So THIS is Christmas?

I don’t usually like to post about “hot topics,” but Galit convinced me a hot topic is better than no post at all.

Like most of my posts about “controversial” topics, this stems from something I saw on facebook.  It never fails.  This time of year brings out the copy/paste status updates that claim that Christians are under siege and that the government is out to de-christianize Christmas by making everyone use the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

This is one of those cut/past updates that caused me to “hide” quite a few people:

WHAT A CROCK ….. We can’t say Merry Christmas now …we have to say Happy Holidays. We can’t call it a Christmas tree, it’s now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone. If you don’t like our “Customs” and it offends you so much then LEAVE …I will help you pack. They are called customs and we have our traditions …If you agree with this please post this as your status!! I AM …

Yesterday I saw this blog post (you may have to scroll to the exact post.  This site is actually blocked at school, so I can’t get you the exact link) and in turn, I shared it on facebook.

I knew I would catch some grief.  And to be honest, I don’t agree with everything the post says, but I do agree with the sentiment.

I believe that Jesus was more than just a “good guy,” however, I concur about the whole nonsense of people getting their panties in a bunch about semantics surrounding the holiday season.

It bothers me to think that people really believe that there is some sort of coup going on to destroy the Christian part of Christmas.

And to go so far as to call Christmas “ours” (um..whose? ) and that they are our “customs” (why is in this in quotes and again..whose customs?) and to call for people who don’t believe to “get out” (get out of where?  The USA?  But we have more than just Christians here…huh.), is simply not, well, Christian.

I could go on and on here giving you the history of Christmas.  I actually know quite a lot about it since I went through a very long doubting and questioning phase, but I’ll just give you the nitty gritty.

But what it boils down to is this:  December has been a month of holidays (yes, plural) for thousands of years. WAY before Christianity even existed.  In fact, Christians placed the celebration of Christ’s birth in December rather than when he was probably born (September or March) because there were already celebrations going on and this way they could justify all the celebrating.

In fact, Christmas celebrations became rowdy, drunken very immoral events throughout Europe and part of the “religious persecution” that Puritans came to the Americas to avoid was due to their disgust with how un-Christian and corrupt these practices became.  The Puritans did not celebrate birthdays or Christmas.  In fact it was outlawed.

Christmas celebrations went in and out of favor right through the American Revolution because Americans didn’t want to celebrate something that was British (since we were trying to find our own identity).

The actual revival of Christmas, which lead to Christmas as we know it, mostly had to do with Charles Dickens’ novel in the mid-1800’s, A Christmas Carol (which is where the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from).

Christmas didn’t become a “legal” holiday in the USA until close to the end of the 1800’s when the Christmas card was introduced.

Up until the twentieth century, with The Night Before Christmas  (which is where Santa first appeared as we think of him today), Christmas in the USA was small and religious.  It was with the re-introduction of pagan symbols as part of marketing that Christmas is what it is now.

Sooo…what does all that historical stuff mean?

Nothing if you are celebrating Christmas because you are celebrating the gift of love and hope to the world.

But what about the other “holidays”?

Well there is Kwanza (a strictly USA holiday started in the 60’s) and Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice.  People who celebrate Kwanza do not necessarily NOT celebrate Christmas.  Kwanza is a celebration of culture and community for African Americans.  Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday–and not necessarily their biggest (their new year, Rosh Hashanah, is actually bigger for most Jews), but has been made big by the media and marketing effects of the overall season of trying to be inclusive.  And the winter solstice is a collection of many holidays both pagan and religious from all over the world and in many cultures that happen around the same time in December.

What do ALL of these holidays have in common?  They celebrate a new hope.  New beginnings.  Something better for their culture/community/religion.

They celebrate a miracle of newness that brings hope and joy and goodness for this world.

Is it important to recognize that there are more holidays than just Christmas in December?  I think so.

Is it an attack on Christmas to recognize everyone?  No.

Nobody is forcing you to say “Happy Holidays!” I know I tend to say “Merry Christmas!” because that is what my family celebrates.

We focus on the birth of a baby that brought hope and joy and love to so many.

Do I get offended when Target tells me “Happy Holidays!” in their commercials?  No.  It IS the holiday season.  Some I celebrate (Christmas and New Years) and some I don’t.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that we spread cheer and love and kindness.

The point is hope.

And my hope for you is a beautiful season filled with love and joy.  But mostly hope.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl…wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I’ll throw something out that might seem even more controversial. We are atheist, and we celebrate Christmas. Not as the birth of Jesus Christ, but as a time to come together as a family and enjoy each other, as a time to share, and love, and remind ourselves of what’s important. So yes, I say “Merry Christmas!” but to me, it has no religious significance it’s like saying “have a great time enjoying your family!” Happy Holidays has the same significance to me because it’s simply about the season. Sadly, maybe that’s the message getting lost on some of these “Christians”.

    • This is a good point. People who celebrate the holidays with no religion whatsoever are still celebrating the joy of being with family and friends. It’s an entire season of love. No matter where that love originated. Of course as Christians, we wish everyone believed what we do, but for me, in the end, it’s the love. It’s the kindness to the human race. That is what’s important! So MERRY CHRISTMAS to you! 🙂

    • First of all, BRAVO. You went controversial with your heart which means you got people thinking and talking and *that* is the good stuff right here.

      Second of all, I was going to say the very same thing. It’s just about being respectful of people. If I know that someone celebrates Christmas, of course I wish them that! But if I have no idea, I don’t make any assumptions.

      I’d also like to say that I’m never offended when anyone wishes me anything- because they’re, you know, wishing we well.

      {Well done, girl! Love it! xo}

      • thanks for pushing me to do it, Galit! I don’t know why I get nervous to stand up on my soapbox every now and then. Guess I am afraid of the haters a little bit. But I should know…my readers don’t hate on me 🙂

  2. ::Starts Freddie Prinze Jr.-style slow clap::

    Well said, my friend. Well said!

  3. I completely agree. I knew quite a bit about the history because I’ve researched it, but not as thoroughly as you. Thank you for the enlightenment. The only thing I’d like add is that I hate when people say they hate this season because of the religious undertones and whatnot. I see very little Christian sentiment portrayed anywhere and I doubt Jesus would go for the ‘break yourself financially to prove you love one another’ mentality we have adopted.

    • I agree. This season is so open to whatever you want to make it, that it is silly to “hate” it because there are religious practices that go with it. Almost ALL holidays that are not just national started with some sort of religion behind them.

      And really, Christmas was never celebrated while Jesus was alive…and I agree that he was not really a materialistic kind of guy. Whether you “believe in him” or just believe he was a guy.

  4. As a Christian, I’m not offended by the term Happy Holidays. However, I think people need to remember Christmas is a FEDERAL holiday. It is recognized by the government and we get time off work for it. Not saying Merry Christmas or getting your knickers in a twist if someone says it makes about as much sense to me as getting up in arms over someone saying Happy New Year (another federal holiday).

    Also, if you want to wish me a Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year etc. feel free. If you are smiling and wishing me good cheer in the name of your God, I’m secure enough in my faith and who I am to take your greeting in a spirit of goodwill not an attempt to convert me. People, in my opinion, should afford well meaning Christians the same courtesy.

    • I agree. When I say Hello! to a stranger any other time of year, my intentions are kindness and goodwill…not “HEY! BE A CHRISTIAN!” same with Happy Thanksgiving or Happy New Year or Merry Christmas. I’m just being nice.

  5. You articulated this so well.

    We celebrate Christmas, but I say both. Happy Holidays is my selfish way of starting the Holiday season around Halloween and holding onto it until sometime after the new year has started.

    Thank you for the mini-lesson, and I think this is a good reminder that trying to be exclusive during the holidays is pretty much as un-Christian as it gets.

  6. I’m with you.

    If I want to say Merry Christmas, I should be able to.

    It burns me up that at my son’s school they are able to study all religions and celebrate mock kwanzaa and talk about wiccan fests, etc. but cannot bring in a Christmas card.

    • yeah, that is ridiculous. you can’t exclude the majority just to hold up the minority. That is also exclusion. Love that they are learning about other cultures…but come on. Most of Christmas is a jumble of non-Christian symbolism anyway. Trees and Candles and Stockings and Cards have nothing to do with Jesus.

  7. I knew some of the history you mentioned. I agree this is the time of year to celebrate love, generosity, and hope (although those should be celebrated all year). If someone wants to add religion to the holiday they are celebrating, who am I to stop them?

    I say both Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas to family and friends who I know celebrate Christmas, and Happy Holidays to others who I’m not sure what they celebrate. I also have family who are Jewish. I’m certainly not going to tell them Merry Christmas, but I will wish them happy holidays because they are celebrating something.

    • Exactly, my friend. Exactly. I am not going to say Merry Christmas to someone I KNOW doesn’t celebrate it due to religion or otherwise, but if I don’t know, my default tends to be Merry Christmas since that is my culture. If someone said Happy Hanukkah to me because they didn’t know? I would not be offended at all!

  8. Thank you thank you thank you! So weird that when I responded to your tweet I was actually arguing about ridiculous semantics of Christmas. I’m actually atheist but we celebrate Christmas because it’s easiest. We used to send out “holiday cards” with jokes about it being the Spirit of Santa, or Christmacus, or whatever other lighthearted joke about the silly ways we now announce the holiday season.

    I knew a lot about the history, because like you, I had bouts of non-belief (that eventually led into complete non-belief) so I was compelled to research the reasons WHY. But, like you….I still take no offense to people wishing me well on whatever holiday they celebrate.

    Like with my idea of being a good person no matter what god you do or do not follow, the same holds true for finding love and warmth in whatever version of this holiday season you take part in. Winter holidays are celebrated for hope and love (and yeah, presents) because it makes the winter less dreary and keeps us cheerful until we see the new birth of the Earth in the Spring 🙂

    • ah, you’re welcome. Yes, well-wishing is just that. KINDNESS. People need to quit trying to find negativity in EVERYTHING.

      • BTW I wish I could LIKE all of your readers’ comments! Seriously, just sit back and ENJOY this time of year. Now off to block all the people on my FB list that rant about using the word “Xmas” or demand that we “put the Christ back in Christmas”.
        Psssst the X is Xmas actually means Christ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xmas) GRRRRRRRRRRRRR family members.

        • yup! I knew that too! And I agree…”like” for everyone! I have some pretty awesome readers 🙂

  9. We send out holiday cards and throw a holiday party, because we have a lot of inter-faith friends. We want to celebrate all their holidays while we celebrate ours. You can bet your bottom I have a Christmas tree and Christmas presents for my loved ones! I love Santa and his reindeer, the tree in my living room and lights on my house. I also love all of the thousands of ways people across the world celebrate the spirit of hope and giving, all in the little month of December. Do my husband and I err on the “polite” by saying Happy Holidays on our card? Perhaps. But I am all about Christmas!!

    • Boom! and that is what this season is all about! hope and giving! you rock around that Christmas tree, girl!

  10. Thank. You.

    I see “Merry CHRISTmas” bumper stickers year round and it just seems like such an odd thing to take up as a fist pumping cause. After all, if we truly did put the Christ back in Christmas we’d have to do away with Black Friday violence and landfill-clogging artficial greenery and probably spray on snow and Christmas would make, like, no money so it wouldn’t be recognizable that way either. Oh, and no one would be hungry on Christmas because a Christ-ful holiday would mean fish and wine for everyone.

    Anyway, I digress. I have relatives that are quite obviously peeved that I send holiday cards every year even though I was raised as a good church going Methodist. I firmly identify as Agnostic these days and I send cards to people of (literally) all faiths and non-faiths and those damn cards are expensive. I do know that I take the time to hand write a little note of love on each one, and REALLY…isn’t that a whole hell of a lot more important than what Shutterfly prints on the front?

    • I agree. This season is already so mixed up and jumbled together that it’s ridiculous for anyone to think we can put Christ “back in” (I never knew he was taken out) or exclude others that aren’t all about Jesus (good luck getting Americans to give up their stocking stuffers!). I could go on a whole separate rant about how this parallels so many people’s ideas of who is American too…but I won’t. This season is for all. Because love is for all.

  11. Such an important message. Now how do we get through to the naysayers?

  12. Very interesting and very well said!

  13. Lovely post. I say both Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. If a Jewish friend told me Happy Hanukkah, would I be offended because I’m not Jewish? Of course not. I’d take it as it was intended: “Have a blessed and joyous season, whatever you may celebrate. I’m saying Hanukkah because that’s my own context; yours may vary, but I want it to be happy, whatever it is.”

    So if I say Merry Christmas to a non-Christian, that’s what I mean. If I say Happy Holidays to a Christian…well, is Christmas not a holiday? For goodness sake, have a happy one, whatever it is! So sad that people will look for hate in what is meant to be a message of love.

    • I 100% agree with you. Take the cheer in the message instead of looking for something to hate on. Goodness! 🙂

  14. YAY!!! Thanks for posting this, I couldn’t agree more. “Christmas spirit” could mean the “holy spirit” to some, or “the spririt of giving” to others, or “the spirit of hope” to yet others. And then there are, as you pointed out, plenty of other lovely holidays in these dark winter months that help us be grateful for the old and help us celebrate the new. Luckily, I am mostly surrounded by friends and family who feel the same way, and we all enjoy this time of year together and wish the best to everyone else.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!!! 🙂

  15. Hello! I don’t remember where I stumbled upon your blog – but I’ve been back a few times. I very much enjoy reading it. I *love* this post. I have to say, I actually find it annoying with all the PC-ness we create. I’m in the Army and they threw a “Holiday” party for everyone. Sweet gesture, but calling it a Holiday party doesn’t make it so. Santa, trees, candy canes etc are the commercialized products of Christmas. There wasn’t a single latke, menorah, or anything representing any of the other winter holidays. I think we should all dig a little deeper, grow some thicker skin and be NICE to one another. Celebrate (or not) in your homes and with your families and friends as you wish. I won’t mind if you wish me a Merry Christmas if you don’t mind that I say Mazel Tov when you tell me something good. Most people I run into agree. So, to end my long winded comment – Merry Christmas to you and yours – I hope it’s a joy and love filled season that carries well into 2012.

  16. Katie, I couldn’t agree more. I think that every person or family should celebrate Christmas (or their holiday of choice) in the way that they see fit. If you celebrate Christmas, then wish people Merry Christmas. Those who really celebrate Christmas for the reason it should be celebrated (love how you put it “celebrating Christmas because you are celebrating the gift of love and hope to the world…”) shouldn’t be offended or get all wrapped up in the holiday war. Who cares what the cashier at Target wishes you a happy holidays? I think it’s better than no greeting at all.

    By the way, I love the new look! I read in my reader and rarely come to comment, so I hadn’t’ seen it yet!

    • I agree. A happy greeting is a happy greeting. Why people choose to look for hate and hidden meanings is beyond me.

      And thank you! I like the new look too! I think it suits me 🙂

  17. Nicole DeZarn says:

    Amen!!!

  18. Very good, Katie. We live in a community that’s about 40% Jewish, so saying happy holidays is totally 2nd nature to me now. I never presume who celebrates what and for goodness’ sake, if I want to wish them “something,” happy holidays is the safe bet! And I’m ok with that – if someone says happy holidays to me I don’t correct them and say, “it’s actually Christmas, fool.” Like you said (well), it’s about bringing hope, wishing cheer and celebrating community and getitng “us vs them” doesn’t do any of that.

    • “It’s actually Christmas, fool.” <---that made me giggle! And Merry Christmas to you, my friend 🙂

  19. I guess I fail since I’ve been in retail so long. I do say Happy Holidays

    but my tree is a Christmas tree and it sits right next to my Nativity scene.

    • I don’t think that is a fail at all. You are giving out a holiday greeting and that is awesome! It’s better than being a total scrooge! 🙂

  20. Selishly, I’m glad the building I work in as had a lot of Jehovah Witnesses, so they cut out all holiday parties. As a teacher, LOOOVE. I have one parent who about gave herself an ulcer complaining to me about ‘those people’ who don’t celebrate Halloween should go somewhere else. Ummm okaaaay. Crazy lady. So glad to not DEAL with sugar highs, thank you.

    • err how ‘those people”..

      andddd Since when is SCHOOLl the place to celebrate holiday’s. Aren’t we supposed to be learning?

      • Some people are so ignorant, it’s painful.

        The only celebrating we do at our school is a pep assembly right before break to recognize winter sports and to have some holiday music by the band and choir. It’s pretty fun.

        And in my Spanish classes, we do readings and traditional crafts about how Spanish-speaking countries celebrate Christmas.

  21. What a great post. Glad you took up a hot topic because it’s such a great one. So many people do things in the name of Christ – this being just one – which become non-inclusive, anger filled or even hate-filled. Not the message I think he was spreading. I just try and focus on the love and the joy of the season and, for that matter, of life. THAT is a message worth spreading!

  22. I have to say, I couldn’t agree more! Excellent post and very well written. Besides your personal opinion, you also seem to have plenty of knowledge on this subject, and know how to articulate it without coming off as preachy or soap-boxy. Which I definitely appreciate.

    So far so great with such a hot topic!

    Happy Holidays! Errr… Merry Christmas! Ah, whatever! Enjoy this season with your beautiful family! 🙂

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