Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Stand for Christmas"

Have you heard about Focus on the Family's "Stand for Christmas" campaign? Their website boldly proclaims,

"We're asking YOU to decide which retailers are "Christmas-friendly." They want your patronage and your gift-shopping dollars, but do they openly recognize Christmas?"

The site allows users to leave comments on individual retailers, as well as ratings on a given store's degree of "Christmas-friendliness." These comments frequently use the word "offensive" to describe users' feelings upon being wished "Happy Holidays."

Here are a few charming comments left regarding American Eagle:

Comment Date: Dec 9 2009 4:34 PM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: With a name like "American Eagle," one would think the company owners would be more AMERICAN-FRIENDLY. ...

(Wait, so Christmas is an American holiday? Silly me, this whole time I thought it originated in Bethlehem!)

Comment Date: Dec 8 2009 9:47 PM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: ...No mention of Christmas. I don't shop there anymore.

(You're offended by not having Christmas mentioned? Honey, it would be offensive if they cursed the name of Jesus, but how can you be offended by someone not wishing you a "Merry Christmas"?)

Comment Date: Dec 14 2009 9:54 AM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: Shopping in there this Christmas season was like shopping there any time of year....

(Some people are never happy. I bet this same person frequently complains about the over-commercialization of Christmas.)

Here are some comments about Old Navy:

Comment Date: Dec 14 2009 10:32 AM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: I shopped both the Old Navy website and catalog for my family of 5 and presents for my 6 nieces and nephews. I found the blatant lack of Christmas to be completely offensive. I will actually not only NOT shop at Old Navy this season, but will not do so in the future as well.

(All it takes is a lack of overt Christmas-y-ness to offend you?)

Comment Date: Dec 11 2009 3:03 PM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: The "do-what-you-wannaka" ad was very offensive...

(Seriously? You're offended by a reference to Hanukkah? I could see how a Jewish person might find the seemingly flippant reference offensive, but you seem to be offended simply because it was an inclusive ad campaign!)

Comment Date: Dec 9 2009 4:02 PM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: [Clerk]told me that they are told to say Happy Holidays...I will find a Christmas friendly store

("Happy Holidays" is such an unfriendly phrase.)

Comment Date: Dec 7 2009 11:01 AM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: ...lack of Christmas spirit (i.e. advertising). I will be spending my Christmas dollars with your competitors. Merry Christmas!

(Of course, we all love being manipulated by faith-based advertising campaigns.)

Comment Date: Nov 30 2009 9:15 AM
Rating: Christmas-Offensive
Comment: Without the birth of Jesus Christ, there would be no "holiday." It's CHRISTMAS. So, MERRY CHRISTMAS

(Actually, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the baby Jesus who kept the oil lamp burning in the temple for eight days...)

Had enough of those crazy comments yet? I think I have.

Why are so many Christians intolerant towards the idea of wishing someone "Happy Holidays"? What's so wrong with being inclusive in how we celebrate the season? (And since when do we want the birth of a Savior to be some marketing ploy, anyway? Christians are always complaining about the commercialization of Christmas!)

Let's look at the facts. Sure, many people celebrate Kwanzaa, but I think it's fair to venture that the primary two holidays we're talking about when we wish someone "Happy Holidays" are Christmas (whether of the Jesus variety or the Santa variety) and Hanukkah. Do we really want to be intolerant of our Jewish brothers' and sisters' right to celebrate an important event in the history of Israel? Jesus was Jewish, and Paul tells us that as Christians we are "grafted" into that faith. It is our spiritual heritage. When we consider that, why aren't more Christians celebrating alongside Jews as they remember the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem and commemorate how God kept the oil lamp burning for eight days? This is not an "anti-Christian" holiday, and we shouldn't be offended by those who celebrate it, nor should we be offended by an inclusive clerk wishing us a "Happy holiday season." Hanukkah is a celebration that is pre-Christian in nature, but whether or not you believe that Judaism found its fullness in Christ as the Messiah, you should be able to sincerely wish your Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah.

I have several Jewish violin students, and each year they complement my beautiful Christmas tree, give me Christmas gifts, and wish me a "Merry Christmas" this time of year. It would be unbelievably rude of me to not extend the same graciousness to their traditions and beliefs, and I'm glad I can sincerely and joyfully wish them a "Happy Hanukkah!" I enjoy hearing how they celebrate and love seeing their excitement when they talk about lighting the candles on their menorahs. Can you imagine if I insisted on wishing them a "Merry Christmas," simply because that's the holiday I'm celebrating this time of year? Yes, I may believe that Advent and Christmas are a time of celebrating the coming of the Messiah, but forcing it down peoples' throats isn't the best approach I can think of to celebrate this season.

When clerks wish you "Happy Holidays" this time of year, they're simply acknowledging that they don't know you personally and can't be sure of which holiday (or holidays!) you and your family choose to celebrate. But whatever you're celebrating, be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or even winter solstice, they hope it's a happy one.

I'm okay with that, Focus on the Family. If you merely want Christmas to be included in how retailers acknowledge the season, then perhaps you should recognize that phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" are already inclusive and respectful of Christmas. (And the majority of America is celebrating Christmas, so you're not exactly left out of any festivities this time of year.) And if you insist that everyone acknowledge or celebrate your holiday specifically, then perhaps you're the ones giving offense - not the well-meaning people wishing you "Happy Holidays."


  1. I've gotten in trouble wishing people "Happy Holidays" because I am thinking of Christmas and New Year's. It really is quite frustrating.

  2. I agree Sarah. The whole "get people in stores to say Merry Christmas, or else boycott them" campaign is silly. It seems to just reinforce the cultural accommodation that this holiday in particular is prone to. It's all about the buying--so we need to "take back Christmas" by making retailers talk a certain way. Seriously? Maybe Christmas isn't all about buying. I know that's cliche, but it's silly to think in a multicultural country like we live to try to get people to talk a way that makes us comfortable.

  3. ...and I write with tortured grammar. The last sentence should read "it is silly that in a multicultural country we think that we ought to get people to talk in a way that makes us comfortable." Still tortured, but maybe intelligible.

  4. Sarah, you are completely and absolutely correct. As usual. Furthermore, I LIKE the juxtaposition of the creche and the Atheist signs--one has the Savior of the World, the other has...nothing. You choose!