Holidays, observances, and conflicts at Christmas time:
Part 2 of 4
Conflicts & changes in terminology.
Two individuals' personal comments.
Changes in the countries' religious makeup can present conflicts over TV
programming, public school curriculum, shopping mall displays, etc:
Some Christians -- particularly in the United States -- object to their Christian traditions no
longer being given prime or exclusive status. They balk when the celebration
of the birthday of their savior is replaced by what they view as some kind
of a politically correct, generic, faith-free
reference to winter or holiday festivals. They are unhappy with the generic
greeting "Happy Holidays" which is replacing "Merry Christmas."
This is referred to as the Christmas Wars (a.k.a. December Dilemma). Conflict at thi time of year seems to have reached a peak in 2005. By 2015, the wars degenerated into a dispute over the design on Starbuck's coffee cups.
Some followers of non-Christian religions object to having their
faith group's religious celebrations ignored and swamped by the attention given to
Some NOTAs (None of The Above's) -- individuals who do not identify
themselves with any religion -- object to being bombarded with what they view
as over a month of high-intensity commercialized religious propaganda each winter.
Since the media, schools and commercial establishments are shared by all, a
degree of religious tolerance and a willingness to compromise is needed
to minimize conflict. In order to be sensitive to the preferences of some
non-Christians, some municipal governments, companies, and organizations have changed their
Office Christmas parties are now called "End of year parties."
Retailers now wish their customers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry
Municipal Christmas trees are now called "Community Trees."
Some Christmas celebrations are now called "Winterfest" or "winter
celebrations" or "solstice observances."
A comment by a Washington Post columnist:
E.J. Dionne, Jr wrote a column titled "Peace on Earth?" in the
Washington Post for 2004-DEC-21 -- perhaps by coincidence, on the Winter
Solstice, a date celebrated by Atheists, Wiccans, and many followers of
Aboriginal religions. He is a Christian who greets fellow Christians with "Merry
Christmas" at this time of year. He greets Jews with a "Happy Hanukah."
To those whose religion is unknown to him, he gives a "Happy Holiday"
greeting. He writes:
"Some Christians see the broader culture as unremittingly hostile
to their faith and wonder why it's easier to celebrate Santa, Rudolph and
the Grinch than to sing praise to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and nonbelievers, meanwhile, insist
that government should not push the faith of the majority into the faces of
those who do not share it....."
"What in the world is 'Christian' about insisting on saying 'Merry
Christmas' to a devout Jew or Hindu who might reasonably view the statement
as a sign of disrespect? At the level of government: Is it really
'Christian' for a religious majority to press its advantage over religious
minorities, including nonbelievers?
"Personally, I am partial to seasonal celebrations that acknowledge
our religious diversity by allowing traditions to express themselves in
their integrity. This is better than allowing only a commercial Christmas
mush that satisfies no one except the retailers. Trying to delete every form
of religious expression from the public square leads to foolishness. But one
thing is even more foolish: for the religious majority to feel 'oppressed'
by a public etiquette designed to honor the rights of those outside its
"The great Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that 'the
chief source of man's inhumanity to man seems to be the tribal limits of his
sense of obligation to other men.' I fear that in these Christmas debates,
Christians are behaving not as Christians but as a tribe: 'We will pound
them if they get in the way of our customs and rituals'."
"Tribal behavior is antithetical to the spirit of peace and good
will. In this season, we ought to be taking the most expansive possible view
of our obligations to others."5
One person's experience:
CNN News described the Christmas-time experiences of a Jewish boy growing
up in Texas a generation ago. As a eleven-year-old child in elementary school, Joel Schwartzberg sang many traditional Christmas songs in the elementary school
choir. When the rest of the choir was singing carols like "Silent
Night, Holy Night," he felt uncomfortable at the references to Christian
belief. He kept his mouth shut. He recalls his teacher telling him that he had
to sing all the words if he wanted to participate. Now, as an adult with
children about to enter the school system, he does not want his children to
replicate his own experience. He said that it is possible to draw a line:
"When students are compelled to engage in evangelical activities even
without intent or proselytizing with the alternative being nothing except to
sit out, I think that's not appropriate. There's no difference between
performing the songs and having the teacher read them in front of the class,
or instructing the class to read them collectively.'' 3
"Frequently Asked Questions On Hellenic Neopaganism (Graeco-Roman
Neopaganism)," The Stele, at:
"Saturnalia Practices of Nova Romans," Nova Romans, at:
David Porter, "Same old song at Christmas: Do carols discriminate?,"
Associated Press, 2004-DEC-18, at:
"Study finds number of
Protestants is falling," Houston Chronicle, 2004-JUL-21. Posted on the
Free Republic bulletin board at:
E.J. Dionne Jr., "Peace on Earth? Not with this season's Christmas
wars," Washington Post, 2004-NOV-21, at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ We were only able to quote portions of
his article due to copyright restrictions. The full article is well worth
"Daily Devotions," Kemet.org, at:
- Found on the Religious Tolerance facebook page during 2015-DEC. Source unknown.
- Drawn using a free image from DreamsTime.com.
Copyright © 2004 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2004-DEC-04
Latest update: 2015-DEC-07
Author: B.A. Robinson