I love Christmas. I mean, I've run across people in my life who decorate for Christmas way more than I do, and I've known people who plan their Christmas six months in advance, way before I do. I know a guy whose house decorations for Christmas put the local shopping centers to shame, and focused his whole year around Christmas. Maybe if you saw me, or saw my barely decorated little house, you wouldn't think so, but I love Christmas.
Christmas is unique among holidays in America. It has a very strong Christian tradition (well, duh!) as well as a very strong secular tradition, and I love them both. I love giving gifts to loved ones - and even total strangers. People in retail will tell you that Christmas often determines whether or not they stay in business. I'm sure you've noticed that news outlets report sales from the Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) as if they're reporting scores from a bowl game. Another part of the holiday is the annual struggle to "keep Christ in Christmas" and not overlook the spiritual side of the holiday. Did you know there is actually a court ruling that tells you how many reindeer (three) a holiday display must have to remain "sufficiently secular" to be legal to display on public property? If I have three reindeer on display, it's secular, but if it's only two and package of reindeer sausage, I'm obviously trying to convert you!
A 2006 Zogby poll showed that 95 percent of folks are NOT offended when they hear the words “Merry Christmas.” The real kicker is that 1 in 3 are actually very offended when the words “Happy Holidays” push out the phrase “Merry Christmas.” This should not come as a big surprise because another poll by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics showed that 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas.Some time ago, I must have filled out a survey or signed some stupid online petition or something, because I get junk mail from the American Family Association. I recently got an email asking me to boycott Dick's Sporting Goods because they won't prominently display "Merry Christmas". I'm not really offended by a store not having prominent "Merry Christmas" displays. People shouldn't go to stores for spiritual displays.
See, the reason I would go to Dick's is if they happen to have something I'm looking for as a gift and it's a great price. This is purely the secular celebration of Christmas; I'm not going there for spiritual reasons. I would prefer they used the phrase Merry Christmas, but I'm not offended by their not saying it. If they told me to "eat sh*t and die", you can bet I wouldn't go back, but if they're neutral about "Merry Christmas", I'm OK with that.
Here's where it gets a little dicey. If there was a Bass Pro or Cabela's in town (both of whom got an "A+" rating from the AFA for saying Merry Christmas a lot) and a Dick's Sporting Goods, I would go to the first two because I'd prefer to go to someone with comparable merchandise and comparable price that was friendlier to my spiritual side. It creates a more cozy environment and a smart retailer doesn't run off customers. But life in 21st century America is plenty hostile to Christianity and a "happy holidays" from a store just isn't worth getting all worked up over.
By the way, a mere five hours after the AFA email asking me to boycott Dick's, I got a second email canceling the boycott. They swear they're going to say Merry Christmas all the time.
As we plunge further into the Christmas season, take time to enjoy it and your loved ones. If you feel a need to get some perfunctory gift for folks you'd rather not give to, I say don't. That's some sort of bizarre social ritual, not Christmas. Don't put yourself in debt for Christmas; even if it means the kids get a "meager" holiday. It won't hurt them and may just help them. If you're one of the 45% who recently said they'd just as soon skip the whole thing - I say skip it. It's still a federal holiday, so you have that going for you.