While studying for finals, I came across a Facebook page called, “It’s ‘Merry Christmas’ NOT ‘Happy Holidays.’” At the time, the page had about 157,000 fans, and received new posts roughly every ten minutes. Most notably, it contained a link to an online petition urging retailers to discontinue the use of the phrase, “Happy Holidays.” A retailer’s decision to use such a phrase signals the predominance of consumer holiday traditions over religious ones in certain aspects of our society, they say, and this undoubtedly makes many Christians angry. Still, it was hard for me to restrain myself from yelling at my computer screen, “Are these people serious?”
It’s not difficult to see that in this country, and probably many others, that the holiday season has encompassed an array of secular, market-oriented traditions that are categorically separate from the religious ones. As a Jew, I think it’s ridiculous that the market-oriented aspect of the holiday season has to maintain a Christian face. Those protesting “Happy Holidays” are incorrect when they say that retailers are ruining their holiday.
Many individuals believe that the use of “Happy Holidays” detracts from the significance of Christmas. The Facebook group’s creator says that “Happy Holidays” makes people “forget what Christmas is all about.” The page also features a link to a “Larry the Cable Guy” video clip in which he mocks political correctness by reading a non-denominational winter holiday story as opposed to a typical Christmas story. Such a notion, that people who say “Happy Holidays” are trying to change Christmas traditions, is absurd.
The term “Happy Holidays” has much more to do with business than with religion. No one says “Happy Holidays” to their friends, since they should know which holidays their friends celebrate. Perhaps politicians and teachers use the term so they don’t offend their constituents or students. But the phrase is used most frequently by businesses that want to make as much money as possible, and therefore want as large a customer base as possible. Saying “Merry Christmas” could potentially alienate customers who celebrate other holidays, and for that reason, it’s simply bad business.
Those who are opposed to “Happy Holidays” are ignoring that the consumer-based holiday season has become its own entity, separate from the religious aspects of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc. Every year between Thanksgiving and New Years, we are bombarded with endless advertisements for toys, perfumes, jewelry, cookies, clothing and plenty of other holiday accessories. People who think that “Macy’s Holiday Sale” is part of a rich Christian tradition that needs to be protected are just fooling themselves.
Without a doubt, the commercial holiday season has a Christian face. It’s a tradition that started because of Christmas, and occurs in a country where Christians are a majority. During halftime during a Chicago Bulls game over break, I witnessed the holiday spectacular, which involved cheerleaders dancing in various skimpy outfits accompanied by Santa hats. Wherever I go, Santa Clause imagery and Christmas songs are nearby. But as much as I try to accept it, it never slips my mind that most of the Christmas imagery I see in public is purely intended to get people to spend money.
As political correctness has become a cultural taboo, the crowd opposed to “Happy Holidays” has cast it as a term only used by sissy liberals who should just deal with Christmas. But it’s not like I go out of my way to be resentful. In general, I enjoy the holiday season, and I think “Sleigh Ride” is one of the happiest songs ever written. What the group against “Happy Holidays” doesn’t understand, though, is that for one month every year, non-Christians are unavoidably exposed to a barrage of Christmas imagery, most of which has nothing to do with Christmas. And, in this light, the acceptance of “Happy Holidays” is a hollow victory for us, at best. So trust me when I say that we have no desire to ruin your holiday. I would just appreciate some recognition of what the holiday season has actually become.
Jeremy Levy is an LSA sophomore.