Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why It's Okay to Say Happy Holidays or Send an X-mas Card

Why do we get upset about these things? The other day, I walked into church and someone had set out a bunch of buttons that said, “It’s okay to say Merry Christmas.” I suppose you’re suppose to wear them to the store and the clerk will know that you won’t be offended by the use of the word Christmas. For the past few years, people have been upset over the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays.” Before that, people were upset about the word, “X-mas.” The belief is that people are trying to take Christ out of Christmas. But I found the irony interesting when I watched a video on Merriam-Webster’s website. One of their editors was talking about where the word “X-mas” came from. It turns out that it is a printer’s abbreviation from back when every letter took a lot of time to produce. The X, in this case, is actually the first letter of a word that we would translate as Christ. Today, we might have written it as C-mas instead. So, people aren’t taking Christ out of Christmas, they’re just abbreviating it.

And what of “Happy Holidays”? Here too, people generally mean Christmas when they use it, but the phrase itself comes from “Happy Holy Days.” That has meaning if you see Christmas as a holy day. I’m Baptist and we don’t really have true Holy days. We also don’t observe mass. So why get upset about all of this? Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Merry X-mas are all saying the same thing, so that shouldn’t be reason enough to be upset. I almost want a button that says, “It’s okay to say ‘Happy X-mas’” just because I know it will upset a few people, but think about it. None of these terms are accurate. It isn’t a Holy day and it isn’t a mass. We might call it Christ’s Birthday, but we know it comes at the wrong time of year for that. It certainly isn’t worth fighting over.

So here’s what I propose. Instead of worrying about people taking Christ out of Christmas or making sure people say Merry Christmas, let’s just enjoy the season. Let’s go about our business, buying gifts for our family and friends, eating too much, and watching kids play sheep in the Christmas play. Let’s remember that there was a day about 2,000 years ago when a baby was born to a virgin and shepherds saw angels. Let’s remember that wise men traveled from the east to see him. And most importantly, let’s remember that he came to be the final sacrifice for our sins. Isn’t that much better than worrying about what to call the day?