I was driving back to campus from Grand Haven and saw along I-96 a sign that said, “Merry CHRISTmas.” It seemed comical to me, and I chuckled. At the same time that it’s easy for me to find amusement in it, it is symptomatic of annual national tension.
One of the unfortunately contentious issues that arise every December is whether it is socially acceptable to bias public acknowledgment of the holiday season in favor of Christmas.
Many Christians believe that the unofficial recognition of Christmas as the primary tradition of the holiday season is justified. Others argue it is culturally callous.
Despite my atheistic rhetoric, I am the product of a Christian family and thus associate this time of year with Christmas. Given this, it would on a primitive level, comfort me immensely if everyone celebrated Christmas. It would make life seem simple again.
The reality is that life isn’t simple.
There are hundreds of millions of people who live in this country, and among them there are many different traditions that coincide with the holiday season. Publicly celebrating Christmas as though all other holiday traditions are cultural afterthoughts alienates anyone who isn’t Christian.
I do not mean to imply that people ought limit their personal observance of Christmas. All I’m asking is whether it needs to be so publicly overdone.
Is it necessary to display tacky nativity scenes (complete with Caucasian Arabs and an oddly serene post-labor Mary) every other block; to relentlessly congest the radio with Christmas-themed musical banality; to bombard television with marketing desperation guised poorly as yuletide enthusiasm?
We need to take measures to promote other holiday traditions and to scale back our unabashed national infatuation with Christmas.
Think of how that affects anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas and especially those who celebrate other traditions that coincide with Christmas’ place on the calendar. They must feel on the fringe, as though they and their traditions are considered culturally irrelevant.
Some say this motivation is an unnecessary extension of the “PC” movement. Christians are the majority of the population, and Christmas is their most cherished holiday, so why should they be required to exhibit any self-restraint in their celebration?
I would make some sort of flaccid appeal to national pathos, expounding upon our cherished American ideals of acceptance and religious tolerance, but I think that would be lazy and disingenuous.
The truth is part of being a mature, socially conscious adult (especially in the ever-interconnected, modern world) is being sensitive to the affect of your actions on other people.
This means, regardless of what traditions you were taught to observe as a child, it is your responsibility as an adult to respect the traditions of others and to not let your holiday enthusiasm be obtrusive so it culturally alienates them or inhibits their ability to observe their own traditions.
The widespread propaganda bullying people into accepting that Christmas is the tradition of the holiday season is not something that any society of rational people ought allow.