news channel announcing a contest: they’d be giving away a “holiday tree.”  What?  Why is Christmas picked on like this?  (Have you ever heard of a “holiday menorah?”)  Why are so many in our country desperate to preserve the commercial trappings of Christmas long after they’ve abandoned its spiritual significance?

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