Sunday, December 5, 2010

All that's missing is the popcorn

My favorite fight of the holiday season isn't between parents trying to kill each over the last doll on the toy shelf or crowds ready to push their neighbors on the ground to try and reach a $20 microwave before Walmart sells their last - though both events are immensely fun to watch.  No, my favorite fight of the year is one over semantics:

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.

Every year, competing boycotts pop up targeting stores on the basis of company policy.  If employees are told to wish customers a "Merry Christmas," secular groups encourage their members to shop elsewhere.  If the rule is to say "Happy Holidays," religious groups take it as an affront to their beliefs and protest.

I can only assume that national chains analyze the demographics of their clientele before making such determinations.  After all, we're really talking about a function of marketing, which is focused on increasing revenue, not making a religious or philosophical statement.  Sure, there are probably a handful of companies whose executives are trying to deliver a message, profit be damned, but for the most part corporations are trying to make money.

So, ultimately, you've got two sides countering each others' hollow protest against a simple marketing determination.  God, I love this time of year.

Of course, it's bigger than just a greeting.  This is but one front in a culture war fought over Christmas and everything connected to it.

Tis the season for showdowns over decorated trees.  I love watching those play out.  It usually starts with someone objecting to a Christmas tree showing up in a school or government building.  When I'm lucky, the other side tries to claim it's a holiday tree.  That's when the real fun begins.

The argument almost immediately descends into nonsense.  People will actually claim "holiday trees" aren't connected to Christmas.

Not that it matters: the dark secret, the ultimate joke behind it all, is that it's all irrelevant.  Because Christmas isn't a religious holiday.

You want to know what Christmas really is?  It's the English name for a holiday festival the human race has been celebrating for thousands of years (probably tens of thousands; hundreds of thousands isn't outside the realm of possibility).  This is holiday that exists because people noticed the change in seasons.  And, considering that the seasons affect whether food grew or not, people tended to consider these significant.

I realize that the English word is derived from the word "Christ," but don't let that fool you.  It's just a name.

I want to be clear about a few things: I'm not rooting for one side or the other.  In fact, I don't want either to ever win.  This is an epic battle that should continue for all eternity.  This is pageantry, a performance I get to watch on the news every December.

So, by all means, keep at each others' throats.  Don't let up in your crusade against retailers whose demographic analysis slightly favors the other side.  If you see a gaudy Christmas display in a public place, I'm begging you, try to get an equally tacky display put up supporting your religion (we can never get enough decorations or comically oversized religious icons transformed into a ridiculous caricature of their original meaning).

And, by all means, if you feel that the holiday you think is celebrating the birth of your savior is getting too commercial or is losing its intended meaning, please don't keep it to yourself.

Because it's all just another Christmas special to me.

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