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Go ahead; feel free to wish others a heartfelt ‘Merry Christmas’

Updated: December 5, 2011 6:14PM

It’s not that I’m overly wedded to the idea of celebrating something called “Christmas” on Dec. 25. Almost everything we associate with the traditional day of honoring Christ’s birth is some kind of a pagan import anyway, including the date itself, which probably was chosen because it was near the winter solstice. And bringing a dead pine tree into the house, putting a balloon Santa in the front yard or maxing out credit cards on Black Friday don’t exactly tout the birth of a savior, you know.

I’ve written before about how I’m not sure that protecting the word “Christmas” is something Christians needed to fall on their swords for.

As a Christian myself, I’ve long celebrated Christmas as a sort of national secular holiday, anyway. A fun one, for sure. But as a Christian, I feel I’m called to celebrate Christ’s birth every day. Frantically wrapping presents on Dec. 24 — a personal Christmas tradition — doesn’t bring me any closer to him, that’s all I’m saying.

Nonetheless, the official federal holiday of Dec. 25 is still called, well, “Christmas.” That word probably comes from a compounding of the words “Christ’s Mass.”

And yet, as Wall Street Journal editorial writers noted in late 2008, for example, the “war on Christmas” is over, and Christmas lost.

They were referring to the renaming of various aspects of the “holiday season,” of course. Complete with “holiday trees,” “holiday presents,” “holiday ornaments” and so on. I just heard an advertisement featuring “Mrs. Claus” encouraging people to finish their “holiday shopping” so they could get ready for the big day.

No mention from Mrs. Claus that the day is actually “Christmas.” Doesn’t that seem just a little extreme?

Yes, we’ve long had “winter” pageants in schools. Even when I was a kid, “Christmas” was pretty uniformly verboten there. On an institutional level, the change that had been brewing for a while spilled over to new venues during Christmas 2005. That’s the year when the “greeting wars” seemed to come to a head, at least as a news story. It was a time when major retailers made a switch to “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” in particular when it came to personal greetings by store employees.

The move to a new nomenclature picked up speed even since then. And while it’s true I don’t have much of a dog in this fight, I do remain astounded at the totality of the change over just the last few years.

But is it all about political correctness, or are we just terrified of appearing intolerant, even when we don’t care about the politics of the matter at hand? The Journal’s editorial writers seem to think it’s the latter, noting back in 2008 that “of late we’ve noticed an interpersonal change: People are much more timid in offering seasonal greetings (i.e. ‘Merry Christmas’) as if they’re walking on eggshells for fear of giving offense.”

I have to agree. Sure, the folks tearing down creches in town squares, arguing that they present some sort of moral hazard, are politically correct Grinches. But when Mrs. Claus won’t utter the word “Christmas” but has to use “holiday” when referring to the big day, that’s not political; it’s just plain silly.

Especially considering that “holiday” comes from the word “holy.”

How did we get so ridiculous? I’m not sure. But it’s something about living in a supposedly tolerant age that, rather than foster understanding or civility, continually renders normally intelligent people utterly narrow-minded and thoughtless instead.

So then, for the sake of rational discourse and in the name of reason, I’d like to perhaps be the first this year to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, indeed!

Scripps Howard

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