The first volley in the “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” wars has been fired in Rhode Island, where Gov. Lincoln Chafee has announced there will once again be a “Holiday Tree” at the statehouse in Providence.
What the heck is a "Holiday Tree"?
It’s true this is a “holiday season,” with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all celebrated in December. A few years ago, even Ramadan arrived during the holiday season.
But an evergreen tree decorated with lights and tinsel does not represent all those holidays. Do Jewish families light the Holiday Menorah at sundown? Do Muslims greet each other with “Holiday Mubarak”? A Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas – and a secular one at that.
Remember when you didn’t see Christmas decorations in the stores until after Thanksgiving? At least that’s how it was when I was growing up in Brooklyn. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ushered in the Christmas season and yes, we called it "the Christmas season."
All stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day as we celebrated our national holiday. The next day we went to Manhattan to see all the beautiful store windows unveiled and visit Santa with our wish lists. It was magical! Manger scenes were plentiful around town and there were no apologies or need for a campaign to “Keep Christ in Christmas”!
Is this now just the Ghost of Christmas Past? How did we get from there to here? How did we go from that warm feeling about Christmas and knowing that we were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, to the secular frenzy we have today? Don’t blame the non-believers. Instead I think those of us who believe in the divinity of Jesus need to examine our own consciences.
If you are a Christian who celebrates Christmas, ask yourself these questions.
1) In decorating your home for Christmas, is the Christ Child and manger scene a focal point in your home, both inside and outside? Are there as many decorations depicting the Holy Family, Angels and the Wisemen as there are snowmen, Santas and reindeer?
2) When selecting Christmas cards, do you pick only cards with Mary and the Christ Child or do snowmen, Santa and skating penguins top your list? Oh, by the way, let’s not use the excuse “But I have some friends who are Jewish or don’t celebrate Christmas.” I do too, and for those folks I buy a handful of separate Happy Hanukkah cards for my Jewish friends, and for non-believers, a Happy New Year’s card. The point is, I don’t subtract the Christ Child from the equation!
3) Do you only say Merry Christmas or do you give in and find yourself spouting the correct “Happy Holidays”?
4) When purchasing stamps for mailing my Christmas cards I only buy the Madonna and Child. In fact, I buy extra to use throughout the year. What about you?
5) Wrapping paper for gifts: Here, too, no Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays on my wrapping paper. Yours?
The commercialization of Christmas is the fault of us Christians. We buy the secular cards, wrapping paper and other trappings. If we only purchased the items that are Christ-centered, then that would be what the companies would produce. For them it is all about profit.
Here’s an example: One year I was selecting a Christmas card for our ministry from a large printing company’s book. Usually I place an order for a large number of Christmas cards. One year I noticed that there were only two styles that featured the Madonna and Child, both of which I had already used in previous years.
I didn’t place an order with that company that year and I told them why.
Don’t you know the following year they contacted me with their new catalog and were proud to tell me they have a larger selection of religious cards then ever before. So you see, we have power in our purchasing, if we do it wisely.
In order to “Keep Christ in Christmas” and make sure people know that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” we have to set the example.
People of all religions are proud of their holidays and happy to share their special meaning with those of other faiths. It’s time for Christians to stop apologizing for Christmas.
Janet Morana is the executive director of Priests for Life.