Excuse Me, I’d Prefer to Have Thanksgiving First

Christmas music has been playing on at least one radio station since Halloween. The malls have nutcrackers and trees up. I’m not going to complain about Christmas coming “earlier every year” because it’s always been early.

My problem is that Halloween to an extent and Thanksgiving especially get thrown under the bus to promote big daddy Christmas. Why can’t we enjoy each holiday on its own merits and take them one at a time?

Before you call me Scrooge, and wonder why I hate Christmas, let me elaborate.

Christmas is a make-or-break time for many retailers, and the holiday season’s importance to the American economy is perceived to be so great that “Black Friday” sales at some retailers, particularly Wal-Mart, are reported as a macroeconomic indicator. This is hogwash of course, one month can’t erase the previous eleven, but I understand the incentives for early advertising.

I just don’t have to like it.

But it’s not even the early advertising that bothers me the most. I’m all about free exchange and commerce so I have no problem with folks trying to make a buck. Not until the tired debate about the “war on Christmas” is brought up do I get rubbed the wrong way.

Peace on Earth? Forget it. Nowadays, Christmas is a battlefield in the culture wars. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” has come to mean that there are endless arguments about nativity scenes, Santa Claus and reindeer on public property, Christmas carols in public schools, and the greeting “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.”

“Arguments” is, perhaps, too polite a term. These days, we can’t argue about anything without name-calling, hyperbole, paranoia, and crude stereotyping. Christmas is no exception. One side sees a satanic peril in a store clerk’s “Happy Holidays” greeting; the other sees a theocratic menace in a Christmas carol sung at a school concert.

Let’s put things in perspective. Even the most far-reaching efforts to stamp out religious expression in “the public square” affect only government property. No one is seeking to stop churches from displaying nativity scenes on their front lawns or homeowners from putting up religiously themed decorations. If some private businesses such as stores decide to stick to secular holiday displays and salutations, that’s their choice.

The use of generic secularized holiday greetings actually began in the 1950’s as a reflection of America’s growing cultural diversity and a way to include everyone in the fold. This should be celebrated, not chastised.

Many Christians are genuinely concerned about the secularization and commercialization of the holiday. But for those who truly want to “put Christ back into Christmas,” the answer is in giving more time and attention to religious and charitable activities, not in demanding more Christian symbolism at the place where you shop. Macy’s is not a temple.

The Christmas wars are likely to continue, even though politicizing a religious holiday is surely just as bad as commercializing it. To that I say, “pass the turkey.”

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