The War on Christmas (isn't a thing)

So... I started my Christmas section in December 2014, and at the time I was thinking I should write a page about how there is no such thing as a "war on Christmas." But then I remembered that I'd already written a facebook note about that very thing, back in October. So rather than write up a whole new page, I'll just copy and paste most of that note here. (And at the end, I'll add a meme I saw on facebook more recently that basically says the same thing, as well as just a bit of new text.)

This here is a banner I made last year (2013) for my message board, Volcano Mountain (which no one's gone to much for a few years or so, except spammers). I know it's a bit early to trot it out this year, since Halloween is still a couple weeks away, but maybe I'll repost this Note around Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. I just wanted to get this down today, while it's on my mind (and I have seen anti-"Happy holidays" memes on facebook lately, so I guess it's not too early). This is an argument that's been going on probably since the 90s, and more so in recent years. (It's certainly nothing new.) It has always annoyed the crap out of me, so I want to make my position clear: if you think saying (or posting signs that say) things like "Happy holidays" or "Season's greetings" is in any way an attack on Christmas, you're being fucking ridiculous. (This applies, I am sure, to some of my friends and family. But I trust they'll forgive me for expressing my opinion, even if it differs from their own.)

If someone says "happy holidays" to you, it may not even be referring to any holidays you personally don't celebrate. It could mean "Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year," and possibly a few other things that are all celebrated by most (American) Christians, at a certain time of year. To assume that the person saying it is including holidays you don't personally celebrate is just silly and presumptuous, in many cases. However, there are certainly cases where it's reasonable to assume people are referring to a holiday or holidays you, personally, don't happen to celebrate. So let's examine that possibility in detail, shall we?

When you say, "Merry Christmas," it's possible that you're simply intending to wish people a happy holiday season, in spite of the fact that you have actually specified Christmas as the holiday you're celebrating. You may not consciously be attacking their religion (or lack thereof), but it would not be unreasonable to interpret your words as an attempt to force your religion on someone else, or even to interpret it as an implication that if the person or people you're addressing don't celebrate Christmas, then you don't want them to be happy at all, at this time of year. As if their being happy for any reason other than Christmas would, in and of itself, constitute an attack on Christmas. Which is complete bullshit. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with saying "Merry Christmas," if you know the person you're speaking to celebrates Christmas, or even if you're unsure, or if it slipped your mind that they don't, or you just say it out of habit to everyone you meet. But while I think it's rare for someone who says that to be attacking others' beliefs, I also think it's much, much rarer for someone who says "happy holidays" to be attacking Christians' beliefs.

Now, let's examine the phrase "happy holidays," focusing on its literal meaning. We've already established that "Merry Christmas," whether or not you mean it as such, is (or can be) a specific assertion of the idea that Christmas, and by extension Christianity, is the only thing anyone should be celebrating in and around December. By contrast, "happy holidays" makes no such assertion. It does not imply that the speaker has anything against Christmas, nor that they have a problem with your celebrating it. It does not try to force any other specific religion (or lack thereof) on you. All the phrase does is acknowledge that it is a festive season during which many different holidays happen to fall. It does not presume to know (or care) which holidays you personally celebrate, it merely suggests that whatever you do celebrate, the speaker hopes you are happy. That is all. Anything else is just an inference on your part, not an implication on the speaker's part. Is it possible they are intentionally attacking Christmas? Sure. In some, rare cases. I guess. But if it is meant as an attack, it's a pretty piss-poor one, as attacks go. It's not even at the level of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," because they're not even using hurtful words. They are literally telling you they want you to be happy. (And yes, such things can be intended sarcastically, but if they say it without a sarcastic tone, they're probably being sincere.)

So, there it is. If you are offended by someone wishing you happy holidays, you are just plain trying to be offended. You are being ludicrously over-sensitive. But fear not! There are no doubt plenty of other excuses you can find to be offended by other things people say or do, which may or may not be intended to give offense, but which at the very least are not as utterly silly and unreasonable to be offended by than someone telling you they hope you're happy. In fact, there are things that people say and do that cannot reasonably be interpreted as anything but offensive. So please, save your energy for reacting to things that actually are attacks on your personal beliefs. And for the love of God, learn the damn difference.

P.S. - Xmas is a whole other can of worms. Don't even get me started. (But seriously, read the Wikipedia article. I've skimmed it, and it says some things I already knew, things that make it clear that writing "Xmas" is not the same as taking "Christ" out of "Christmas," and if you think it is, you're just displaying your own ignorance.)

...Okay, that was my facebook note (minus and plus a couple of changes). But it occurs to me now that not everyone who talks about a "war on Christmas" is specifically referring to anything as innocuous as just saying "happy holidays." So, check Wikipedia's article Christmas controversy for more details. It is true that some corporations or government facilities, schools, etc., may specifically ban the use of the word "Christmas" or any clearly Christian aspects of the holiday, such as Nativity scenes. I don't have a problem with that. If they simultaneously allow direct mentions of other religious things like Hanukkah, for example, well that does seem to be a more problematic double standard. I think it's reasonable to object to anything that would amount to an official endorsement of one religion over another, whether that religion is Christianity or anything else. However, it would be unreasonable to prohibit anyone from saying "merry Christmas" as an individual, rather than as a representative of a business, organization, or whatever. So... it's complicated, but it's not that complicated. And a lot of people have a tendency to overreact to things. They'll treat the littlest, most reasonable and inoffensive things as being just as offensive and unreasonable as things that it actually makes sense to complain about. And maybe that's why some people have a problem with hearing someone say "happy holidays": they see it as representative of larger issues, which most likely aren't at all what the speaker intended. Then again, some people who get offended by it probably aren't thinking about the larger issues, they really are getting offended just by the words. And I must reiterate that that's ridiculous.

The point is that if you think (for whatever reason) that there's a war on Christmas, the impression that gives me is that you are unwilling to accept the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas, and more specifically, that not everyone is Christian. And that is unacceptable. If you think others are trying to force their religion (or lack thereof) on you, that is most likely a transference of your own desire to force your religion on them. That's surely not always why people feel that there's a war on Christmas. Christians do occasionally have legitimate complaints that attempts to eliminate the inequities in our society whereby Christians are systemically given preferential treatment may sometimes lead to inequities against Christianity. But the overwhelming majority of the time, people who complain about a "war on Christmas" are just plain wrong. And I, as a Christian, am offended by Christians who make such complaints.

Update 2017 (March): Adding this link to an article from December 2015, which I just read... sometime in the past four months. (I take way too long to comb through my bookmarks and add stuff to my website.)
Update 2017 (December): Adding a link to an article called There Is A War On Spirit Of Christmas from a couple of days ago, which I just read today.

Update 2015: Just thought I'd share this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow. ...And later in 2015, I made a comic of my own on Stripcreator.

tek's Winter Holidays page