COLUMN: The battle over a proper season’s greeting

Some insist on “Merry Christmas” while others will avoid any use of the word “Christmas”

This is supposed to be the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, but when it comes to seasonal greetings, it doesn’t always feel all that wonderful.

Each year, usually in November or early December, I see strongly worded statements on the choice of a greeting to use.

Some insist on “Merry Christmas” while others will take great measures to avoid any use of the word “Christmas.”

The schools within the Okanagan Skaha School District and other public school districts don’t hold Christmas concerts. Instead, these concerts are listed as “winter concerts.”

Few political figures will send out Christmas cards, preferring the more generic “Season’s Greetings” and the images depicting peaceful winter scenes rather than religious images, Santa Claus or decorated trees.

And among retailers, especially those who are part of national chains, the store windows and flyers often read “Happy Holidays.”

This is part of the festive season in Canada. It’s a happy time when messages of holiday cheer, peace and good will or seasonal best wishes abound.

But “Season’s Greetings” and similar messages aren’t good enough for some.

At times, I have received letters to the editor or other messages from people insisting “Merry Christmas” is the only appropriate greeting at this time of year. (This year, the first of those messages showed up around March, at the end of a rant about national politics.)

Some people have suggested boycotting businesses which do not display those words on their signs or in their flyers.

A couple of years ago, the American Christian Life United choir released the song, Say Merry Christmas. The lyrics begin with the words, “If you don’t see Merry Christmas in the window. No! You don’t go in that store. If you don’t see Merry Christmas in the window. Yes! You walk right by that door…”

This year, Rich DiMare, an American musician from Boston, Mass., has a new holiday song with the phrase, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” repeated throughout. (The phrase in this song is the same wording as U.S. president Donald Trump used in late November. Because of this, I wondered if the catch jingle was a holiday song or a political statement.)

Why should I as a customer care if a sign reads “Season’s Greetings” or “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or any other message? It doesn’t change the merchandise available at the store shelves. It doesn’t affect the prices. And it doesn’t — or at least it shouldn’t — affect my own Christmas celebrations.

But the call for “Merry Christmas” continues, and each year I hear some who are upset if they see or hear any other festive greeting.

I don’t understand this outrage.

I can choose to observe Christmas as a religious celebration, a time for gift-giving, a special time to spend with family or a time of quiet reflection. (For me, all of these elements will come into play.)

Some around me might celebrate Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Yule, Festivus or any number of other winter celebrations. Some have their big celebrations to mark the passing of the old year and to welcome in the new year. And some don’t want any celebrations in late December.

To quote the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, “Keep Christmas in your way, and let me keep it in mine.”

Here in Canada, I have this freedom. There’s no law on the books forbidding the celebration of the Dec. 25 holiday nor is there any law prohibiting the use of “Merry Christmas” as a greeting. Canada has never had such laws in place.

And so, in an attempt at inclusiveness, I offer my warmest Season’s Greetings to one and all. And if I know you’re celebrating Christmas, I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas instead.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

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