A lot of cultures place significance on this time of the year. Many of us reset our calendars on New Year’s Day. The winter solstice marks the start of winter, and there are a slew of religious events, not limited to Hanukkah, Ramadan and Christmas. These are all significant to the people who observe them. Or if you are like me, there is enjoyment observing people observe their observances. The traditions are fun.

The main holiday in the U.S. is Christmas, since this country is close to two-thirds Christian. But we need to recognize that there is more than one holiday at this time, including other Christian holidays, and not everyone observes Christmas.

Therefore, it is socially acceptable to wish someone “happy holidays” despite what your beliefs are. It’s respectful and doesn’t come off as ignorant. Christmas is not a whole month, either, so there is a time and place to say “merry Christmas,” like within the proximity of the holiday itself. I think most people understand this.

All that said, it’s a point of contention to wish someone a “happy holiday” as opposed to “merry Christmas” through the holidays, because of course it is. We cannot have anything that is easy in life, apparently.

The two phrases made the news earlier this month when former President Donald Trump claimed in an interview for conservative Newsmax TV that he got Americans to say “merry Christmas” again after saving America from the “woke.”

During the interview, Trump also made a few confusing statements, claiming Americans have also avoided mentioning Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln or George Washington while they dodge the phrase “merry Christmas.” Now, that last bit is a bit too transcendent for me to understand. Is it not patriotic to tell someone “happy holidays”? Is that the connection being made here? As for the claims of some sort of war on Christmas, it is a bizarre assertion to make.

Yes, apparently there is some sort of a “war on Christmas,” and it’s been a conservative talking point for years. And it seems to be fabricated entirely in a bubble. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time surfing the internet in December may have come across an advertisement from conservative media company Prager University (PragerU) claiming Christmas is under attack.

According to PragerU, an entity known as “the left,” which has many speculated agendas and beliefs, is intent on wreaking havoc on the conservative Christian values of this country by attempting to take the “Christ” out of Christmas. In other words, “liberals” (or whatever that means anymore — I mean, it might as well be the forces of evil) are simply changing some words around to make the season more inclusive.

It’s not just PragerU; Fox News has been on the front lines of this “war” for years. There are books on this issue, including one almost ridiculous example titled The War On Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought, by John Gibson. According to that conjecture, by being inclusive and saying “happy holidays,” I am part of a liberal plot to snuff out Christmas, even though I celebrate the holiday. That is enlightening.

If my tone seems somewhat amused, it’s because I find this funny. It’s completely bananas after all. But it also comes from a very serious place. People in this country are not accepting of other religions or differences, and this is one way it shows. Also apparent is the extent of division in this country. I don’t know why it was decided that being culturally inclusive is the cause of an imaginary war on Christmas, or that it is a liberal plot, but it’s vile to push this stuff. We are fabricating a conspiracy about something completely trivial and making political tension worse. It’s not productive.

I think it is strange that Christmas was picked as something to get upset about in the first place. The American idea of Christmas is really, really weird. It’s hardly sacred. While it is technically a Christian holiday celebrating “the birth of Christ” at its observational core, it really is a mix of a whole bunch of traditions and ideas that only kind of relate.

We appropriated the idea of Santa Claus from Nordic shamans delivering psychedelics with reindeer tripping on mushrooms, mixed with German folklore and traditions that just happen to take place around the winter solstice. There is the character of Nikolaus, who delivers gifts on Dec. 6, who also is understood as St. Nicholas for some reason, despite almost no relation. Then, to depose the Catholics, Martin Luther came up with a story about a gift-bearing “Christkindl,” or Christ child. Among English speakers, this became “Kriss Kringle” and eventually morphed to another mystical character, “Father Christmas.”

Even the date — Dec. 25 — meant to celebrate Christ’s birth is up in the air: Three Kings Day on Jan. 6 was supposedly the correct date until the Catholic Church picked Dec. 25 in the fourth century. And then American consumer culture took over the whole thing, mutating it into the image and identity of Christmas we have today: shopping.

Our idea of Christmas is a complete mess. If you get too far into the mechanics of an American Christmas, it becomes deeply confusing and fictitious, and it will not hold up in any rational way. But there is nothing wrong with that, since it is fun. That’s why I think a good majority of people, whether they are Christian or not, celebrate Christmas. There is so much to it that is completely removed from anything religious, and one can pick and choose what parts they want to celebrate.

But to get upset about people choosing to say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” is silly. Close to a third of this country is not part of a Christian religion. Just accept that someone is trying to be nice and move on with your day. It’s not worth foaming at the mouth over.

Ben Timm is a freshman at the University of Utah. Contact him at monkebusiness@gmail.com.

(1) comment

Steve Martinez

Pople may just think I'm being politically correct when I say Happy Holidays, but I'm actually saying Happy Holy Days. I'm wishing them a happy feast of St. Nicholas, The Immaculate Conception, St. Lucy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and of course, Christmas, the Nativity of our Lord.

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