COLUMN: A merry Christmas indeed

-A A +A


The most common Christmastime complaint I hear isn’t about high prices or crowded stores, but the hesitancy of some people to use the word “Christmas” at all.

Two people cornered me last weekend about how store greeters – I don’t remember the store’s name – offered everyone a “Happy Holidays” greeting when walking in the front door. They also complained of the headline “holiday parade.” They told me it should be “Christmas parade.”

I agree with the readers for the most part. My headline choice is often driven by space, not religious or secular sentiment but I, too, receive more “happy holidays” than “merry Christmases” in local stores. In fact, a lot of advertisements simply avoid “Christmas” in verbiage, preferring to announce “holiday” sales and last-minute “holiday” bargains.

I don’t mind experiencing other people’s religious expressions, even if I don’t share them. That’s why I worry that squeezing all the religious spirit out of Christmas or other holidays is a double affront. Not only are the spiritual or religious roots of the holiday lost, but society seems to have ruled that average Americans can’t tolerate differences. I believe most of us already do much better.

Most Perry Countains occasionally attend events in churches that aren’t their primary houses of worship. Whether visiting for chili suppers, vacation Bible schools or Scout meetings, the vast majority of us don’t have problems with coming into contact with beliefs that aren’t our own. We aren’t offended by that contact. Some of us actually appreciate the diversity.

I’m certainly not bothered when talk about God comes up, though my religious views or those of another should not affect my freedom to worship – or refrain from it if that is my choice. Neither should religious views of a few become public policy for everyone else.

I recognize the concern of some civil-liberties groups that prayers or invocations at public gatherings, such as graduations and legislative sessions, which denote a particular religious belief (Christian, Muslim, etc.) or denomination (Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, etc.) imply a preference for that religious view. I don’t agree. Offering me a “merry Christmas” is no insult, regardless of what I think about Jesus or Christmas.