Why Saying “Happy Holidays” Doesn’t Bother Me

Red and Green Christmas bulbsTis the season for the “Christmas Wars” in Western society. My Facebook feed is filled with Christians lamenting the attack on Christmas by the government, businesses, liberals and virtually everybody else.

And, of course, it is their responsibility to fight back in any way they can.

While it may be true to some extent that there is a “war” on Christmas, one phrase that usually becomes the rallying point among Christians is the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

It is seen as a more politically correct replacement for “Merry Christmas.” Some Christians will only shop at stores that require their employees to say “Merry Christmas.”

First, let me say I celebrate Christmas. And, I don’t care for forced multiculturalism that squeezes out American and European cultural history (which includes celebrating Christmas). However, I also recognize that in our secular country, not everybody is Christian, and if someone tells me “Happy Hanukkah” I’ll say thanks and wish them the same. To me, that is the decent and cool thing to do.

Now, let me say that as a Catholic, there are two reasons why I don’t mind “Happy Holidays” and even prefer it. 

First, we are in the Advent season; It isn’t Christmas until December 25th. When I wish someone “Happy Holidays” I mean that I hope they have a great Advent, and once it arrives, Christmas season. The only phrase that concisely says all of that is “Happy Holidays.” While stores that say it may not mean it this way, I think it fits.

Second, what does “holiday” mean? It means “holy day.” Even though the intention may be the opposite sometimes, when you are wished “Happy Holidays,” that includes a whole host of holy days, from St. Nicholas on December 6th  to Holy Family.

So, next time someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” instead of feeling as if you are being “attacked,” relax and let it be a reminder to enjoy the rich selection of holidays that we celebrate during this time of year.

Seven Reasons Christians Get Cranky At Christmas (And Why I Don’t Like It)

santatackChristmas is a time to joyfully celebrate the birthday of Christ. Yet, it is also a time for some Christians to get really cranky and nitpicky. And, of course, I have to read it all on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

It seems as if some people (including many Christians) aren’t happy unless they find something to be outraged over every day.

Below are some reasons people get cranky about Christmas. I provide links to more scholarly things related to each topic, since this article is more tongue-in-cheek.

1. Jesus Wasn’t Born on Christmas

Well, he could have been born on Christmas. There is a 1/365 chance at least. While he may have been born on December 25th, no Catholic or other Christmas-celebrating Christian that I know of has ever insisted the Christmas holiday was about Jesus’ actual birth date. In fact, his actual birth date doesn’t matter.

So, yeah, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be right: Jesus could have been born in the spring. Either way, his birth is celebrated on December 25th. And, most Christians are content to relax and enjoy a day set aside to commemorate his birth, even if we can’t produce the birth certificate. Maybe Donald Trump can us help find it. But, until then, December 25th will have to do, and billions of Christians throughout history have reverently done so on this day.

2. Don’t Call Christmas “Xmas!”

I address this is another post, but people need to relax and not get bent out of shape over a little “X” in a word. How dare liberals try to “X” out our Lord and Savior by removing his name from the word “Christmas?” How do you know it’s true? Well, your great aunt shared a meme on Facebook, that’s why!

As I mention in the link above, Xmas is a perfectly Christian abbreviation, and is in no way an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. Now, if someone calls Christmas “Christlessmas,” then you might want to get a little outraged.

3. Happy Holidays Subverts The Celebration Of Christmas

I can’t imagine how it must feel to get emotionally worked up over being told to have some happy holy days in your life, but some people see this as a chance to get angry and worked up. I can’t see Jesus getting too worked up over something like this, since he would have celebrated Hanukkah, so Happy Holidays seems appropriate.

I mention in this post that “Happy Holidays” is actually more reflective of the Catholic understanding of the Christmas and Advent seasons than is being told “Merry Christmas.” However, calmly realizing this fact is much less fun than getting worked up and sharing an outraged meme on Facebook about the subject.

4. Christmas And Its Customs Are Pagan.

Every so often I hear of people who refuse to celebrate Christmas because it is “pagan,” as if a day of the year can somehow be “pagan.” You better throw away your calendars, stop having bonfires, and take off your wedding rings if you are afraid of having “pagan influence” in your life.

It is funny how people who claim to want nothing to do with paganism are actually giving ancient pagan practices extreme power and authority. How? Well, let’s take the suggestion that a decorated evergreen tree can be pagan. By saying that, you are suggesting that once a pagan does something, nobody else can possibly do that thing ever again.

That’s like saying you can’t have a Caesar haircut because a pagan popularized it. Of course, now that I mention it here, some articles might soon be popping up about the “pagan origins of the Caesar cut.”

5. The Bible Doesn’t Mention Celebrating Christmas

The word “Christmas” doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the story of Jesus’ birth is definitely in there. And while, sure, the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate his birthday, it doesn’t tell us to celebrate a guy running an oblong leather ball into a big square on a painted field either, but I celebrate that every time the Cleveland Browns score a touchdown (which, of course, doesn’t happen often).

6. You Can’t Think About Christmas Until Advent Is Over

Starting in November, Christmas lights start going up and the local radio stations start playing Christmas music. Some Catholics get bent out of shape if you even mention the “C” word before December 25th, when Christmas technically begins.

While I think it is important to recognize Advent, in the United States especially, you can’t escape the reality that for most people, businesses, and homes, the celebration of secular Christmas is in full swing during Advent.

I tried locking myself in my home for nearly four weeks, or alternatively closing my eyes every time I drove by a house that had Christmas lights, but honestly, both ended badly (and painfully – at least for that mailbox).

7. Christmas Is Too Secular

Christmas is pretty secular. Most people celebrating it in America right now are likely do so in a way that focuses on presents, lights, and parties. However, in a society that is rapidly becoming non-Christian in its outlook, I can’t help but be grateful that at the very least people are celebrating Christmas, as opposed to just forgetting about it completely.

For at least one day a year, the majority of Americans and Europeans are celebrating something related to Christ. While this isn’t perfect, it is still something.

Besides, Catholics throughout history haven’t exactly kept every festival free of secular influences. There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying lights, giving and receiving presents, and going to parties. In fact, some of the best parties I have ever been to were thrown by Catholics.

So, the bottom line of this post is that I don’t like it when cranky Christians try to take the joy out of a joy-filled season.

Happy Holidays!

The Origins of “Xmas” And Why It Isn’t An Attack On Christmas

chirhojpgI wrote a few years ago about how I don’t mind the phrase “Happy Holidays,” and even prefer it.

This was in response to a slew of “I’m outraged” posts showing up on my Facebook feed during the Advent and Christmas seasons. I finally had enough of people complaining without thinking about the facts involved.

Well, another battle that many Christians seem happy to fight in the present “Christmas War” is the use of “Xmas” instead of Christmas.

While it is a little early, I know soon I’ll start seeing Facebook posts by Christians getting worked up over the use of “Xmas.”

Clearly, so say the Facebook posts and memes, replacing the word “Christ” with the letter “X” is a liberal conspiracy designed to attack Christ (probably led by Hillary Clinton), right?

Why would anybody replace the word “Christ” with an “X” unless they had bad intentions? How dare someone “X out” the name of our Lord? Or at least people using ‘Xmas’ are being lazy, right?

Actually, the opposite is true. Using “X” for Christ isn’t some modern liberal conspiracy. It goes back to an ancient Christian practice of abbreviating the name of Christ as “XR.”

The Greek word for Christ is “Christos,” which in Greek is spelled XRISTOS. The word starts with the Greek letter “Chi.” A very popular early Christian symbol for Jesus (way more popular than the cross even) was the “Chi-Rho” symbol, which looks like XR.

Xmas likely developed from this. While it may be slightly lazy, it isn’t an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.

Don’t Forget…There Is More Christmas To Come!

A poinsettia on the windowsill of a churchMost Americans I know are sad today, because all the hope, joy, and anticipation they experienced for the last month or more ended after Christmas dinner. The local radio station played Christmas music since October (which I thought was crazy), but at 11:59 PM yesterday, it was back to 80s and 90s easy-listening.

We ask people to work up to something and immediately we take it away. Fortunately, the Catholic Church has the answer. Technically speaking, Christmas didn’t end yesterday; it just began! We have until January 13th, the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, to continue celebrating Christmas. If you attend a Catholic Mass, you will notice that we just began singing Christmas carols yesterday, and will continue using them up through mid-January. The traditional “12 Days of Christmas” have just begun as well, and run until Epiphany. So, no matter how you slice it, Christmas is here for awhile longer.

So, keep the tree up. Keep listening to that Christmas music. Keep giving gifts and feeling festive.  And, keep celebrating the birth and incarnation of Jesus!

Happy Holidays From ChurchYear.Net

The Advent and Christmas seasons are a special time for Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christians. During this time of the year, we celebrate the entrance of the Son of God into human history, and the waiting related to it. While the Paschal Triduum has traditionally been the most important part of the Church Year (culminating with the celebration of Easter), Christmas has developed into an extremely important cycle of the liturgical year that many Christians cherish.

ChurchYear.Net has received over a million visitors this year alone, and as we have done for eight years, we provide our resources for free. We appreciate that you have chosen us to provide you (and your parishes, schools, etc) with reliable and accessible information about Christian and Catholic holidays. Please enjoy this 30-second video Christmas card that we have made, and have a Happy Holidays (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany):

Jesus Is The Reason For Every Season

A statue of JesusAround Christmas time, in the United States, we see buttons and bumper stickers with “Jesus is the reason for the season” printed on them. It is admirable that people want to remember that Christmas is ultimately about Jesus, although I admit I am not a huge fan of showy Christian items that seem more motivated by “making a point” than actual evangelization.

Nonetheless, I think Christmas is an example of the deep longing people have to celebrate and commemorate meaningful things.

Catholics and other liturgical Christians (such as Anglicans, Orthodox, Lutherans, etc) know that the entire year – every single day – is a part of sacred time. In other words, what many people get from Christmas is available all year long, if they would just open themselves to the liturgical year.

So, Jesus is the reason for every season…and there is a season or daily celebration all year.

Christmas Resources and Links at ChurchYear.Net

An electric candle in the windowTis the Advent season, but Christmas is coming quickly. Here at ChurchYear.Net we have a lot of Christmas resources that you will find helpful for planning worship services, leading family devotions, and teaching the true meaning of the holiday.

We are highlighting them here so you can take advantage of them. They are all free. We do ask that if you use them publicly, but non-commercially, you give us attribution. If you use them commercially, please contact us first.

All About Christmas

Christmas Prayers

Christmas Prayers of the Faithful

The Troparion, Kontakion, and Canon of the Nativity

From Our Basic Series: These are short and basic explanations of various Christmas-related things. They cover questions non-Christians and nominal Christians may have about the holiday.

What is the Christmas Tree?

The Santa-Jesus Connection

Is Santa Christian?

From ChurchYear.Net Answers: Here we answer frequently asked questions about the holy day

Are Red and Green Christmas Colors?

The Pope Doesn’t Hate Christmas

Image of Jesus and Mary from a Nativity SetThere has been some recent controversy over Pope Benedict’s new book, Infancy Narratives. Apparently, in it the pope tries to look at the infancy stories of Jesus from a historical point-of-view. The result is that some people began complaining the pope was trying to “cancel Christmas.”

What did the pope actually say? For one, he mentioned that Jesus was born closer to 4-6 B.C., which as far as I know, has never been controversial. Sure, it gets puzzled looks when I mention that Jesus was born 4 years “before Christ,” but this is a dating error and has little to do with our faith in Christ.

Next, the pope (correctly) mentions that a lot of the details of the Nativity scene would not have been present had you been there. Of course, anybody even remotely familiar with Scripture and Nativity scenes can figure this out. The Nativity scene is an artistic and devotional rendering of the hard facts with some other nice symbols built in. It kind of “jams together” various images.

A lot of this comes from the fact that the media doesn’t understand the Catholic approach to Scripture. The Church takes a moderately critical approach to the Bible. Pope Benedict isn’t expressing thoughts that haven’t been expressed and accepted for the last 20-30 years or more.