In the community – making a difference

“Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there wasn’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it.”

Charlie Brown,

comic strip

Throughout the holidays, beginning with Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas and ending with New Year’s Eve, it is customary to acknowledge others with an expression of goodwill. The influence of commercialization, religion, politics and pundits who “stir the pot” have made Christmas greeting controversial. Currently, the debate is whether use of the Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas is an attack on the Christian religion.

“Every time a super market clerk checker or store clerk greets you with Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, you have met another soldier in the war on Christmas,” said John Gibson, author of “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christmas Holiday is Worse Than You Thought.” The Bill O’Reilly Factor on Fox News promoted the book in October 2005 and emphasized that the greeting “Happy Holidays” was being used as ammunition in the “War on Christmas.”

Bishop John Fisher used “Merry Christmas” in closing a letter to Thomas Cromwell, a minister of the king, on December 22, 1534, beseeching mercy. He had been imprisoned and was later executed for refusing to take an oath recognizing the supremacy of the king in religious matters. Common usage of Merry Christmas as a greeting didn’t happen until the reign of Queen Victoria, 1837 to 1901, a time over which the customs of modern day Christmas developed.

Charles Dickens’ “Christmas Carol,” published in 1843, popularized Merry Christmas as a greeting and defined Christmas as a holiday. The word holiday is a combined form of the Old English word for holy and day, a time of festival, free of toil and labor. Happy is an emotional condition of joy and merry is a behavior of experiencing pleasure. The royalty and upper crust preferred saying “Happy” versus “Merry Christmas” as merry had connotations of low brow revelry.

According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, 92 percent of Americans regardless of country of origin, race or creed participate in Christmas in some fashion. Emotions can seesaw from low to high making people vulnerable to feeling indignant when criticized for their traditions. Symbols should be used with judgment and kept in perspective as times change. An example would be Christmas cards. In 2002 the U.S. Postal Service estimated 2.4 billion, but by 2014 it was 1.4 billion.

Radio talk shows are not news. The survival of a talk show host is contingent on ratings, sensational anecdotes suggesting a conspiracy are good for business. With the “War on Christmas,” Bill O’Reilly had a ringer.

Season’s Greetings!

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”

Eric Severaid,

news broadcaster