It's that time of year again. My favorite time of year. Christmas. You know, the holiday we atheists are trying to wage a war on. But oddly enough, I have no interest in waging war on Christmas, and I think if you talked to most atheists, they would feel more or less the same.
If you live in America, you probably grew up with Christmas in one way or another. But to the dismay of many Christians, the holiday itself has virtually nothing to do with Christ. Almost everything you think of when you think "Christmas" has little or nothing to do with Christianity. Christmas trees, for example, have their roots in paganism, as do the yule log and most of the other decorative aspects of Christmas. And how do Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus relate to Jesus? They don't. How do we know that Jesus was born on December 25th? We don't. In fact historians pretty much agree that he wasn't, if he even existed at all, which is a debate for another time.
But the main crux of the outcries over the "War on Christmas" is the reluctance of us secular progressives to solely use the term "Merry Christmas" when sending greetings to others at this time of year. What they don't seem to get, is that Jesus really isn't the reason for the season. Winter holidays existed long before the time of Jesus, and it was about gathering with family to celebate and get a break from the hard, cold, dark winter. In essence, that's what we're all really still celebrating.
I have no problem with saying "Merry Christmas" to people, if I know for a fact that Christmas is what they're actually celebrating. However, if I'm talking to someone I don't know well, then I probably don't know if they're Jewish, or Muslim, or one of the other countless numbers of people who don't in fact celebrate Christmas in America. We are, after all, a melting pot of cultures. "Happy Holidays" is a safe, inclusive alternative to show that you respect whatever this time of year means to whoever you're addressing. Especially if you run a business, why would you want to potentially alienate a large number of your clientele just to prove some stupid point?
What really bothers me is the fact that these days, there are people who hurl the phrase "Merry Christmas" at you as though it's some kind of warning. As though they're trying to say, "We Christians are in charge here, and don't you forget it. And if you're not going to acknowledge that Christmas is the supreme holiday in America, then you should probably just leave." This sort of thing has happened to me more than once, because people assume that since I'm an atheist, I don't celebrate Christmas. When in fact, the only difference between the Christmas celebration at my house and the one at theirs is the absence of a nativity scene at mine. So they're really not offending me nearly as much as they hope they are.
It's all just nonsense. If you want to say "Merry Christmas" to total strangers, that's your business. But don't insist on painting the rest of us as thoughtless sheep for jumping on the "Happy Holidays" bandwagon. It's more than a politically correct phrase (which I know is a topic of never-ending frustration for conservatives). It's a term of inclusiveness; not a rejection of Christmas. The reason for the season is love, warmth, family and friends (and presents!), not just Jesus. And we should honor everyone at this time of year, not just Christians.