The National Catholic Review

Cathy Grossman over at USA Today isn't so sure about the pre-eminence of that greeting.  

We're heading for December when zealous guardians of the "Say-'Merry Christmas'-or-you'll-be-sorry" movement will be in their glory, defending Christianity from a fictional "War on Christmas."  Among the early blasts of "MC-Only" wrath for 2009, is one directed at Best Buy. The electronics superstores, in a horrifying burst of inclusivity, printed "'Happy Eid Al-Adha" in their Thanksgiving Day sale circular. This year, the Eid dates, which shift with the lunar calendar followed by Islam, coincide with the Christmas and Hanukkah shopping stampede.  Best Buy is standing by these best wishes despite a drubbing from the American Family Association, which treats "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" with the outrage normally reserved for profanity, flag burning or flogging puppies.

Hmm...I usually agree with Cathy, but I think I may be approaching zealotry on this and another Christmas-related topic: the way advertisers use faux-faith messages to flog their wares.  My own latest irk is Macy's ad campaign, "A Million Reasons to Believe."  Really?  In what?  I doubt it's the Incarnation.

Comments

John Hayes | 12/1/2009 - 2:27pm
Probably the reason Macy's puts "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" on its signs:
NORTH ANDOVER — First it was the menorah on the town common. Now it's the Merry Christmas sign on the fire station.
The town has put an end to a longtime holiday tradition, ordering firefighters to take down their homemade Merry Christmas sign from outside the fire station after people complained. The sign had been up for a week before it was taken down Friday.
Fire Chief William Martineau said the sign was made by firefighters some 50 years ago and was never an issue before.
<...>
Town Manager Mark Rees said the fight over the menorah brought a "heightened sensitivity to these kind of issues."
"Well, it is a public building and Merry Christmas certainly is a Christian reference," Rees said. "A public building should not be displaying things specific to a particular religion."
Rees said he hopes to work with the Fire Department to put up a more appropriate sign.
"Maybe a more generic 'Happy Holidays,'" he said. "Something more inclusive."
http://www.eagletribune.com/punews/local_story_335011205.html
 
Thomas Rooney | 11/30/2009 - 10:03am
I personally find 'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings' not offensive per se...but milquetoast and overly PC, I guess you'd call it.

I usually say "Merry Christmas" to those I know to be Christian. If I know someone is Jewish, I'll wish them a Happy Hanukkha (sp?). If I know someone is Pagan, I'll wish them a Blessed Yuletide. If I know someone is agnostic or atheist, I wish them a good day off. If I feel a greeting is appropriate and I'm unsure of someone's faith, I'll ask them.

I'm not a 'War on Christmas' kind of guy because, like it or not, the season is a secular celebration in this country as much as it is a religious one. I leave the why's and wherefore's about Nativity displays in public to those who care.

I won't pander to the secularization of it, however. I celebrate Christmas. I will not demean someone else's holiday by wishing them the same, and I will not use 'Happy Holidays' as a vanilla catch-all. Take an extra second and greet people the way they wish to be greeted.
John Hayes | 11/29/2009 - 9:33pm
I think we need to recognize that we celebrate two Christmases at once. One is the religious Christmas that we share with other Christians. The other is a civil Christmas that we share with a larger group that includes people with different beliefs.
I don’t think we should reject participating in that civil Christmas even though it gets only as far as a generalized “love your neighbor as yourself” rather than the incarnation and finds its texts in Dickens and Clement Moore, and 1930’s movies rather than the New Testament.  It’s a way we can celebrate values we do share with Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, and members of other religions, like the Jains who are moving to a larger temple in the town where I live.
But I don’t think we can do that if we insist that our religious Christmas is the only one there is, and that the civil Christmas has to clothe itself in our symbols and our rhetoric. I think we can celebrate both Christmases at once.
If I see Fr. Jim on the street, I’ll automatically say ‘Happy Christmas”, but in the context of the civil Christmas, I can’t get very worked up over whether someone says “Merry Christmas” or “Seasons Greetings.” Unfortunately, years of public arguments have left many non-Christians with the feeling that the reason we want them to say Christmas rather than Seasons is that we want them to acknowledge it as a specifically Christian holiday, at which they are only onlookers. When I think someone might take it that way, I say “Season’s Greetings” without hesitation. 
Devon Zenu | 11/29/2009 - 8:34pm
From the inside back cover of the Nov. 20, 2009 Commonweal:
 
"What makes the miracles of Jesus even more miraculous? Standing where they happened. When you pray where Jesus prayed... When you experience the wonder of the Holy Land in person... When you sense the Lord's presence like never before... You'll never be the same!"
"-Israel Ministry of Tourism, State of Israel"
Marissa Lafler | 11/29/2009 - 4:07pm
''Send them the winner and you can bring four Jesuits to New York to see the Thanksgiving parade next year.''
 
Thanks for the laugh; I needed that!
 
I have often wondered why some people are so insistent that one of their more important religious holidays be affixed to big box stores, rampant materialism, and divorced of anything remotely religious. Walking into Walmart and having the greeter say ''Merry Christmas'' does not make it a religious holiday.
6294802 | 11/29/2009 - 2:34pm
A 2007 posting on Yahoo Answers says the cross had already been missing from the Helmsley building for two years. Prior to that, it was there every year non-stop since WWII. I don't know if it's made a return as I don't work in that area anymore.
John Hayes | 11/29/2009 - 9:30am
It's an ad for "The Israel Pilgrimage Kit for Catholic Leaders" - see http://israelpilgrimagekit.com/91003 - which says "includes everything you need to lead a life-changing pilgrimage to the Holy Land ..."
I didn't see an ad in Commonweal mentioning "Lord", but there is one that says "What makes the miracles of Jesus even more miraculous? Standing where they happened." Published in a Catholic-oriented magazine, I read that more as "Since you teach that Jesus performed miracles here, this would be a good place to bring your parishioners" rather than "We, the Government of Israel, declare that Jesus performed miracles here." 
Devon Zenu | 11/28/2009 - 11:05pm
Should say "much less the Jewish people"
Devon Zenu | 11/28/2009 - 11:04pm
Has anyone else seen the ads running in the print edition and website of Commonweal encouraging Christians to travel to the Holy Land and stand in the places where Jesus, "the Lord", performed his miracles? (and other such statements.) They are sponsored by the state of Israel's ministry for tourism. Since when does the state of Israel acknowledge Jesus as "the Lord"? And how does one raise the issue of this shameless ploy for tourist dollars without being labeled an anti-Semite? And let me be clear; I most definitely am not an anti-Semite. The actions of one arm of Israel's government should in no way be imputed to the whole nation, much the Jewish people. But I think the government should be called on it.
6294802 | 11/28/2009 - 8:04pm
Yes, I'm sure Macy's deliberately left that statement open-ended... Macy's, though, is also playing to its own tradition: The Santa Claus character in ''Miracle on 34th Street.'' That's a movie that softly criticizes-and rightly so-modern society's lack of belief in anything you can't see. So, maybe I'll give Macy's the benefit of the doubt on this one and say ''Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.''
My favorite New York City sight during Advent has always been the cross made up of lit windows in the Helmsley Building. I worked at 425 Park for many years-often late into the evening. When I'd leave work and glance down Park Avenue, it was always there, hanging in the sky: A reminder of Jesus. When snow was falling, it was magic.
Beth Cioffoletti | 11/28/2009 - 5:32pm
Don't get me started ...
According to The Season's War Cry: "Commercialize Christmas, or Else,'' defenders claim that their campaign to commercialize Christmas is a Christian movement.
What I don't get is why a Christian (or a Muslim) would want reference to thier holy stories plastered all over the yearly secular shopping extravaganza.
Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of the son of God into the world. As the story goes, the surroundings were humble and simple.
This mystery is profound, and its sacredness is protected by keeping it out of the marketplace.
John Hayes | 11/28/2009 - 1:34pm
"My own latest irk is Macy's ad campaign, "A Million Reasons to Believe."  Really?  In what?"

The magic of the season. It's a contest that invites you to "Upload a video or share a story that explains why you believe in the magic of the season."

Sounds like a hook you could build on. 

Send them the winner and you can bring four Jesuits to New York to see the Thanksgiving parade next year.