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Holidays, observances, and conflicts at Christmas time:

Part 2 of 4

Conflicts & changes in terminology.
Two individuals' personal comments.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Changes in the countries' religious makeup can present conflicts over TV programming, public school curriculum, shopping mall displays, etc:

bullet 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.
 
bulletSome followers of non-Christian religions object to having their faith group's religious celebrations ignored and swamped by the attention given to Christmas.
 
bulletSome 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 terminology. Some:

bulletOffice Christmas parties are now called "End of year parties."
 
bulletRetailers now wish their customers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
 
bulletMunicipal Christmas trees are now called "Community Trees."
 
bulletSome Christmas celebrations are now called "Winterfest" or "winter celebrations" or "solstice observances."

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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 ranks....."

"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

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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

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

  1. "Frequently Asked Questions On Hellenic Neopaganism (Graeco-Roman Neopaganism)," The Stele, at: http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/
  2. "Saturnalia Practices of Nova Romans," Nova Romans, at:  http://www.novaroma.org/
  3. David Porter, "Same old song at Christmas: Do carols discriminate?," Associated Press, 2004-DEC-18, at:  http://kyw.com/
  4. "Study finds number of Protestants is falling," Houston Chronicle, 2004-JUL-21. Posted on the Free Republic bulletin board at: http://www.freerepublic.com/
  5. 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 reading.
  6. "Daily Devotions," Kemet.org, at: http://daily.kemet.org/
  7. Found on the Religious Tolerance facebook page during 2015-DEC. Source unknown.
  8. Drawn using a free image from DreamsTime.com.

Site navigation:

Home > Religious information > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Christianity > Beliefs, practices, etc > Holy days > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Religious hatred & conflicts > Specific conflicts > Xmas conflict > here

Copyright © 2004 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-DEC-04
Latest update: 2015-DEC-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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