Saturday, November 12, 2005

Merry Chris... er, Happy Holidays!

I've got to admit that I get a little irritated with it. You know. The refusal of many stores to allow employees to say "Merry Christmas!" opting instead for "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings". (I'll ignore the fact that it just sounds stuffy to actually wish another person "Seasons Greetings". It reminds me of the Winnie the Pooh story where the characters wished one another, "Happy returns on the occasion of Eeyore's birthday!" But I digress... )

Earlier this week while channel surfing, I landed on The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel. Sitting at the discussion table with O'Reilly was a marketing expert who was discussing the whole idea of Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays. The expert suggested that Happy Holidays was the smart wayto go since it was so inclusive. Why not include people of all faiths in the holiday well-wishing?

O'Reilly suggested that the vast majority of non-Christians were not offended by a cheerful Merry Christmas, but that there were large numbers of Christians who are offended when a story prohibits employees from mentioning the C-word. The expert boldly denied that Christians were offended by these decisions. Apparently this marketing guru has never visited this website (a tip of the ol' ballcap to Cindy at Notes in the Key of Life) or had spent much time asking people about this topic.

Mr. O'Reilly promised to conduct a scientific survey to prove his own contention correct, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. If I were called on the survey, I'm not sure how I would answer. I'm not really comfortable with the word "offended" in this context. I don't really consider myself "offended" but I can't say that it doesn't bother me. After all, stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Sears and Kohls makes a few boatloads of dollars on -- dare I say it? -- Christmas. Hannukuh and the new addition to the holiday sweepstakes, Kwanzaa don't even do a fraction of the sales figures that Christmas does. If anything, I'd expect these stores to go out of their way to promote Christmas. The bottom line rules in retail. And after all, it's hardly a religious holiday anymore.

I'm still not offended, but I admit I'm bothered by the exclusion of religious symbols at Christmas time. Pretending that Christmas is solely secular is a bit like singing karaoke, then thinking you're a huge recording star. But I expect it these days. Certainly someone in my line of work realizes that the Gospel is an offense to a big chunk of the population. Still the fear of the religious aspect -- let's call it Nativitophobia -- is incredibly disheartening while out walking through stores or listening to the radio.

I have no idea how prevalent offended Christians are throughout the United States. Perhaps the marketing expert is right. Perhaps we just don't care.

But I doubt it.

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