SPidge Tales

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wal-Mart and the Annoying Annual "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" Debate

It is less than two weeks from Thanksgiving, retailers are licking their chops at the month ahead that will bring their yearly and quarterly earnings into the black, and, once again, we have to hear from that ever annoying annual debate: Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas. The irony is that this time the rile up was begun by Wal-Mart. The corporation that liberals love to bash has this time annoyed the conservatives. I guess, if this Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas debate has to happen every year anyways, it's better off getting it out of the way before Thanksgiving, so we can forget about it when we are drunk on our rum and eggnogs later.

The “crisis” began soon after Halloween (which is, of course, the official start of the commercial Christmas season—Charlie Brown is rolling over in his comic strip grave) when Wal-Mart decided to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.” A customer complained, and Wal-Mart responded to her complaint with this:

“Walmart is a world wide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than ‘christmas’ which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism. The colors associated with ‘christmas’ red and white are actually a representation of of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world.”

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a watch group that looks for anti-Catholic and anti-religious bigotry, pounced on this. Their major complaint was that when you typed in Hanukkah or Kwanzaa into the Wal-Mart search engine, it took you to a special Hanukkah or Kwanzaa shopping site. But, if you typed in Christmas, it took you to a generic holiday site. The Catholic League called for a boycott of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, ever bottom line con$ciou$, changed their website so that there would a special Christmas shopping section as well, and also took down their explanation of the meaning of Christmas. However, they still encourage their employees, though do not require them, to greet shoppers with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” The Catholic League grudgingly accepted.

I have a few comments. The Wal-Mart explanation of Christmas is not exactly fiction, but not fact either. While Christians have adopted and co-opted some pagan and other traditions, the Incarnation has always been at the heart of the meaning of Christmas. Christmas has always been, and always will be, mainly about Christ. All the side stuff that is adopted is meant to accentuate that fact, not to reinterpret Christmas as a multicultural hodgepodge. Those who are offended either by “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” are being extreme. If you are a Christian, your faith should be strong enough that you will not lose it simply by hearing Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. And, for those who only think Happy Holidays is appropriate in our “increasingly multicultural” world, get a grip. Nobody is trying to offend you by saying Merry Christmas. I honestly don’t think that religious Jews or Muslims are offended, anyways. They recognize that someone is just being kind and friendly. It is only hard core secularists who are offended. What happened to the days when we just used Merry Christmas and Happy holidays interchangeably, and we didn’t have to think too deeply about the implicit meaning in whether a person said one or the other?

Stores should allow their employees to greet customers with either Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. After all, let’s be real. Chances are, a customer is Christmas shopping this time of year. And, extreme secularists and extreme fundamentalists should not worry over whether they hear “Merry Christmas” or Happy Holidays.” My message to everyone else is back off of Christmas and the “Holidays” for awhile. It’s not even Advent yet. The message of the season is “wait, Jesus is not here yet. He is coming. Don’t be in such a rush. Appreciate each part of the season for what it’s worth.”


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said as always. Even in my short lifetime, the whole issue of political correctness has increased at Christmas time. Meanwhile, it seems like Halloween is promoted, because its symbols are somewhat pagan in appearance. No need to deconstruct the origin of Halloween-in fact, most people would rather not talk about its connection with All Saints' Day. Even worse is this whole elevation of Mardi Gras on our national consciousness. A celebration that was once associated with Ash Wednesday and forty days of asceticism and penance, is now just another excuse to drink and show skin, as if people don't do that already.

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