Friday, December 25, 2009

"Happy Holidays" vs "Merry Christmas"

Nowadays in the West, many people are wishing one another "Happy Holidays" during the Christmas season. Atheists are proud about it. Many Christians frown on it. Others simply do not mind any. Here is a provocative post entitled "Happy Holidays will do nicely" from one of my Regent professors, published in Canada's National Post. It argues that "Happy Holidays" should be preferred especially when most of Canada is secular and multicultural. It implicitly assumes that people will be more offended if religious words like 'Christmas' is used.

The positive aspect of the article is that it reflects rather plainly the current cultural sentiment about de-Christianizing the Christmas event. Many people no longer attend churches. Even Christians are shunning Sunday services in droves, especially when they no longer feel 'ministered' to or its message 'relevant' to their needs. The traditional church is shrinking rapidly. Being Canadian is increasingly similar to being 'secular' and multicultural. Yet, I choose to differ politely from my Professor's view with two comments. The first lies with the importance of history and tradition. The second has to do with sense and sensibility to all.

Firstly, it does not mean one has to be Christian in order to use the word 'Christmas.' In any multicultural society, being sensitive to one another's faith belief is important. This does not mean silencing one's heritage. Yet, I do not believe that simply wishing "Merry Christmas" makes the occasion more 'religious' especially in a land where the forefathers are Christians. Moreover, I scratch my head to find out how offensive is the word 'Christmas?' It is a historical event. Tradition is an important source of identity. Lose it, and we spin further away downward the ever confusing spiral called: "Identity Crisis." On this very same argument, I know of some people who do not like the word 'Santa Claus.' In other words, this argument works both ways. Non-believers insisting on removal of words like 'Christmas' should also be sensitive to people who want to remove 'Santa Claus.'

Secondly, the word 'holiday' has a religious word called 'holy' in it. If one insists on removing religious words like 'Christ' from Christmas, why should they spare the 'holy' from 'holidays?' Why not simply blurt our "Happy ___days!" Soon, people's names will be next. Don't name your sons 'Peter' because it is from the Bible. Similarly, avoid 'Mary' in naming any of the toys you buy. Sigh. This kind of removing religious words for the sake of being non-religious will make our society a silly one. For those who insist on 'Happy Holidays' let me say to them, are you 'religious' about it in your insistence? Any atheist who insist on removing 'Christ' from Christmas should not insist that Christians do the same. If this silly game of removing words is allowed to rule our basic sense and sensibility, soon we will be living in a graceless (even wordless) society where every single word has to be censored from society as long as they 'offend.'
  • "Holiday Carols" instead of Christmas carols;
  • Even Christmas carols will have the words 'Jesus,' 'Christ,' 'God; removed;
  • All road names with religious words removed;
  • .......

My view is, live and let live. Be open to both usages according to how people want to use it. Those who forgets tradition forgets a whole lot more than brain memory. A multicultural society must be open to all preferences, both non-Christians AND Christians. Unless of course, there are no more Christian believers at all in Canada. May that day never happen. Professor Stackhouse's post is like an intellectual pudding. If you like it, you'll want another piece. If not, perhaps just one slice is enough.

It is not everyday that we wish one another Merry Christmas, but every non-work day can be a holiday. In conclusion, if an alien from outer space were to come to us on Christmas Day, and we wish it "Happy Holidays," what are we going to do when it asks: "Which one?" Let me say that at the end of it all, we still have to use the word 'Christmas.'

Have a Blessed Christmas!


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