Majority Rules

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I know we've been down this road before, or something very much like it, but bear with me. An article in USA Today reports that retailers are putting "Christmas" back into the holiday season after a backlash from consumers at generic holiday messages. Unfortunately, in a capitalist society, money talks-- and there are a lot of Christian dollars getting spent in December. But two quotes from the article deserve special mention.

Chains also may be responding to a push by groups such as The Catholic League and American Family Association (AFA) against a generic "winter holiday."

The AFA cited 10 retailers (Kroger, Dell, Target, OfficeMax, Walgreens, Sears, Staples, Lowe's, J.C. Penney and Best Buy) for omitting Christmas in ads. It urges shoppers to go where Christmas is recognized.

It's not enough that the entire country gets Christmas off as a holiday, the White House has a giant Christmas tree on its lawn, and we're tortured for weeks with tales of grandma getting run over by a reindeer and mommy kissing Santa Claus, but all major retailers have to genuflect too? Yes, please only go where Christmas is recognized, because the holiday is in real danger of getting marginalized and suppressed in America. What's truly astounding is that The Catholic League and AFA have nothing better to do with their time, like, oh I don't know, improving people's lives or making sure no prepubescent boys are getting taken advantage of by trusted priests.

Ads for Dillard's department stores say: "Discover Christmas. Discover Dillard's." But the regional chain says that is not a political statement. "We do not believe it is our place as a retailer to politicize the season," says spokeswoman Julie Bull. "The sentiment expressed certainly applies to the other holidays celebrated this time of year, as well."

No, clearly it does not. That's what celebrants of Christmas never seem to understand. Christmas is not a generic stand-in for all winter holidays-- it's specific to Christianity. Your message to "discover Christmas" does not speak to Jews, Muslims, atheists, and other non-Christians. The sentiment expressed by a sign saying "Whites welcomed!" does not certainly apply to other races as well. The fact that the vast majority of your customers celebrate Christmas does not change the fact that by singling that holiday out, you risk alienating the minority who don't.

Happy holidays.

14 Comments

This reminds me of the people who insist on using, when refering to a person of unknown sex, the "gender-non-specific pronoun 'he'".

But on a completely different note, don't you think that insisting on using "Christmas" everywhere will just weaken its actual ties to Christianity? I mean, Halloween isn't a religion-non-specific holiday either when you get right down to it: it's All Hallow's Eve, or (more properly) All Saint's Day Eve. In other words, the day before a Christian holiday. But the fact that I had to look it up on Wikipedia just to remember which religion it came from tells you that the Christians have pretty much lost that one to the sands of time.

Sure Christmas is a more fundamental holiday in the Christian calendar than All Saints Day, and it is still a very obviously Christian holiday, but I truly think that this emphasis on using Christmas everywhere, for all types of people of many different (or no) religions, will only lead to the Halloweenizing of Christmas eventually.

This year, you're getting a pay-as-you-go mobile phone.

Hoping to remain tasteful,
Chris

peter - the white house also has a giant menorah on its lawn. they also light a menorah inside the white house. i do agree with your statement that christians don't understand why so many non-christains don't embrace christmas as their holiday too. they see it as secular, but i don't.

dug - christians were unable to stop the celts from celebrating samhain, so they moved a holiday to coincide with the date and changed some names. the way it's celebrated in the states reflects celtic traditions.

chris - thank you! ;D

Does this mean the AFA supports Playboy's Gala Christmas issue (on stands now!)

My dad owns a gift shop. He doesn't care what people say as long as they buy. He also used to own a Christmas store called "Bah Humbug".

My dad owns a gift store. He doesn't care how he greets customers as long as they buy. He used to own a Christmas store called "Bah Humbug".

I believe Jesus avoided overturning Jewish themed moneychangers at the Temple.

I think The Catholic League and the AFA are missing the point.

I agree with Dug that folks have tried for years to secularize Christmas, which in my view is a wonderful thing. The whole story of Santa Claus living at the North Pole and bringing presents to all the kids of the world (not just the Christian ones) was a transparent attempt to strip the holiday of religious connotations and make it a big festival of giving, eating, and general good will.

Apparently, the de-Christianizing of Christmas had some success at first, according to this Slate article:

http://slate.com/id/10802/

Since people first started celebrating a holiday called "Christmas" there's been a struggle between the secularists like me and the religious, with the religious constantly nattering about the "true meaning of Christmas." The true meaning of Christmas is that being nice to people and giving gifts and throwing parties is fun.

But of course leave it to Jerry Falwell and his league of nitwits to ruin a perfectly good secular holiday by reminding people of its extremely thin religious connection.

What's most upsetting to me is that all the traditions I enjoy at Christmas are ones adopted from non-Christian celebrations like Yule and other pagan festivals. There's no particular reason that a decorated tree, gift-giving, and eating fat-laden food should be associated with Christ or Christianity. I personally celebrate Christmas because it gives me a warm nostalgic feeling, not because I feel any particular religious motivations. Yet my overt celebration of Christmas is potentially offensive to non-Christians, which bugs me because I'm not trying to offend anyone. And I like seeing evergreens, nutcrackers, and ribbons at the mall, but not nativity scenes, angels, or crosses. I don't want religion of any kind at the mall.

I don't say "Merry Christmas" except to people who I know celebrate Christmas, because that's the polite thing to do. But I fervently wish Christmas could be a completely secular holiday so I could wish everyone a Merry Christmas regardless. Or that we could replace Christmas with Festivus or some other made-up holiday. Or that we could go back to celebrating Yule.

My wife is getting frustrated with this in the classrooms she works in. The teachers therein are leading songs, reading books, and placing decorations for Christmas, with little regard for those who celebrate other or no holidays. It's just assumed that everyone is a christian unless they protest otherwise.

It's always amused me that Christmas was a made-up holiday to compete with pagan winter festivals; Hannukah (while not made up) was elevated to a major holiday to compete with Christmas; and then Kwanzaa was made up to match them.

It's also silly how the christians are now protesting the secularization of an originally non-christian holiday.

This reminds me of the discussion of Gay Pride Day:

http://www.staticzombie.com/2005/06/im_used_to_it_already.html

I'm neither gay nor non-christian, but there seems to be parallels here in that both discussions are about the perceptions of the 10% in the minority when the 90% in the majority assume everyone is the same as them.

Kudos to those who bring up the pagan-based Christian adoptions for holidays. Can anybody say, "Ragnorok"?! (see winter solstice and Norse mythology)
Imagine a modern day themed nativity scene at your Christian-conscience retailers: a knocked-up adolescent girl/young lady accompanied by a much older husband claiming, "really, it's not mine - she's a virgin - really!" who happen to be homeless, just arrived in town, (to pay taxes and fill in for the census - right!), and are looking for a place to crash for the night. Oh yeah, she could go into labor at any moment. Anybody got a spare garage they can sleep in tonight? Don't mind the motley crew of visitors they have, either. Check with Walmart - maybe there's a Winnebago in their parking lot that has an extra sleeper sofa. Did I mention that the son of god is popping in (or out, as the case may be)?
Somehow, I don't think this scenario is quite what the retailers have in mind.

And on the parallels of the gay perception: if you consider only the 13 Apocryphas included in the New Testament and none of the texts from the gnostic gospels, (Phillip - who suggests a marriage of Jesus and Mary M.), Jesus' sexual orientation is highly suspect. He's unmarried, childless, and travels almost exclusively in the company of men - who he tells to leave their families and jobs to join him.

I'm spending Christmas with family.

As I read this, part struck me as familiar.

Peter said, "IIt's not enough that the entire country gets Christmas off as a holiday, the White House has a giant Christmas tree on its lawn, and we're tortured for weeks with tales of grandma getting run over by a reindeer and mommy kissing Santa Claus, but all major retailers have to genuflect too?"

C. Dickens/E. Scrooge said, ``You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?'' said Scrooge.

``If quite convenient, Sir.''

``It's not convenient,'' said Scrooge, ``and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I 'll be bound?''

The clerk smiled faintly.

``And yet,'' said Scrooge, ``you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work.''

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

``A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!'' said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. ``But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning!''

Note that I'm not implicating Peter as Scrooge, just pointing out that his comment struck me.

Happy Holidays everyone - no matter what you choose to celebrate.

The only way to keep the majority feeling defensive and picked upon is to keep reminding them of it. My personal feeling is that this is clearly a good time of year for a party, since it is damned hard to find a world culture that doesn't have one sometime near on the calendar. Mostly I find it unfortunate that we need to react at all to this pushing of hate.

Hopefully the philosophical foundation of our country and the anti-puritan leanings of our founding fathers will be rediscovered soon. It may not happen until those of us who find this behavior innappropriate become as vocal as those who press the issue. So, on that note, I see no reason to stop spouting your frustration.

Have just heard that Boston will this year have a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree.

Does this mean that we will now have Holiday candles instead of a menorah or mishumaa saba, holiday rabbit instead of the Easter bunny and holiday fat man wearing purple, oh no, that would be wizardology...green maybe? Hmm, no, too Irish...Orange then? Or would that make it Ooompa Loompa? instead of Santa Claus? Somehow it doesn't seem to have the same ring...I can't see myself bending down to my kids and saying "now, who want's to go and see the fat man and sit on his knee?"

As far as I am aware, the other religions that have celebrations that take place around Christmas don't celebrate with a tree decorated with glittery baubles and lights, so why is it being deemed neccessary to change the name to accommodate them? I'll bet none of them are interested what we call our decorations.

I like to think that I am not a hypocrite in celebrating Christmas even though I am not a Christian, as I believe this particular celebration to have been stolen from the druids who celebrated the midwinter and the turning of the sun around this time, by drinking beer and eating feasts - now that's my kinda party! To me it's a time to celebrate friends and family, give gifts and make merry. I don't go to church on Christmas Eve, because I don't go any other time of the year.

Am a little afraid of this move towards generalization of festive symbols. Why do age old traditions need to be constantly bastardized in the name of political correctness? And if you want a new tradition, why can't there be a new name, instead of trashing an old one?

Growing up I don't remember anything about Kwanzaa. I don't know if it even existed outside of Africa back then, although it started in 1966. I am happy for another population to have their own Festival, it is all theirs, and they have their own traditions and rituals. I was always a little jelous of Jewish Hannukah - it seemed to be about people, family and equality, and I loved how it seemed to avoid the glitz and glam that Christmas has become.

One more thought, Christmas is one day (or two if you count Christmas Eve, which is more important to Continental Europeans, or three if you count Boxing Day, the traditional slouching around in the pub day for most Brits) while Hannukah and Kwanzaa both celebrate for a week. If we are standardising the holidays, should we not all celebrate for 5 days, and then call the whole thing off? And who does New Year belong to? And what about the Gregorians?

The few cards I gave out were of a hand-drawn christmas pudding. Because I love food. If that's okay. If anyone want's to send me a card with Happy Hanukkah on it, I won't be offended in the slightest. You have every right to be proud of your beliefs, and to express your joy to the world. Ooops, is that too Christian a phrase to use in the same paragraph as Hanukkah? If you send me a happy holidays card though, don't expect a response.

Now can't we all just get along and enjoy the spirit of the occasion? Or will we be too busy organising a committee to decide on a suitable replacement holiday vegetable for next year's Appreciation Day Celebration? Thanksgiving to you and me, and I'm not even from North America!

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