It seems that we hear it often, but really pay no attention to the words. Interviewers, parents, teachers, neighbors… one and all, are trying to find the words to spell out the meaning of this season with phrases that all can “buy” into without using the words that we all grew up with.
“Happy Holidays” seems to be the main phrase that many are using, whether it’s being required by the “powers” that be, or whether they chose to say it for various reasons that have nothing to do with being forced to… In fact, many news articles are showing up with people asking, “Why the change?” Why do we no longer hear “Merry Christmas!” spoken at check out lanes, by service providers, or sales personnel working the floors?
About a dozen years ago I had a temporary position in between tech contracts with a small company that went to many Alaskan Villages and school districts to provide system training to educators. When answering the phone one day, I said the phrase “Merry Christmas” and immediately was castigated for using a religious phrase as we are to keep the separation of church and state inviolate.
From Holiday trees and parties, school winter brakes, holiday travel plans, and shopping extravaganzas – these have all lost the mention of Christ – and we are accepting it.
Part of the reason seems to be related to the changing climate of religious tolerance within our nation – with many other religions, agnostics and atheists numbers growing, the fear is that using a Christian term will create hardships for others who are not of that persuasion. We seem to be moving rapidly into a landscape of allowing anything by disallowing everything. Whether it is a language choice or a religious choice, we want to accommodate everyone with everything.
There have been actions taken to try and force everything we do to revolve around the English language. It works in some areas, and not so well in others.
About 20 years ago I was working in NY on a project assignment for one of our bank mergers. When making use of the ATM network on Manhattan, I had a choice of thirteen languages (I am almost positive of this number) to select how the ATM will communicate with me. Knowing a smattering of Spanish, I would often change my language choice and prove that I could conduct my transaction with a somewhat unknown language. The money that came out was not in the Mexican currency, but the US currency. Disappointed, I was…
There is another pathway being taken by many to put meaning to this season. Trying to use different phrases, many are attempting to wrap their arms around this crazy time of the year with words like:
- It’s all about family, giving, food, gifts, etc.
- It’s all about Santa, Elves, Tree, Decorations, Parades, Snow, Songs, Gifts under the tree, Reindeer’s
- It’s all about helping the less fortunate, giving toys to the various drives, food to the various banks, volunteerism
All these public answers seem to be coached to remove the word Christ. It almost seems the answer provides many with a sense of satisfaction – “Finally, we have defined something that does not use the word Christ in the sentence.” The answers get propagated into every piece of communication, spread around spheres of influence, and eventually the real reason for this season is drowned in the morass of “good feeling” bylines. Radio, TV, Sports and Movie personalities lend their influence to every event under the sun to help us find meaning to why we are going crazy this time of the year!
In fact, we are banning the word Christmas from everything we focus on this time of the year and we are seemingly okay with it.
A popular cartoon is making the rounds that sort of explains how this is affecting the language from our yesterdays and making it a bad word of today. (I am not sure who authored this strip so I cannot give proper recognition.)
Continually we are battling the removal of Christ from our landscape. No manger scenes are allowed, but a school district in Washington recently used tax dollars to pay for salaries and buses to take school age kids out of class to hear the Dalai Lama in a large arena, but should someone like Billy Graham have an opportunity to speak to thousands there would be a surge of revolt that we would bring religion into the school experience. This seems like the cry is not necessarily against religious experiences – just Christian experiences.
Perhaps this means that all the “holiday” songs that have nothing to do with Christian experiences will be changed! Imagine, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” (no… Holiday… uh, no… Winter Holiday… ???) or “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” (no… Season… Hmmm…) “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…” (Again?) Of course, Jingle Bells will probably remain aloof from all of these changes!
Yet, the word Holiday is a spiritual word from Old English hāligdæg, from hālig holy + dæg day. So, should we ban the word “Holiday” as much as we are banning “Christmas”?
Here’s the thing about the Christmas holiday – Christ was more than likely NOT born on December 25th..! So, there! It’s just a day! For varied reasons this date was chosen to represent the unknown and give us a day that we would set aside to honor the birth of Christ! Again, in fact, my family often celebrates the “Christmas” day with other dates on the calendar. They normally happen before the 25th, but this year it happened in February as it was the only time we could get together. Mom and Dad came from Texas to enjoy the time with us, and we all met at Depoe Bay, OR and created some great memories. In fact, we played some family games (and I still have the scoring sheet here to prove who won – you know who you are), shot a few rounds from some new guns, shopped, dined, and even lazed around the fake log fire.
I could spend thousands of words to document where everything comes from and why we have evolved to this point today.The bottom line – I am a Christian, and will say “Merry Christmas” in response to those who say “Happy Holidays”… And, I will not feel guilty about it!
Blessings to all!