, Salem, MA


December 2, 2013

Letter: In defense of Christmas

To the editor:

Someone recently asked me if I say “Merry Christmas” to people or “Happy Holidays.” She also asked if I am offended when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas.” My knee-jerk response is, “As a Christian pastor, it would seem rather strange if I was offended by someone wishing me a Merry Christmas, no?”

I often say Merry Christmas, because that is the holiday I celebrate — and I mean no offense to anyone when I say it. I also say Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends. Many of them say Merry Christmas to me. (We are big boys and girls. We can take it.)

Here is my problem with “Happy Holidays.” The term is too generic. It is meaningless. Why don’t we say “Happy Holidays” in the early fall? Between the first Monday in September and Nov. 11, we celebrate three holidays: Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day (respectively). Those are holidays.

Dec. 25 is Christmas Day whether you are a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist, just as the Fourth of July is the celebration of America’s Independence whether you are American, British, Yugoslavian or an anarchist who lives in a log cabin in the hinterlands. Who you are, what you do and what you believe does not change the calendar, as self-important as you may be.

Secular materialism has hijacked Christmas, turning it into an opportunity for Macy’s, Target, and Wal-Mart to meet their fourth-quarter projections. They do not want to offend anyone. (That will cost them millions of dollars!) Therefore, corporate consumerism has turned the entire season into “holidays” so that everyone can buy gifts for anyone.

The season used to start the day after Thanksgiving. Now it begins around Halloween, when Starbucks breaks out its red-and-white Christmas (I mean “holiday”) cups and L.L. Bean sends its “buy our clothes and boots for everyone you know because it is that time of year” catalog. It doesn’t matter what you believe. Let’s not exclude anyone, so let’s rename a sacred holy day on the Christian calendar to be an all-inclusive, capitalistic opportunity. “In God we trust!” (Isn’t it funny how even atheists carry pieces of paper in their wallet with that slogan printed on it, but they are not offended by doing so?)

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