Happy (almost) Holidays!
I don't generally use Merry Christmas because I don't celebrate it and I don't want to assume that everyone who reads this blog does either. I teach my kids to say Happy Holidays, but they always ask me why everyone says Merry Christmas to them. They are not of an age where they understand that us non-Christmas celebrants are the minority.
I'm not anti-Christmas, I'm pro-inclusion. This makes me an enemy of the American Family Association who are policing retailers to make sure that they are putting the "Christ back into Christmas". They are encouraging shoppers to boycott stores who do not mention Christmas in their advertising.
According to the AFA, their campaign is working. Stores such as Old Navy and Sears used to leave out the word Christmas but caved to pressure from the AFA. The organization publishes a list of "naughty and nice" retailers: those who include the word Christmas; those that marginalize; and those that have a war on Christmas. To participate in that war all a store needs to do is to leave out the word Christmas in their publicity. To the AFA, that is anti-Christmas. There is even a snitch line to call if you have encountered anti-Christmas messages.
As an outsider I don't really get it. Is the world a better place if Staples says Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays? Do stores encapsulate the meaning of Christmas? Because the world feels pretty Christmas-y to me.
I like Happy Holidays because that is what the winter break is: a holiday. I think that including all people in a holiday display is a wonderful message about tolerance and inclusion; or at least gives us a break from the ubiquitous red and green bling. But what do I know? I would even like to see some other holidays included in the Santa Claus parade.
It doesn't offend me when a shopkeeper or a friend says Merry Christmas to me, what I don't like is when someone does the backtrack: "Merry Chris...oh my gosh I'm so sorry! Happy Chanukah". You don't have to be sorry, I don't mind. We may not share the Christian ritual of Christmas but we do share the secular holiday. Chanukah is not a replacement for Christmas, it is a holiday that happens to be around the same time that has evolved into a gift-giving relay to compete with Christmas. It's pretty fun but it ain't Christmas. (Check out this article for the full story on gift giving during Chanukah).
But I get the feeling that the AFA doesn't care what I think. I'm obviously not one of their 2.5 million subscribers. I think their "consumer advocacy" is bullying. I generally don't care if a store has a generic holiday or Christmas display but because of the AFA's Christmas intimidation tactics I would be more likely to shop from their naughty list.
Postscript: A British Columbia school board recently decided to replace the term winter vacation with Christmas vacation, saying that: "we are having a holiday becasue it's Christmas, so why not just say what it is."
Do you think the American Family Association has a point or is over-zealous in their Christmastime policing? Do you care if people say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?