Several years ago, during the most wonderful time of year, I recall visiting the grocery store and wishing the cashier a "Merry Christmas." His reply of "a Happy Holiday to you, too" was puzzling to say the least. What exact "Holiday" did he mean to wish me "Happy"? I had wished him a Merry Christmas, it's not as if my religious leanings were in doubt. He could not have possibly meant to wish me Happy Hanukkah, and even that I would not mind. If he had meant New Year's, then why not just wish me a "Happy New Year." Kwanzaa ... well, I'll get to that in a moment.
The clerk's insistence on saying "Holiday" instead of Christmas reminds me of what G.K. Chesterton spoke of in "Orthodoxy," that we are "on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table." Nothing better sums that up than a meme that's currently circulating the Twitterverse:
Here's how Wikipedia describes "Happy Holidays" — "A collective and inclusive wish for the period encompassing Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Winter solstice, Christmas Day (The Nativity of the Lord), Boxing Day (St. Stephen’s Day), the New Year and Epiphany.”
If that were so, then why don't we wish people "Happy Holidays" around Easter? After all, the shamrocks are out for St. Patrick's Day, Lent is keeping the faithful on their toes, Moses has yet to part the Red Sea at Passover, the margaritas are cooling for Cinco de Mayo and the Italians are gearing up for St. Josephs. If "Happy Holidays" is just an inclusive gesture, then why wish anyone a happy anything. We could just go around saying "Happy Holidays" each month of the year to make absolutely sure we left nobody out.
The Left insists we say "Happy Holidays" on Christmas, as opposed to every other holiday, because Christmas is the one religious holiday that the government officially recognizes. It is a forever reminder of America's religious founding and religious past.
The Left claims "inclusiveness" as the reason, but there are really only three holidays that lend credence to that: New Year's, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. Let's examine this for a moment.
New Year's is like a fortune cookie. You know it's coming, you get a smile out of it, but it's not why you came to the restaurant. Kwanzaa deserves consideration as a genuine holiday about as much as Scientology deserves consideration as a genuine religion.
Invented in 1966 by a convicted felon who was accused of torturing two women, one who claimed he beat her with an electrical cord, the numbers of actual people who celebrate Kwanzaa have been hotly contested for several years now. The founder has claimed that as many as 28 million people celebrate it; the African American Cultural Center once claimed 30 million. However, in 2004, a survey for the National Retail Foundation discovered that 1.6% of those surveyed in the United States celebrated it. Even one of Kwanzaa's big proponents, researcher and professor Keith Mayes, admitted that its popularity has seriously waned since the '60s and '70s.
“It just no longer shows up in some of the places that it did 30 to 40 years ago. You still have people who actually celebrate it,” Mayes said. “You have third generations of Kwanzaa celebrants … but Kwanzaa no longer has its movement which brought it forth, which is the black power movement. That movement has waned.”
Mayes estimates that roughly 1 to 2 million people in the United States celebrate Kwanzaa, which means that even if the founder's numbers are correct, it applies only to those outside the country.
For Hanukkah, I must say that as a Catholic who regards the Book of Maccabees as sacred scripture (we get the doctrine of Purgatory from it), I wholly welcome the inclusion of the holiday alongside Christmas, and I doubt most Americans would disagree. My local shopping center features both a gargantuan Christmas tree (what my misguided city now calls a "holiday tree") and a towering menorah side by side. Window paintings regularly include a dreidel alongside a jolly Santa. Millennials grew up to Adam Sandler serenading us with his colorful list of Jewish celebrities on the radio every year. His "Hanukah Song" has practically become a season classic. Take a drive through San Fernando's "Candy Cane Lane" and you're guaranteed to see at least one house with a brightly-lit "Star of David" on its lawn across the street from a Nativity scene.
That's genuine inclusiveness.
Nobody, except maybe the ACLU, wants to kick Hanukkah out of the Christmas season, or feels its presence somehow diminishes Christ. It's a positive cultural exchange. Jews get to enjoy the festivities and Christians get a reminder of their past. Everybody wins.
But neither Hanukah nor New Year's nor Kwanzaa has ever been the point of the season. Our cities don't lace the sidewalks with winterly decorations and welcome our children to meet a jolly fat man in preparation to celebrate Pan-African racialism. Storefronts wishing people "Happy Holidays" makes about as much sense as the NFL wishing people a "Happy Sporting" on Super Bowl Sunday because the local high school is hosting a soccer tournament. Should we now start wishing people a "Happy Holidays" on July 4 because "Bastille Day" is coming up on July 14? Of course not.
Christmas is the national holiday; the reason for the season. The ornaments, the lights, the music, the food, the shopping even, all reflect that. If it looks like Christmas, smells like Christmas, sounds like Christmas, then just say Christmas. It's disingenuous for signs to wish people a "Happy Holidays" while displaying a Christmas tree, a Santa, a jingle bell and a candy cane. It also shows cognitive dissonance.
Now here's the moment where Christians typically fumble the ball and let the secularists run them over. Like the Puritans who launched the first "War on Christmas," the weary faithful exclaim, "But Jesus is what Christmas is about!" before going into diatribes on how Christmas trees were of pagan origin, how traditions were adopted from yuletides and how Santa Claus is secretly the god Odin. They assert that Christmas should be just about Nativity sets and "Silent Night." No more commercialism, just get back to Jesus.
To these Christians, I repeat what Lucy says to Charlie Brown: "You're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem." While the religious impetus for Christmas — the birth of Christians' Lord and Savior — has taken a backseat to rampant consumerism in recent years, in no way can that be blamed on the presence of Santa and Christmas trees. The secularization of Christmas should absolutely concern us all, demanding our full commitment to making Christ's birth its central focus; however, Christians have nothing to be ashamed of.
Firstly, Santa Claus derives from the Dutch word "Sinterklaas," meaning St. Nicholas, not Odin. He's a saint whose legend and ethos we've turned into a mascot. Nothing to be ashamed of there. The best mascot secularists can dream up is the "Gender Unicorn." Take ownership of the magnificent folklore to flow from Christmas and have joy.
Secondly, the pagan origins of the Christmas tree are up for debate. Some tradition actually points it back to St. Boniface, making it a truly Christian symbol indeed. Isn't it fitting that we welcome the birth of Christ, whose cross is sometimes referred to as a "tree," by adorning a freshly fertile evergreen? Even if Christmas trees were of pagan origin, it has since been Christianized, meaning baptized, just like your wedding ring. All pagan associations with yuletide and winter solstice have been washed away. So stop committing heresy by bringing up past sins to delegitimize what Christ has already redeemed.
With all that in mind, "Happy Holidays" is far from some inclusive gesture, but rather a suppressive insult cooked up by rabid secularists that seek to morph Christmas into a Frankenstein kind of creation that reduces the birth of Christ into a hodgepodge of incoherence. It's about a formerly Christian nation, which elected to make Christmas a national holiday, stripping the birth of Christ from its rightful place as the season's focus.