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The culture wars

Thursday, Dec 22, 2005

Aren’t we supposed to try to be joyful at Christmas? What’s with all the carping this year?

A survey by, a Web-based news service covering state governments, found that 37 of the nation’s governors sent greeting cards this season carrying an inoffensively festive “holiday’’ greeting. Just nine state leaders specifically mentioned “Christmas’’ in their cards. […]

Stateline’s report arrives just as fruitcake flies between feuding “Merry Christmas’’ and “Happy Holidays’’ camps. Traditionalists argue the religious spirit of Christmas is being buried in a blizzard of secular greetings and customs. Others argue that ‘tis the season to be sensitive in a multi-cultural society. […]

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is sending out cards picturing himself and his family wishing Illinoisans Happy holidays.

“This is mainly to celebrate the number of holidays this time of the year,” said Rebecca Rausch, a Blagojevich spokeswoman.

I try to keep myself disconnected from these ridiculous and often deliberately manufactured “culture war” debates because I truly don’t care what our self-appointed national nags have to say. I am, however, interested in what you think about all of this.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Central Illinois Citizen - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 6:06 am:

    It seems we’ve forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable.

    The idea that two people can disagree without hating each other becomes rarer and rarer.

    Presidents Truman and Reagan used to spend their private social time with their political opponents.

    Unfortunately, the idea of demonizing one’s opponent (which began on a national basis several years ago) has now moved to the state and local level.

    And unfortunately, it is a standard part of the cultural debate as well.

    I hopeful that the pendulum of courteous discourse might swing back. Hopefully society will once again embrace those political candidates and national leaders who are considered persuasive because of the power of their arguments, and not the ability to “dice up” their foes.

  2. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 6:41 am:

    I’m inventing a card that says:

    Merry Christmas to traditionalists, my many Christian and Catholic friends and people who don’t let things like this get to them. Happy (insert your favorite holiday celbration here) to the rest of you.

  3. - 6 Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 7:34 am:

    As an amateur anthropologist, I noticed a cultural phenomenon in my travels around the U.S. in the 80’s.

    Once one crossed the Missouri River to the west, or the Ohio River to the south, it was extremely rare to see females dancing with each other in a nightclub. There were pockets of exceptions (notably California, the coasts of Oregon and Washington, Florida, Atlanta, and near the Canadian border where visiting Canucks had no such inhibitions). Things are probably a little bit different now, but I’ll bet the two girls dancing in the corner at the Crazy Horse in Sheridan, WY still get the pig-eye from the other customers.

    I would submit that all nine governors who issue cards with the C-word are of states in the non-dancing camp.

    Merry Whatever,

    6 Degrees

  4. - Diane - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 7:34 am:

    2 Thoughts. The first, a somewhat raw annoyance, is what threw this debate into the public square this year, retailers who profit mightily from Christmas sales leaving all mention of Christmas off their advertising.

    More troubling, though, is how the Biblical theology or doctrine or “story” of Christmas is being altered or shunted aside to suit each side of the argument. But in some ways a good purpose has been served because it appears as though there is a new interest in catechesis, a desire to revisit what is behind the discipline and ceremony and secular trappings of the faith.

  5. - The Conservative - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 7:44 am:

    I am taking note of those that would like my vote that hide from Jesus Birthday. I say Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus and I couldn’t care less who might be insulted by it. I am more worried that I insult Jesus by by denying Him. Just something to think about. Have a Merry Christmas.

  6. - Shallow Pharnyx - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 7:46 am:

    What is wrong with Happy Holidays?? It was always my preferred greeting because (to me)it also covered the New Year. Anyway, politicians should be sensitive to their constituancy and not everyone celebrates Christmas. I think it should be a personal choice, period. Nothing should be read into it.

  7. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 8:03 am:

    ‘Happy Holidays’ is not secular at all. The root of the word ‘holiday’ is ‘holy days’, and although a broader term, certainly not sanitized.

    By the way, the root of ‘Christmas’ is ‘Christ’s Mass’, so unless you are one of Christian groups that actually celebrates mass, that term actually doesn’t literally apply to you.

    In other words, they haven’t taken Christ out of Christmas, they’ve taken mass out of Christmas.

    BTW, the secular salutation is “Season’s Greetings”.

  8. - Leigh - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 8:11 am:

    I am not offended by any greeting given by a kind soul. I am christian and will typically say Merry Christmas. If someone were to say to me Happy Hannukah or Kwanza or any other holiday, and they said it with sincerity and kindness, why should I take offense.

  9. - Pat Collins - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 8:49 am:

    Well, it’s a “culutre war” because those (like me) are fighting back. Before that it was “culture massacre”.

    No doubt some would like to get back to the pleasant business of massacre. But, conservatives are finally realizing the importanct of culture, and therefore won’t give up.

    Seen the series of columns by Paul Weyrich?

  10. - Bluefish - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 9:01 am:

    To my Christian friends - Merry Christmas.
    To my Jewish friends - Happy Hannukah.
    To my African friends - Happy Kwanza.
    To all my Muslim, Pagan, atheist and other friends - enjoy the day off.

  11. - zatoichi - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 9:06 am:

    What’s offensive about any of this stuff? Christian, Jewish, Kwanzaa(sp?), Muslim, Festivus, Equinox,etc. Traditions go way back, while some are very new. Treat people well and enjoy a season of wishing other people good fortune. Let the PC crowd go nuts over some trivial issue they can blow into an international plot. They will find something to pick on no matter what anyone says or does. Have a Merry Christmas or whatever celebration you like, treat people well, be with family (even if you hate ‘em), give some thanks, kick back with some cold ones, and enjoy. Life is too short to sweat this nonsense.

  12. - Coloradem - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 9:18 am:

    What an absolutely rediculous issue.

    If someone offers you a greeting, accept it, rejoince in it, and offer one back.

    I am ashamed of my Christian brothers and sisters who are so rude as to insist on what greeting others should give them!

  13. - Nearly Normal - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 9:21 am:

    If you want to go back in the history of our country, Christmas was not a public secular holiday. For the Puritans and others, it was not even celebrated due to their perception of the excesses of the celebration in Mother England. If it was on a Sunday, there was always church.

    Other immigrants brought their own culture’s way of celebrating. It was still for the most part a family and church celebration.

    The Christmas as we Americans know it comes from the Victorians. With the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, the Christmas tree that the prince brought from his homeland in Germany became popular in English speaking countries.

    Saint Nicholas morphed into Santa Claus at about the same time. With the popularity of Dicken’s Christmas Carol in the 19th century, Americans began to celebrate more in the English style with a party atmosphere.

    Commercialism has taken over if one wants to let it. It’s been this way since my childhood in the 1950’s. Go look at some old magazines and newspapers from that era.

    Now, we have the acrimony of this battle.

    I believe there is a passage in the Bible that would be very appropriate: “And Jesus wept.”

    Can’t we take all the energy and money spent in this “war” and use that to take care of our needy fellow human beings? If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, that would certainly be the true meaning of Christmas.

    Our fellow non-Christian Americans also have helping the poor a a tenet of their religions. Also, secular humanists I sure would want to help their fellow man.

    I have always liked Happy Holidays since the season seems to start with Thanksgiving and last until New Year’s Day–or for us old Catholic school grads, January 6, the Feast of the Magi.

  14. - Pallas Athena - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 9:32 am:

    I could not agree with Central Illinois Citizen more. Why must disagreement be disagreeable? I vote for courteous discourse and open debate, not close minded name calling. Make peace, not war. After all, ’tis the season. Merry Christmas.

  15. - ChiBoyRick - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 9:44 am:

    My greeting of choice this year is “Peace on Earth”. I’m not a big fan of the book - but that doesn’t mean their aren’t a few good lines in it.

  16. - Nick Name - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 9:54 am:

    Liberals are concerned about an encroaching Conservative Nanny State where all Americans are told what to say and do and when and where to do it.

    Conservatives are concerned about a red herring they like to call “Liberal Culture” whereby seemingly anything goes (umm, try spending a week in any other nation on earth and you’ll see just how conservative our “liberal” culture actually is).

    And Moderates… they seem to just want everyone to grow up a li’l bit.

    I’m Christian myself and in the past 24 hours I’ve greeted people with Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Stay Warm, Happy Winter Solstice and even Merry Festivus.

    In exchange I’ve been greeted with Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Enjoy the Equinox, and Happy Festivus.

    And guess what? Despite the fact not everyone said “Merry Christmas” and despite the fact I myself didn’t say “Merry Christmas” to everyone… well, I’m still Christian. Duh.

    Get over it people. Stores that are selling goods at this time of year aren’t selling things to only Christians so out of respect and common courtesy for the fact that America is a melting pot they greet folks with “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings”.

    (Yes, that’s right, forget about “political correctness.” That’s just a fancy phrase for “common courtesy,” something this nation sorely lacks these days.)

  17. - Mohammad Wong - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 10:36 am:

    The idea that conservatives are “finally” fighting back is absurd. This is opportunism at its finest by the likes of O’Reilly and John Gibson. It is an entirely manufactured debate. If there’s a “war on Christmas,” it appears Christmas is winning.

    And as someone who actively celebrates the religious nature of the holiday, I have to wonder; don’t you think stretching it out for three months and encouraging massive spending is ruining the spiritual side of Christmas a lot more than choosing to dance around non-Christians by wishing them “Happy Holidays?”

    And anon, why did you refer to Christians “and Catholics.” Catholics ARE Christians.

  18. - Jaded - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 11:33 am:

    It is good to see that most of the posters on this site get it. To me this is a non issue. I love the Holiday Season. My favorite time of the year begins on Thanksgiving day and runs through New Years. I love celebrating the birth of Jesus the coming of Santa Claus and the New Year. I love “Silent Night”, “O Little Town of Bethleham”, “O Christmas Tree”, “White Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, “Mele Kalikimaka” (you get the point) equally. Is it hectic? Yes. Is it too commercial? Yes (just ask Charlie Brown). But so what. I love everything about it. So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Happy Hanukkah, Felice Navidad, Happy Kwanza. I don’t care how you greet people, just greet people!

  19. - A little uneasy - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 12:13 pm:

    Anti-”holiday” people may mostly be of good will. But as a lifelong Jew, my ears perk up when I hear accusations of warring against Christmas. People have been accused of this sort of thing before.

    Trying to reconcile the verities of one’s faith with the challenges of an evolving world can be difficult and discomforting. Even when I disagree, I understand and respect that people can feel the need to draw lines. But I question the wisdom of playing with matches in a powder magazine.

  20. - LittleEgypt - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 12:33 pm:

    I’m offended at retailers who don’t mind raking in the profits of the Christmas season (and Easter I might add), but yet feel they must straddle the politically correct fence to please everyone. Well hello, if Jesus had not been born and died, you retailers would not have two big holidays (and I don’t care if you call it holy days) to dig into our pockets. Oh and don’t tell me that people of other faiths stay home from all of the great sales this time of year. Retailers need to figure out the reason for their bread to be buttered. I’m not offended if someone does not wish me a Merry Christmas. I hope they are not offended if, in turn, I do.

  21. - Dan Vock - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 12:39 pm:

    In case anyone’s curious, here’s the story that the QC Times story is based on:

  22. - Alex - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 1:17 pm:

    From Congresswoman Schakowsky’s campagin website:

    On December 15, your United States House of Representatives debated and then passed H.Res.579, “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for those who celebrate Christmas.”

    According to its Chief Sponsor, Rep. Jo Ann Davis of Virginia, said, among other things, “The attack on Christmas, while not new, has now shifted its focus from overtly religious symbols like the nativity to symbols regarded by most Americans, including the Supreme Court, to be secular symbols of Christmas, a federally recognized holiday. Now these innocent secular symbols are causing concerns of insensitivity. Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes, Christmas carols, even the colors red and green, they have been placed on the endangered list.”

    This debate took place in the same time frame as the Congress was debating cutting food for hungry children in order to give tax breaks to millionaires, the right to torture, and digging in the Arctic Wilderness. Oh Lord!

    I couldn’t restrain myself from entering the following words into the Congressional record, and, yes, Scrooge that I am, voting NO on the resolution.

    “Forgive me if I haven’t noticed that Christmas is under attack. Being Jewish, maybe I am simply incapable of judging. Silly me, I thought there were about the same number of Christmas trees, both in private homes and public places – that is, everywhere. Seems like Christmas music is still ubiquitous in elevators, grocery stores, the mall and while on hold on the telephone. No? Having just returned from Eastern Market, I still have the sounds of real live carolers in my ears, and, as a former community choir member, I knew all the words and sang along. (It is anti-Christmas for a Jew to do that? I should check with Bill O’Reilly.)

    Santa was there as usual at Congressmen Barton’s and Dingell’s reception for the Energy and Commerce Committee, and adorable little children of Christian conservatives as well as moderates, and yes, even Democrats, were sitting on his lap. I thought I observed the same mix of awe, fear and delight as in years past, but Jewish eyes can deceive, I guess.

    I could be wrong, but I think it would be pretty hard not to guess that it is the “Christmas season” or that “Christmas” is coming if you turned on just about any channel, cable or broadcast, at just about any time of the day or night. Sometimes those reminders also include a request for you to call in and give your credit card number, and do it now, because there are only a few more days until “Christmas.”

    I’m pretty cheerful about responding to “Merry Christmas” with a “Same to you.” I can’t recall ever scolding anyone in public or in private for missing the fact that I don’t celebrate Christmas. I do try not to say it myself at my synagogue, unless I know for sure the person is Christian, and then I try especially hard to say it.

    I’m fond of candy canes. They seem to be available for free in many places at this time of year – “Christmas” time. I try never to pass one up. I even try to like fruit cake, understanding it is one of the typical “Christmas” treats, but I think it may be like gefilte fish – an acquired taste.

    If there are some Christians who think that Christmas has become too commercial - the symbol of Christmas being more the Visa or Mastercard than the nativity scene – then I think they deserve to have a serious discussion about that. That discussion, in my Jewish view, would be best held in church, or at home, or just about any place other than the floor of the United States House of Representatives.”

  23. - Black Libertarian - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 2:04 pm:

    Frankly, if you think anything about this, you are a sad excuse for a human being. Here’s an idea: Just don’t give a dang about what other people say when they’re saying meaningless greetings.

  24. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 2:55 pm:

    To all my fellow Greek-Americans and anyone else who won’t get all offended: “Kala Christougenia.”

    And yes, I know. It’s all Greek to the rest of you!

    Perhaps everyone ought to lighten up on this issue?

    Louis G. Atsaves

  25. - Pat Collins - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 4:37 pm:

    To me this is a non issue.

    Ah, but that is the point! It’s not about you.

    In many other areas, people who take offense at something have made an issue of it. Think “Chief”, among others. So, if the principle is “it’s offensive if someone is offended”, then, when does it stop?

    Personally, I like to think of this as fighting PC by jujitsu - using it’s momentum against itself.

  26. - cynically anonymous - Thursday, Dec 22, 05 @ 10:16 pm:

    I grew up in Chicago in a neighborhood that was primarily Jewish. I was one of about six kids in school on the Jewish holy days, and while we didn’t think it was fair that they had their holidays and ours off school, it wasn’t a newsworthy event. Holiday concerts involved learning Christmas and Hanukkah songs. And life went on.

    I look at all this nonsense and it makes me ashamed, not only of being a Christian, but of being a member of a race that becomes less and less human with each passing year. There are far more pressing matters to get upset about than someone wishing you Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah if you don’t actually celebrate them. Use all that time and energy to fight for something that is really worthwhile.

    I agree with the poster who said they liked Happy Holidays because it covered them all. It’s not that difficult a concept. Get a life people!

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