There are plenty of reasons to want the festive, cheery holiday season to go on and on, but angry debate about saying "Merry Christmas!" vs. "Happy holidays!" is not one of them. This year, it seems like the tension around the topic is at an all-time high. And sadly, both those who insist on Christmas being the one and only holiday acknowledged or others who want to keep season's greetings 100 percent secular 100 percent of the time are just plain wrong.
Take, for example, a recent upsetting incident in North Texas: Grace Academy students made Christmas cards for local bedridden veterans at the VA hospital in Dallas, thanking them for their service. But the teacher heading up the effort was told the hospital "can't accept anything that says ‘Merry Christmas' or ‘God bless you' or any scriptural references because of all the red tape.'" Oh dear.
According to the local FOX affiliate, an official with the VA later clarified the policy, which is in the Veterans Health Administration handbook, by stating the following:
In order to be respectful of our Veterans religious beliefs, all donated holiday cards are reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of staff led by Chaplaincy services and determined if they are appropriate (non-religious) to freely distribute to patients. After the review is complete, the holiday cards that reference religious and/or secular tones are then distributed by Chaplaincy Service on a one-on-one basis if the patient agrees to the religious reference in the holiday card donation. The holiday cards that do not contain religious and/or secular tones are distributed freely to patients across the Health Care System. We regret this process was not fully explained to this group and apologize for any misunderstanding.
What a bummer! For those poor kids and veterans! While I understand what the VA is trying to do here by respecting that veterans may be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, etc., I feel like this is a case where they're just going way too far for the sake of political correctness. Just like what reportedly happened at a Mississippi military base where soldiers were told their Christmas football event was to be called a "holiday football event." Oy! Even Lorne Michaels calls SNL's annual holiday show a "Christmas Special." And that's FINE!
Here's the thing ... As much as we want to try to make it one, this issue is not black and white. Public organizations shouldn't be banning mentions or greetings of Christmas! But at the same time, they should and can be sensitive to the fact that not everyone is Christian. As a Jewish American, I definitely appreciate inclusive, secular season's greetings that don't assume the recipient is Christian. But I would never begrudge anyone wanting to wish me or a veteran or anyone for that matter a "Merry Christmas!" It's a lovely sentiment!
What it boils down to: We shouldn't care what the specific greeting is, as long as it's about spreading cheer, good will, love, and not forcing religious beliefs on others. That's what this time of year and all the holidays that fall in December are supposed to be about anyway.
What do you think about what happened here with the children's Christmas cards for veterans? Do you say "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," or both?
Image via theogeo/Flickr