• 12-13-2005, 08:27 PM
    To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    As many of you undoubtedly know, Christian conservatives have recently begun a boycott of major retail stores for their alleged exclusion of the word "Christmas" from their seasonal advertising. Boycotted stores include Target and Wal-Mart. Groups took offense at, for instance, sales of "Holiday Trees" at Lowes. They have pledged their boycott until stores reinstate the word "Christmas" back into their holiday advertising, which a few have done.

    Here's one take on the story:

    Other reports are welcome.

    I want to get everyone's take on this.

    My view:
    Haven't we been making large strides in recent years to get retailers and the general public alike to ackowledge the existance of the other holidays around Christmastime? It seemed we were making major progress until this seemingly "backward" step. I rather liked the retailer's attempts to include us all, with spots such as "Happy Hannukwanzkamis!" or other similar lighthearted, inclusionary attempts. Even the increasing use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" seemed a vast recognition of the fact that, well, there are other holidays going on now besides Christmas. To insist on the word Christmas being included in every holiday advertisement seems a myopic demand that "Christmas" is the only "reason for the season." When in fact there are 3 other significant holidays occuring at this time: Hannukah, Kwanza, and the winter solstice. Why aren't these groups fighting for the inclusion of all faiths in advertising? Are they so blind to think theirs is the only holiday?

    It seems that movements to include all faiths in the holiday season are decent attempts at fairness and inclusivity, and not a vast left-wing conspiracy as some have suggested:

    Christmas is not the only "reason for the season" as most Christmas revelers will tell you. I have celebrated Christmas Day in my family for my whole life and I have never once used the word "Jesus" on the day (unless I was swearing at a youngin spilling cranberry sauce on their shirt but that's another story.) Christmas has always been a consumer/family holiday for me, which it seems to be for most other Americans as well. To celebrate Christmas is no longer the same as celebrating the birth of Christ. When my family meets on Christmas Day it is not about him, it is about our family. We celebrate Christmas as a family holiday, and that is why it is important to us. It can be a celebration of Christ to others, to us it is a time of getting-together, eating, and gift-giving. There are no religious undertones.

    December 25, as many may know, is not the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the Bible allegedly gives no date of his birth. The Bible tells of herders tending their sheep in the fields during the birth of Christ, which would indicate a time of fall or spring, not the dead of winter. (Of course, it is now common knowledge that he was also born around 4 BC) It has been suggested that Jesus was conceived on the 25th of December, and this date was chosen as the celebration of his birth to pacify pagan Romans who also celebrated a major holiday on this date (Babylonians also celebrated a holiday at this time with feasting and gift-giving). Caroling seems to be a tradition derived from pagan Roman practices. The Christmas tree is a tradition that began with pagans bringing fir bows and limbs into the home during a celebration of the winter solstice. Kissing under mistletoe was originally a pagan fertility ritual.

    All this goes to show that the celebration of Christ-Mass has its roots in non-Christ holidays and rituals. Many of which were celebrations of the one natural event which will occur long after Chritianity and humanity have come and gone; the winter solstice.

    Should we then back off the focus on Christmas during the holiday season? Should we allow for other's beliefs at this time? Should we back off Christian demands that retailers use the word Christmas in their advertising? And would it mean more to greet all neighbors with an all-encompassing "Happy Holidays?" I do! I invite you all to share your views on this.

    Happy holidays.
  • 12-13-2005, 10:32 PM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    Great topic! We were discussing this at work, and there was a piece on it on the Discovery Channel.

    According to theologists used for TDC, Jesus is indeed suspected to have been born in spring. The purpose for celebrating on Dec 25, was do to (can't remember who) a nation's leader that wanted to distract attention from a pagan(?) holiday, and so proclaimed the celebration on (or near) the same day, in hopes to overshadow the prior holiday.

    As for the retailers (i work for wal-mart), while they do not use a specific holiday theme, (at least at my location), we do not sell anything holiday specific except christmas related itmes. In fact, a customer was very upset only two days ago, due to the fact that we had no cards, or decorations related to Kwanzaa.

    One day, upon entering the employee lounge, I found it to be (horribly) decorated with a christmas theme, and the phrase "merry christmas" in several locations, with no mention of other holidays. I spoke with our human resources department, and asked them why, and asked them to either include, or exclude all groups from their decorations. The next night, all decorations were gone.

    On a lighter side, a few of us decided we would mess with them if they did not take it all down. One would go each day for 3 days and say the following:

    I celebrate Kwanzaa, where are my decorations?
    I celebrate Hannukah, where are my decorations?
    (and then me) I am not affiliated with any of these, and the decorations offend me. :D

    As for the meaning, and so on. My family also celebrates it as a time of gathering and reflecting. We do not do a gift exchange for christmas, but rather exchange a small gift each to celebrate our success in the year. As with all other holidays, Christmas has become way commercial, and that in itself goes against everything I believe in.

    For those interested, here are some links as to how we (buddhists) think on christmas.
  • 12-14-2005, 01:08 PM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?

    You work at Wal-Mart? I was a CSM for two years...glad I'm out of it now come "holiday" time. I think the "true" meaning of Christmas is so lost and tainted that it does not hold much religious value anymore IMO. Christmas is now a gift giving, gift recieiving festival...not a focus on Jesus' birth. If people are going to argue that we should "represent" other faiths, maybe we should start actually stating and focussing what those faiths believe.

    Do I make sense?!:p
  • 12-14-2005, 01:32 PM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    Yes, I work there, as a support manager.

    I don't think there is a need to define anything, it is a matter of what it means to each person, and that person should be left to decide, without any form of harrasment, and it should be all inclusive. What I believe is that there should be no decorations or celebrating of holidays in public facilities. most retailers stock ther stores using demographics, so in some places items relative to your belief may not be available, depending on the retailer.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but that is what happens when you are anti-commercialism, anti-establishment, etc...

    That may seem stupid coming from someone who works for the largest retailer in the world, but bills have to be paid, and this is what fate has dealt me.
  • 12-14-2005, 06:49 PM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    Hey Jared

    I think you make sense. I think most people know (or can easily find out) what Jews and African Americans believe, and why they celebrate Hannukah and Kwanza, respectively. It may be harder to find what a "pagan" believes since the word "pagan" is so loosely defined. But it's out there.

    Understanding others' beliefs is easy enough. Adjusting our lifestlyes to allow for them is tougher though. I think the spirit of inclusion has its merits. Not behaving like Christmas is the only "reason for the season" seems broad-minded indeed. I would encourage a policy of "all or nothing" when it comes to holiday advertising. Either allow for all the beliefs, or don't allow for any of them. If you're gonna put the word "Christmas" in there you better rattle off a few other names as well. Yet it seems all would be easily served with the word... "Holiday."

    Hope that makes sense. Sorry if I misinterpreted you :)
  • 12-14-2005, 07:20 PM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    Hey Payn

    Thanks for the links to the Buddhist websites. I find that religion, er, belief system fascinating. I agree from that perspective there are several commonalities between Buddhism and Christmas practices.

    I was wondering, is there an official Buddhist take on the Christ? I read in one of those links that he was thought to be an incarnation of the Buddha, is that right? I was just wondering if there was an official position on him.

  • 12-14-2005, 08:40 PM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?

    You pretty much hit it on the head. Though, I do however get somewhat offended by the idea of calling a nativity set a "holiday" scene. Obviously, a nativity scene is from a Christian influence, so calling a "holiday" scene is absurd. Sure, allow for all religions, but don't generalize their parts.

  • 12-14-2005, 08:57 PM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    I agree. Just like I wouldn't call a Menorah a "holiday candle" :)

    The point is to allow everyone to celebrate what they want, not to white wash everything so that there is no diversity imo.
  • 12-15-2005, 12:19 AM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    Rick, It depends upon the "sect". Generally, though, there is none that say he didn't exist. Buddhists (for the most part) see him as a compassionate, and caring man, who gave great devotion to what he believed in. As for the "rise from the dead", we generally do not believe that is so, as we believe in reincarnation, and if Jesus was indeed as the bible tells us, then he would have reached the highest level of enlightenment, and passed on to Nirvana, and not been reincarnated.

    Personally, I don't have an opinion on Jesus, his life, or path. I find some of the stories very interesting, and even moving. When it comes to others and their beliefs, I think that if it motivates you to do well, makes you rise in the morning, and gives you faith and hope, it is a good thing. You will find that most Buddhists believe this, and I have never heard of a buddhist arguing belief systems with anyone, while I have heard nearly every belief system argue with someone.

    Hope that makes sense... this is an interesting discussion, too bad others aren't joining.
  • 12-15-2005, 12:35 AM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?

    Exactly. Respect the individuality, not all.


    My view of religion is along the same lines: if it promotes peace, love, and unity, it's what our world needs.

    It is unfortunate however when religions seem to find a reason to attack others because of their religion.
  • 12-15-2005, 07:36 AM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?
    Here's the thing. When you are in retail, Christmas is the biggest $$ of the year. The majority of the people in the US celebrate Christmas. I'm not saying that there aren't other religions/celebrations at that time, but the largest percentage, is Christmas. Whether you are celebrating it as the birth of Jesus, or as the day Santa comes, or as a family gathering.

    When you own a store, the bottom line is profit, not political correctness. So for the longest time, the largest profit was brought in by gearing your store towards Christmas, starting the day after Thanksgiving. More recently, as other cultures/religions became more mainstream, it was time to rethink that. Can you afford, as a business owner, to exclude those who don't celebrate Christmas? Thus the switch to Happy Holidays. You can carry your diversified decorations, and it encompasses everything.

    Should these stores be banned because they say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Personally, I think whoever thought that up needs a smack in the head. Keep Christ in Christmas? Sure, you go ahead and do that at your home, and your store if own one. But be prepared to lose the business of those who celebrate other things.

    Frankly, I don't think this is a matter of the true meaning of Christmas to anyone but the people boycotting. The store owners didn't sit around and say "hey, I feel we are excluding African Americans and Jewish people by gearing our store towards "Christmas", I think we need to redo our decorations and advertising so that everyone feels welcome here and knows that we are aware of other religions besides our own"

    What they sat around saying was " how can we raise our profits this year?"

    Cynical? Perhaps. But we are a society based on money. Until we (as a country) become less commercial, we should appreciate Happy Holidays. We could be seeing advertising for Kwannukahmas.

    Personally, we celebrate Christmas. Are we unaware of other religions. No. But in our house, this is what we choose. Do I care how the stores market? Nope, not as long as they don't have someone standing outside throwing bags of poop at people who don't agree with them.

    Bottom line...it is all about the bottom line.
  • 12-15-2005, 09:30 AM
    Re: To Christmas or not to Christmas?

    I don't think you sound cynical at all. You're right, the bottom line in retail is profit. If that means saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" then which ever brings in the buck, that is what will be adopted. Obviously, if boycotts for not saying "Happy Kwannukahmas" threaten to hurt sales, then they are going to start saying "Happy Kwannukahmas" or "Feliz Navidad" or whatever it takes to get customers in their stores and buying their stuff. It's no secret that retailers lose money all year and only go into the black on the day after Thanksgiving. Hence the name, Black Friday.

    But to boycott a store for not putting your holiday's name in the advertisement seems like such a selfish act to me. If *I* were a Christian, I would be boycotting those stores as a political movement to bring awareness to the non-physical aspects of the holiday, and take the emphasis off of the consumer aspect. That would be much more important to me than insuring that the retailers include my religion in their advertising. But whatever makes them happy.

    It is an unfortunate aspect of the Capitalist culture that most of our actions are driven by... you guessed it! Capital. In a Humanitarian culture *Humans* would be the bottom line. In a Spiritual culture, the bottom line would be Spirit. But until we realign our motivations to create a culture that is beneficial for <i>everyone,</i> we will continue to live in a society in which the bottom for line for most is capital and as a result there is an increasing line between the "haves" and "have nots." Which, in the end, is not beneficial for anyone.

    All imo, of course :) Happy holidays.