Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?


Rev. Irene MonroeThe war on Christmas is not going away any time soon. With Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and Christmas all celebrated this time of year, one would think that we would embrace an all-inclusive seasonal greeting emblematic of our nation’s religious landscape with two simple words — Happy Holidays!

This year the controversy started with the inanity over the new design of Starbucks red holiday cup that didn’t have a Christmas theme or the greeting “Merry Christmas.”

(Photo courtesy of MGN)
(Photo courtesy of MGN)

“Starbucks removed Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus. Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red,” Joshua Feuerstein wrote spewing an anti-Starbucks rant on Facebook that went viral.

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump helped stoke the frenzy.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks in Trump Tower,” Trump stated during one of his campaign stumps. “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? …By the way, that’s the end of that lease, but who cares.”

Trump tied his verbal boycott of Starbucks (Trump Towers in NYC, however, are servicing Starbucks drinks in the holiday red cups) to one of his presidential promises.

“I’m a good Christian,” Trump stated in October. “If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store… You can leave Happy Holidays at the corner.”

But for more than a decade now, when this holiday season rolls around we can always count on a yearly kerfuffle about what the appropriate season’s greeting should be, exemplifying the continued chapter in the culture “War on Christmas.” Sadly, the kerfuffle concerning Christmas is right here in my liberal backyard, too.

Is there really a war on Christmas, some ask? Well, it depends not only on whom you ask, but which type of Christian you are. Some see the war on Christmas as an assault on Christianity, where the mere utterance of the word is gradually being expunged from the holiday public lexicon. And it feels to these Christian holiday revelers that the country, in its effort to be politically correct, is moving toward religious intolerance.

In an email exchange between a friend from North Carolina and me about this war of words wrote “It’s a Xmas tree for me and holiday tree doesn’t cut it. This PCness feels like it’s over the top. Next will be the word ‘Easter’… And what about ‘Saint’ as in St. Patrick Day…a big deal in Boston.” But there is a difference, in my opinion, between Christian apologists and Christmas apologists.

For many Christians, this is one of their high holy holidays, and it’s their religious bedrock that not only anchors them in their faith but it also shapes and governs them in their view of the world. But Christmas apologists refuse to see anything else because the war on Christmas is about their cultural dominance and they are fighting back with all their might.

Christian evangelist Pat Robertson said on his 700 Club television show that the problem is Muslims. “If people don’t like America and the traditions that made America great, let them go to Saudi Arabia, let them go to Pakistan. Yeah, they can go to Sudan and find a wonderful Muslim holiday.”

Truth be told, Muslims, secular progressives, Jews and atheists have never been the folks trying to abolish Christmas. Instead, it was once an extreme group of Protestants — yes, the Puritans. With the date of December 25 deriving from the Saturnalia, the Roman heathen’s wintertime celebration, and with the date found nowhere in the Bible stating it as the birthday of Jesus, the Puritan Parliament banned Christmas from 1659 until 1681.

The intolerance of a multicultural theme for this holiday has little to do with a heightened renewal of the birth of Christ or the fading of an American holiday trodden. Instead, it has much to do about a backlash toward a country growing more religiously pluralistic.

As a Christian, I know that the central message of this holiday is the embrace and celebration of human differences and diversity. And it is with this message that I know all people — religious and non-religious, straight and queer, Black and White — can be included to enjoy and to celebrate and to acknowledge this season with one simple greeting.

Happy Holidays!



Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and freelance journalist.

One Comment on “Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?”

  1. Spoken like a true liberal. No one, and I mean no one, has the right to infringe on my right to say Merry Christmas! Regardless of where one works, if that’s what they choose to say, as freedom of speech awards us, then they should say it. You’re simply over simplifying by stating at the end of your article to acknowledge the season with just happy holidays. Christmas means more to me than that.

Comments are closed.