War on Christmas debates inclusivity and religion

While searching for the best deals and perfect presents, shoppers enter into the annual debate: should you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”? 

The idea of a “war on Christmas” has turned joyful holiday greetings into potentially divisive religious and political statements. Some people, who believe the term “Christmas” implies religious meaning that not everyone agrees with, prefer to use more socially inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”    

According to The New York Times, “the most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible.” In 2005, when Fox News promoted a book by radio host John Gibson that alleged liberal antagonism toward the holiday, “the idea of a plot against Christmas gained wide publicity.”

The war on Christmas has affected the marketing industry during one of the busiest seasons in the United States. Ana Bonilla Urbina, sophomore marketing major, said. “Because Christmas has been a tradition existing since the fourth century, there is already an existing market related to this celebration.” 

Urbina mentioned the meanings and symbols of Christmas, what it had represented for centuries, such as quality time with family and friends, unity, forgiveness and meaningful gifts. “Implementing such change would not only change what retailers and business offer, either products or services, but also the message that marketing would have to share in a changing culture,” she said. 

Defenders of “Merry Christmas,” including many conservative groups, lobby for decorations in public schools or town halls. The American Family Association publishes a “Naughty and Nice” list of companies every November, which it believes are “censoring ‘Christmas.’” Entries on the 2019 naughty list include Barnes & Noble, Old Navy and TJ Maxx. 

In the meantime, those contending for a more inclusive holiday point to advertisements and notes from 100 years ago, which use the greeting “Happy Holidays.” Advertisements in the Philadelphia Inquier in 1863 and the Macron Telegraph in 1890 both include the phrase. Individuals argue that the phrase has grown in popularity in recent decades as people have tried to be sensitive to people of other faiths and the nonreligious.

Rev. Paul Brandeis Rausenbush, founding executive editor of HuffPost Religion, believes “Happy Holidays” is a more appropriate phrase because it is an “inclusive salutation that recognizes that there are many ways that people are observing the season.” 

Rausenbush asked his fellow Christians to stop saying that there is a war on Christmas. “It is time to stop insisting that everything revolves around us. Instead, let’s join the wider circle of the many traditions that make up our country,” Rausenbush said. “Besides, any Christian knows that Christmas is not about displays in shopping malls, or capitols, or schools. It is about a spiritual event that we honor most in our families and our homes.”

Lin Lampton, sophomore Christian ministry and formation major, believes this division “is a sad thing, but at the same time, this is how the world is getting.” 

Lampton said Christians should choose a wiser approach and refrain from judging others: “Christians probably do not want to push other people to use ‘Merry Christmas.’ However, whenever we write cards, we can still remain in our faith and say ‘Merry Christmas’ on them,” she said. “People don’t have to say it with me, but they cannot stop me from saying it.”