When real Americans are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati (Hindu gift-giving festival from December 21-25), Winter Solstice, and New Years, "Happy Holidays" lumps together all of this wonderful, rich diversity in a mass of dreary sameness. Wouldn't it be a greater and truer celebration of diversity to recognize and enjoy the variety of Winter holidays, rather than minimizing this diversity with a no-name greeting like "Happy Holidays"?
I agree with him about this, and I suspect that one of the reasons some people say "Happy Holidays" is that they know that there are some European-American Christians in this country ready to take offense at the reminder that there are other Americans who specifically celebrate Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, or Winter Solstice at about the same time. But this year the opposition to diversity seems to have reached a new level. When I overhear conversations between people talking up the alleged "war on Christmas," I regularly hear people around here insist that "the name of the holiday is Christmas." Their insistence does not acknowledge any validity to the holiday observances of people of other faiths or cultures. It is as if they will tolerate diversity only as long as they are not forced to acknowledge that diversity takes specific forms that are different from what is familiar to them. Now that the battle lines are drawn between "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas" it seems as if there is even less willingness to acknowledge diversity.
I blogged earlier about my own fruitless efforts to identify the putative "they" who are attacking Christmas. I lack the personal experience to agree with Mark where he brings 'secularists' into the discussion:
In reality, it seems that the folks who are really upset about public recognition of specific holidays aren't usually Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and so forth, but rather those who would prefer that religion in America disappear from public altogether. "Keep it at home and in church (or synagogue, or mosque, or temple)," is the secularist motto when it comes to religion, including religious holidays.
That motto has not been said to me. There is a big difference between opposing any government establishment of religion and totally banning religion from public life. The two should not be confused. I have not experienced opposition to expressing my faith in word or deed in the public sphere.
Moreover, in my entire life I have never been rebuked by anyone for wishing them a "Merry Christmas!" If there really is a powerful movement of secularists trying to keep religion out of public life, why have I not met them yet? Why have they not tried to put me in my place? Bill O'Reilly can call me a moron, but I am still looking for a shred of evidence that there is a war on Christmas, and I have not found one yet.
If there is a "war on Christmas" I believe that it was started by people who invented a secular bogeyman to raise fears and polarize people. The greeting battle is simply a distraction to Christians who should not be fooled into thinking that badgering a store into naming our holiday makes us in any way like the shepherds who returned from the manger praising God for everything they had heard and seen.