Rants, Musings, and Mental Meanderings of a former Conservative Christian Mother. Standing Strong against ignorance, preconceptions, labels and excessive housework. Celebrating original thought, religious freedom, parenthood, free enterprise and chocolate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry, uh, Holidays?

I have to admit sometimes I'm a little slow to notice things. When I am on a mission, focused on one task, I am not easily distracted. So, it took me a while to catch on to the whole "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" war while I was doing my Christmas shopping. At first, I just thought people thought I was hard-of-hearing. They would lean forward, give me a meaningful look and say "Mer-ry Christ-mas!" enunciating it like it was some kind of secret code. Or, I would say, "Merry Christmas" and get a smirk and a pointed "Happy Holidays" from an attitude-laden teenager. I was beginning to feel like I was back in junior high and a group of friends had formed a club without telling me, complete with secret passwords. From what I could gather, Merry Christmas was good, Happy Holidays was bad. And I could tell that, to the people who were "in the know," it was very important to give the right greeting, since you were also making a statement. Something like, "Merry Christmas" means "I love God" and "Happy Holidays" means "I don't like God." This seemed rather silly and trivial to me, but then I am never the type to jump on bandwagons. They are always smelly and crowded with people who have bland personalities and need to be told what to think. I certainly don't need to be told what to think, but I did decide to try to get to the bottom of this. I got the scoop by accident, when at a holiday gathering, (or should I say Christmas gathering, so you don't think I'm an atheist?) I mentioned that I was sick and tired of all the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" business. Before I could elaborate, she began gushing, "Oh I know! I went into a store the other day, and the greeter said, Happy Holidays, and I told them I wasn't even going to shop there! I have been going out of my way to say Merry Christmas anytime I hear someone say Happy Holidays, just to prove a point. We can't let them take Christ out of Christmas!" It was one of those rare times where I was actually speechless. Not because I couldn't think of anything to say (never have that problem) but I could think of TOO much to say and I didn't want to start an argument.

However, here's a list of facts that ran through my mind:

Would you really stop shopping at a store because they say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, and do you really think this helps point the lost world to Christ? I mean, last time I checked, we were a free country and people were allowed to greet people however they choose. It's not like they are saying or doing anything offensive like flashing you or flipping you off. Not to mention, many companies have a lot more questionable practices than the specific wording of their greetings, and I don't see anyone caring about any of those.

Second, as far as taking CHRIST out of CHRISTmas, oh puh-leeeeease. When was Christ ever actually in Christmas? Do I need to remind you that it wasn't so very long ago that the winter solstice was a PAGAN celebration, honored by such religious figures as virgin-sacrificing druids? It was combined with a celebration of the birth of Christ by a pope in order to allow Christians to celebrate with their non-Christian friends without feeling guilty about it. A classic case of, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." I hate to burst the bubble of a lot of holier than thou Christians, but Jesus was not born in the winter, the first candy cane had nothing to do with the shepherds hook, and the Christmas tree was not invented by Martin Luther (an entirely different figure than Martin Luther King, for you who are historically challenged) after seeing the stars shining through the fir trees to thank the Lord for showing him the proverbial light. These are all heart-warming stories, but they were invented to make Christians feel good about themselves. Now, that's not to say I believe it's wrong to celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas, but I take it for what it is. It was not originally a Christian holiday, so any references we see and hear to Christ and the Nativity, I take as a bonus. I love to hear the Christmas carols that give the salvation message, I love the attitude of goodwill that is promoted, I love to see all the different nativity scenes, and I love teaching my children the Nativity story and watching them act it out. But I still don't kid myself that this is some kind of religious institution. It is, after all, basically a societal compromise.

Third, is it a very Christian attitude to say or do anything to prove a point? Seriously, when you hiss "Merry Christmas" at the hapless cashier who has been instructed to say "Happy Holidays," are you really demonstrating the love of God?

The fact of the matter is this: Yes, I get frustrated when the world tries to scrub anything that has any kind of "religious" flavor to it in order to not offend the non-religious. Yes, I believe Christianity is picked on more than other religions, and yes this is not fair. But that all being said, GROW UP!!! America is far, far away from her Christian founding, and it's not going to change anytime soon. I don't need a contrived holiday to glorify the birth of the God and Savior I adore. I don't care if they call it a holiday tree instead of a Christmas tree - God made all the trees whether people choose to acknowledge Him or not. I read somewhere that if Christians worked as hard at keeping Christ-honoring symbols in their own lives, it wouldn't matter if they had a Nativity in the town square. There would be millions of them in the yards of Christian homes! We can get so caught up in proving a point that we lose the loving attitude that is supposed to truly define a Christian. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to celebrate the Birth of Christ, but we are commanded to spend our lives trying to reach a lost world who are drowning in a sea of sin, hopelessness, depression and despair, especially at this time of year. They don't need a so-called Christian giving them a snide "Merry Christmas," they need a caring person to offer to help them carry their bags, be compassionate with the harried store staff that is being run ragged, drop a few coins in the Salvation Army kettles, and overall treat people the way Christ would have us treat them. America is not going to be bullied back to her Christian roots, and in fact may never go back to her Christian roots. The people who do decide to become Christians, or to return to Christianity after leaving it, are going to do so because of the genuine people who were caring, kind and REAL. If Christians put as much effort into being exemplary in every other aspect of their lives and they do in jumping on the bandwagons of these created "causes" we would probably get a lot more done.

And from now on, I'm just going to wish everyone Happy Hanukkah and be done with it.


Jessica Boots said...

I agree. As a matter of fact you wouldn't believe all the frowns on people when I went shopping just a few days before christmas to pick up a few things. I just made an actual conscious effort to smile and be extra SUPER nice to people. Some folks looked at me like I was a NUT CASE but others seemed to feel that my smile was a breath of fresh air in a sea full of smiles. HA HA! I find during the holidays if you cannot (or will not by choice) join them...just KILL em with Kindness. REAL Kindness.

Melanie said...

I like this post! I think Christians get too wrapped up in Christmas and making sure everyone goes with their idea of what Christmas is about!

Angela said...

It's hard for a lot of Christians to find that balance. Many of us are passionate about what we believe, and rightly so, but we have to be careful that we don't become militant in demanding our rights or cramming our views down people's throats. I think when some Christians get all hysterical about trivial things like "holiday" trees they actually do more harm than good in furthering the work of Christ. I am not ashamed of my faith, and I would love to see more people embrace a faith in Jesus Christ, but the fact remains it is not something you can (or should) force on anyone. Like Jessica said, just be kind and patient and your lifestyle will speak for itself.

Jessica Boots said...

OOPS I meant, a "Sea full of FROWNS" ha ha! I have no brain sometimes ha ha ha! Oh I love old age! Grandpa bring me my teeth! HA HA

Angela said...

I was wondering about that... but I think we figured out what you meant! Nothing like a good case of "Mommy Brain."