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The Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas Controversy:

Co-bloggers Eric Posner and Eugene Volokh have written learned, insightful posts on whether or not it is offensive to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" to people who aren't Christian. My own view is that the whole issue is vastly overblown. As Eugene often reminds us with respect to other issues, it's usually a good policy to avoid getting offended without a very compelling reason. There is no such thing here.

Non-Christians shouldn't take offense because some casual acquiantance wishes them "Merry Christmas." It's pretty unlikely that this is a serious attempt at conversion or an effort to put down atheism or non-Christian religions. By the same token, Christians and political conservatives shouldn't take offense if someone says "Happy Holidays." It's fairly certain that this isn't an effort to denigrate Christmas; nor is it PC hypersensitivity. Despite Bill O'Reilly's fulminations about the supposed "War Against Christmas," the position of Christmas and Christianity more generally are quite secure in American society. Just go to any shopping mall or workplace holiday Christmas party if you doubt it.

There is more than enough genuine religious prejudice in the world that we shouldn't invent bogus reasons to take offense. When it comes to this particularly pseudo-controversy, we would all be better off if everyone would just lighten up.

Baseballhead (mail):
Finally! A clear and reasonable view on this so-called controversy. Thanks, Prof. Somin, and happy holidays!
12.27.2008 4:41pm
byomtov (mail):
When it comes to this particularly pseudo-controversy, we would all be better off if everyone would just lighten up.

Absolutely correct.
12.27.2008 4:41pm
Melancton Smith:
I prefer to say "Happy Holidays" as I'm areligious myself and don't want to presume. I do say "Merry Christmas" to those I know celebrate it and prefer either myself.

To those I know are practicing Jews, I say "Happy Hannukah". If they prefer Chanukah I'm sorry.

I think too many these days are too quick to take offense. Relax.

That said, I do agree with O'Reilly regarding the "War on Christmas". That is, that it does exist.

I used to consider myself an atheist, but no more. Atheism has turned into a crusade against religion. While I'm not religious and am willing to debate those who are on various topics, I see no need to try to turn anyone away from their chosen faith.

Atheism is NOT a religion. It is the lack of religion. I am unware of any holidays that it celebrates. I see no reason why they should be given space with religious holiday displays. Religious holiday displays are positive and joyful things that celebrate a holiday enjoyed by members of the faith.

The displays that the Atheists put up when allowed are nothing more than attacks on religion. If Atheism is to be considered a religion and we must allow them a display space, it should be empty, reflecting their belief in nothing.

Perhaps then they can spend time developing a positive set of messages and guiding principals that are more than simply denials of the beliefs of others.
12.27.2008 4:46pm
Melancton Smith:
Of course some might take offense to my having misspelled "Hanukkah" above. Sorry.

I didn't mean to single out only Christianity and Judaism. I work with many Indians (from India) who celebrate Dewali and give them a "Happy Diwali". I have only known one Muslim that I knew celebrated Ramadan so I'm not familiar with whether "Happy Ramadan" is a greeting that suits the occasion and have not used it.

I'm also not aware of anyone I know that celebrates Kwanzaa, so have not had the opportunity to wish them a "Happy Kwanzaa".
12.27.2008 4:52pm
Curt Fischer:

Melancton Smith: Atheism is NOT a religion. It is the lack of religion.


Really? But somebody told me once that if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
12.27.2008 4:54pm
LM (mail):

There is more than enough genuine religious prejudice in the world that we shouldn't invent bogus reasons to take offense. When it comes to this particularly pseudo-controversy, we would all be better off if everyone would just lighten up.

Hear, hear.
12.27.2008 5:25pm
Golem:
I would feel hurt, sad, and perhaps offended, if a fellow Jew greeted me with "Merry Christmas."

Otherwise, I have no problem with "Merry Christmas."
12.27.2008 5:26pm
Allan (mail):
Here's wishing you a seasonally appropriate sentiment.
12.27.2008 5:33pm
lucklucky (mail):
"Despite Bill O'Reilly's fulminations about the supposed "War Against Christmas,"

So there aren't Christmas trees and other decorations that stopped being displayed because it might "offend" someone?
And a disgusting object with a cross is Art but with any of other religions it is offensive?
12.27.2008 5:36pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
If Atheism were a religion, I would be against it.
12.27.2008 5:42pm
Oren:
luckylucky, I recall some pieces of art involving disgusting objects and other religious iconography too.

NSFW link NSFW (possibly, this picture would be fine in my workplace).

NSFW link NSFW.
12.27.2008 5:49pm
Patrick216:
Outside of family and personal friends, I was not wished a Merry Christmas ONCE this year. Even the Salvation Army bell-ringers wished me a Happy Holidays. Christmas decorations are unheard of in public spaces anymore, and even in shopping malls and so forth, the Christmas decorations were much more ... understated this year than in years past.

I made a point this year of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas unless I know or suspected the person was Jewish or atheist. I got a lot of very positive feedback along the lines of "wow, I didn't realize people still wished others a Merry Christmas!" I hope Merry Christmas goes back into style.
12.27.2008 5:51pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Why is this about atheism being a religion or not? The fact it is fairly clearly a category of religious thought but to call it a religion is to adopt very loose standards as to what qualifies (by the same criteria, Christianity, Islam, Zurvanism, and the Sikh religion would all be sects of Monotheism, but this is probably not a very useful statement).

However, I agree with Prof. Somin on this, and I am not a Christian (though context does matter to some extent). Well wishes are well wishes and I will take them where I find them.

Besides as I have pointed out, I can't find ONE element of the seasonal festivities which is genuinely and originally Christian, so why should I be offended. It is not as if they are REALLY asking me to attend Christ's Mass or anything....
12.27.2008 5:56pm
ASlyJD (mail):
I was tutoring a Jewish teenager (SAT prep) a few years ago in the spring. We had to rearrange our meeting schedule due to some family coming into town for a meal. I quickly improved, "May you have a meaningful Passover."
12.27.2008 6:05pm
LN (mail):
Why is there so much disrespect directed towards our Lord and Savior Santa Claus?
12.27.2008 6:12pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Luckylucky:

So there aren't Christmas trees and other decorations that stopped being displayed because it might "offend" someone?


Personally I find the whole debate over Christmas Trees to be rather amusing. I have tried to construct a case tying the practice to Christianity and even despite the St Boniface story, the symbolism is FAR more at home in pagan traditions.

Let's see:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly: Probably a copy of Roman religious practices decorating houses with laurel wreaths.

Burning yule logs? Germanic pagan religious practices

Christmas Trees? Origin obscure, may have started as a rebellion against the church based on some confusion relating to older practices.

Giving gifts? Germanic tradition for Yule

Feasting? Yule, also common among other Indo-European traditions for just about any festival.

Santa Claus? Imagery seems to have some Germanic pagan elements, but heavily commercialized by Coca Cola Corp. Probably has more in common with Old Nick than Saint Nick ;-)

Mistletoe? probably British/Celtic but see the similarities to the Icelandic story of the death of Baldr.

December 25? Mithra's Birthday (Persian, adopted by Romans)

Spending time with family and social unit? core element of Germanic Yule celebrations.

12 days? Germanic

Christianity just amagamated a lot of stuff together and tried to add their own message to it (peace on earth, etc). The core of the practices though are pretty much entirely pagan.
12.27.2008 6:22pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
LN:

Why is there so much disrespect directed towards our Lord and Savior Santa Claus?


Santa Claus is another name for Old Nick, right? ;-)
12.27.2008 6:23pm
Jerry F:
The War on Christmas is very real.

Take Google, for example. This year they did special holiday logos for such important holidays as the anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest (May 29), the 125th Birthday of Walter Gropius (May 18) and Alexander Graham Bell's birthday (March 3). Yet no acknowledgent of Christmas on December 25 other than a generic holiday logo.

http://www.google.com/holidaylogos.html

Of course most example of a company or government entity waging a War on Christmas seems insignificant in itself; the larger point is that there are dozens or hundreds of such examples.

And I would think that the election of an atheist (albeit not an open atheist) to the White House would undermine the view that Christianity is still secure in America.
12.27.2008 6:28pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Jerry F:

Why should businesses seek to be agents of religious outreach?

Furthermore, this may just be my studies talking but it seems to me that most of the symbols of Christmas are really pagan in origin and are strictly secular.

Would you be happier if the secular elements were more emphasized (yule logs, christmas trees, etc)? Or do you feel that the real problem is all of us non-Christians about enjoyin' the full rights and privileges of the First Amendment?

Do you go to Christ's Mass at your local Catholic Church? If not, do you object to naming the holiday after Catholic religious services?
12.27.2008 6:36pm
krs:
There is more than enough genuine ... prejudice in the world that we shouldn't invent bogus reasons to take offense.

Good advice that lots of people would do well to follow.
12.27.2008 6:40pm
CDR D (mail):
This "controversy" is just silly.

If someone addresses me with any style of polite greeting, I will smile and respond in kind.

If someone flips me the 'jake', I will not smile, but I will respond in kind.

Otherwise, I just mind my own business and do not look for trouble.
12.27.2008 7:00pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Christmas isn't even a Christian holiday.

It's a pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice. The fir tree represents a penis (it's big, tall, and pointed up top). Pagans were into celebrating phallic symbols.

Jesus was born at a different time of year, so it can't be his birthday.

If you're going to worship something, a giant penis is about as cool as it gets.

The Easter bunny is another Pagan symbol--of the goddess of fertility.

The Onion was dead-on when it parodied Easter by showing an image of the Easter bunny being crucified. There's one star in Christianity--Jesus. Santa and the Easter Bunny are about as Christian as the Tooth Fairy.

If someone thinks she's sticking up for Jesus by wishing me a Merry Christmas--well, that's two delusions she's laboring under*

* Christmas, and Christianity.
12.27.2008 7:09pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Daryl Herbert:

You are wrong. Generally the oak tree is considered to be particularly phallic. However, among Indo-European peoples, there is a close connection between the tree, the human, and the world.

In Greek myth, Zeus creates humans out of ash trees.

In Germanic myth, Odin, Hoenir, and Lothurr (in Voluspa), or Odin, Vili, and Ve (in Shorra Edda) create man and woman out of an ash tree and another tree (possibly elm, possibly a vine, possibly something else, "embla" is obscure in origin).

In Greek myth, sometimes people are turned into trees. Then there is the reference to Odysseus not being from the proverbial tree ("dru," ordinarily translated as "oak" from Greek) and rock, a poetic formula with Avestan parallels, suggesting a likely Indo-European origin.

Also see the sacred olive tree on the Athenian Acropolis which stood for Athens itself. Compare this to Barnstock in the Volsung Saga, and to the tribe-trees in Irish myth.

Similarly there is a strong isomorphism between the person, the society, the world, and the tree. This is found across Celtic, Greek, Roman, and Vedic cultures. One also sees an idea of spiritual attainment found through an ordeal on or under the tree (compare Odin's hanging on the tree to Buddha's meditation).

So the tree is a metaphor for higher order generally, and this references personal, social, and universal aspects. Since there is isomorphism generally in time cycles, then the evergreen tree shows continuity of life in death, life through Ragnarok, and continuity through the winter.

I am not saying there were not a lot of phallic elements to older pagan religions. I am just saying this is not one of them.
12.27.2008 7:22pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
For example, if you want to point out phallic elements, look to the Freyr Statue. I assume the picture, given its archeological significance is safe for work, but that is probably up to your boss..... To note, the statue is ithyphallic.

I don't think the agricultural/fertility deities like Freyr were strongly represented in Yule festivities. More likely Odin, Thorr, Ullr, and the like.
12.27.2008 7:35pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Darryl: I have spent a great deal of time on researching tree themes in myth and I could probably write a book on the subject. As it is, my forthcoming book on Runes, Divination, and Magic has an entire chapter devoted to the Norse ideas of the World Tree.

If you would like me to go into more depth on any of my assertions, I can give you as much depth as you like.

On Easter, though, there are some questions about rabbit symbolism that I haven't been able to answer. Popularly people tend to assume that it is emblematic of Freya (a fertility goddess) but thus far I haven't found any strong reason to think so, thus perhaps the meaning lies in another culture? The dyed eggs are easier to interpret, though, and it is quite clear that the rabbit, like the eggs, are fertility spirits.
12.27.2008 7:44pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Correction (meant to hit preview, hit post).

I mean to say it was clear that the easter bunny and the eggs were fertility symbols, not spirits.
12.27.2008 7:44pm
CDR D (mail):
Wow.

Phalli, cranks, and fertility symbols.

I had no idea about the "roots" of our holidays.

Hmmm..

Next time someone offers a "holiday" greeting, maybe I should just unzip my fly.
12.27.2008 8:07pm
therut (mail):
The fact that we even discuss such things tells us something about the whole situtation. How many years do you have to go back (not many) when such a discussion would seem unbelieveable. What has changed????
12.27.2008 8:29pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
CDR D:

I am saying the Christmas tree is not a phallic symbol but rather a symbol of human/social/universal order and its continuity through death/winter/universal destruction in pagan times.

BTW, I seem to recall a line like "Thrust it in, oh men, the phallus" from the Vedic Soma sacrifices, suggesting some sexual element to immortality in early Indian thought, but once again, the presence of phallic symbols does not mean that every symbol is a phallic symbol.....
12.27.2008 8:31pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):

What's this empire coming to?

Now they want us to stop greeting people with "Io Saturnalia!" "We
have all these different cultures in Rome," they tell us. "We
shouldn't offend anyone," they tell us, "We've got to be inclusive."

We've got the barbarians from the north with their tree decorations
and their fire rituals. And the weirdos from Gaul, cutting mistletoe
with a golden sickle. And the Mithraists, the Zoroastrians, the Isis
cults, and, of course, those characters who hang out in the catacombs.
"Hail, Winter!" we're supposed to say now.

I ask you, what next: we lose the feast? We stop the Solstice
parties? No more honoring Ops, goddess of abundance?

I was buying some greenery down by the Forum the other day, and
there's old Macrobius with some Visigoth chick, and she goes, "Gut
Jule." And I go, "Hey! In this country, we say, Io, Saturnalia!
Maybe you should go back to where you came from." Then Macrobius
goes, "She can't, she's a slave."

Whatever.

At this time of year, the Visigoths sacrifice a pig and burn a special
log that they dance around, instead of acting like normal people and
going to the temple of Saturn.

I swear, I was at this party over at Septima Commodia's house the
other day. She always has a Saturnalia party. Anyway, she decorated
the place with prickly green leaves. "It's holly," she said, "The
latest fashion from Brittania. They all do it in Londinium."

It gets worse.

She had this statue of some goddess from Ultima Thule or somewhere,
name of Frigga, sitting right there on the dining room mensa. I mean,
this is darned near blasphemous. I'd be scared about what the lares
and penates would do if I put that thing in my house. But Septima
Commodia just said, "Oh get over it! We're cosmopolitan here."
Cosmopolitan. That's what they call it.

Well, by Jupiter, I live in Latium. I'm a Roman. And this empire was
founded on the principle that the gods, our gods, must be honored at
the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. None of this foreign
heretical nonsense or these strange customs from Germania or Hibernia
or Palestine. I say, "Io, Saturnalia!" and if you don't like it, you
can leave.

~ by Diane Roberts

It's from an NPR radio broadcast, the link below lets you listen to it.

http://www.npr. org/templates/ story/story. php?storyId= 5060356
12.27.2008 9:06pm
Bleepless:
"Fulminations" are strongly-expressed opinions with which one disagrees. This sneering term is used exclusively by those who hope their audiences will not consider such opinions on their merits.
12.27.2008 9:11pm
Sarcastro (www):

What has changed????

I also don't like change!!!! It's almost always bad!!!! Were we not at our best in 1950????

I blame physics for only allowing time to go one way!!!!
12.27.2008 9:18pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"The fact that we even discuss such things tells us something about the whole situtation. How many years do you have to go back (not many) when such a discussion would seem unbelieveable. What has changed????"

The reality is that O'Reilly et al just have too much money/fundraising riding on the issue to "lighten up." This is a business to them, not a principle. They saw the rise of non-believers as a valuable opening to make some cash and smack down anyone that dares raise legitimate church/state issues by the same token. Just how the game today is played.
12.27.2008 9:29pm
WASP:
What has changed????

You ask that on an internet forum?

Me, I blame discussion, things are always better when they are not discussed.
12.27.2008 9:39pm
gran habano:
Ahhhhhhhhh, SHADDAPPP, Somin.

No need for you to lecture us on what we "shouldn't" be offended over, nor for you to express your fair certainty as to absolutely EVERYBODY'S intent re a greeting they might use.

At least the other 2 guys spent some time dissecting this thing with minimal presumption... you seem to think you've got it figured out for the lot of us.

If your standard is the rest of the world's, re this or anything else, then you'll likely have some pretty low standards oftentimes. Pardon us if we decide for ourselves what we think important enough to debate.
12.27.2008 9:43pm
traveler496:
Bleepless said:
"Fulminations" are strongly-expressed opinions with which one disagrees. This sneering term is used exclusively by those who hope their audiences will not consider such opinions on their merits.

Bleepless, that's an overstatement. I'm one counterexample: I agree w/ Ilya that O'Reilly's statements deserve the label "fulminations," but I also hope my audience will consider his statements on their (scant) merits.

I'd go further and assert that everyone should consider every statement on its merits, and give it "only that degree of credence which the evidence warrants" (Russell), but for fear of sounding too radical:-)
12.27.2008 9:56pm
Ricardo (mail):
If there really is a war on Christmas, it seems to me the start of this war would have been when the relatively minor festival of Hannukah began to acquire great significance since it falls around the same time of the year as Christmas. The problem for O'Reilly and company is that railing against the Jews fell out of favor a long time ago so they have to blame this supposed "war" all on "secular humanists" and atheists.
12.27.2008 10:38pm
Crickets_chirping:
Why is everyone on this blog so comfortable in telling people what should and shouldn't offend them?

Is this the way you guys behave with your friends and family members? Your brother-in-law or law school roommate tells you you offended them, and your response is to deliberate on whether or not he has good reason for his feeling of offense?

Me, I apologize -- and feel I've learned something about my relative/friend and/or myself.
12.27.2008 11:41pm
Ken Arromdee:
Your brother-in-law or law school roommate tells you you offended them, and your response is to deliberate on whether or not he has good reason for his feeling of offense?

Social customs require that we respect a certain amount of unreasonable behavior from family members. That does ot make it cease being unreasonable behavior.
12.27.2008 11:53pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ln:

Why is there so much disrespect directed towards our Lord and Savior Santa Claus?


Don't make fun of Santa's birthday.
12.28.2008 12:06am
Randy R. (mail):
Me, I make a point of saying and typing "Merry Xmas!" If anyone objects that I'm taking the Christ out of Christmas, I remind them that Xmas was create several hundred years ago because X is the first letter in a greek word that means messiah. So the X is actually honoring the fact that Jesus was not just a man, but a messiah sent to save mandkind.

That usually has them in fits because they can't believe that O'Reilly would actually lie to them about such a simple subject. So then I remind that O"Reilly and Fox News is indeed lying to them. That usually stops the conversation dead.
12.28.2008 12:15am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Randy R:

You mean you don't hand them a copy of the OED and tell them to look it up? ;-)

I think the earliest version of Xmas we have is the late Middle English X'temmas.
12.28.2008 1:29am
LM (mail):
einhverfr

I think the earliest version of Xmas we have is the late Middle English X'temmas.

The OED also cites early usages of "XP", as in "Xpian." Which makes me wonder why by now we're not calling it Vistamas.
12.28.2008 2:10am
Oregon 2L (mail):
I used to get offended by "Merry X-mas." But hear me out --- I think I was justified:

I'm Jewish, and grew up in New York. It's a different world over there --- public schools would let out for Jewish holidays.

At 12 years old, my family moves to Indiana. For the first time in my life, strangers everywhere are saying, "Merry X-Mas". Usually at stores. I'd sometimes say, "I'm not Christian." It was annoying, and I felt apart; it highlighted to me my not being a part of that society.

I began college in Indiana as well, and there were pervasive and loud speakers and pamphleters proselytizing on a continuous basis.

When I moved to Oregon, I still had a chip on my shoulder about it. But that was 8 years ago; yesterday, a stranger said Merry Christmas to me for the first time I can remember in a while. I said Merry Christmas back. It struck me as funny that they would do that, not knowing if I was Christian, but that was the extent of my reaction now.
12.28.2008 3:20am
Melancton Smith:
Ricardo bloviated:

If there really is a war on Christmas, it seems to me the start of this war would have been when the relatively minor festival of Hannukah began to acquire great significance since it falls around the same time of the year as Christmas. The problem for O'Reilly and company is that railing against the Jews fell out of favor a long time ago so they have to blame this supposed "war" all on "secular humanists" and atheists.


Except that we aren't talking about mere holiday observance competition but suppression of holiday observance.

Ya don't like it...start a cult. In 2000 years even you might be worshipped.
12.28.2008 3:21am
Melancton Smith:
Crickets Chirping wrote:

Why is everyone on this blog so comfortable in telling people what should and shouldn't offend them?

Is this the way you guys behave with your friends and family members? Your brother-in-law or law school roommate tells you you offended them, and your response is to deliberate on whether or not he has good reason for his feeling of offense?

Me, I apologize -- and feel I've learned something about my relative/friend and/or myself.


People are welcome to be offended at whatever they desire...they are also welcome to keep it to themselves...and out of the courts.
12.28.2008 3:25am
Cheery Grinch (mail):
If somebody greets me with "Merry Christmas", I wish them "Happy Holidays" (I do use "and a Joyous Kwanzaa to you!" occasionally because it is usually more effective), and if somebody wishes me "Happy Holidays", I return a cheerful "Merry Christmas to ya!" right back.
12.28.2008 3:28am
Cheery Grinch:
Could moderators please remove my email from the previous post? I had added it in the belief that email was required for posting, and would not be displayed. Thank you for your help, and I apologize for imposing!
12.28.2008 3:29am
LM (mail):

Except that we aren't talking about mere holiday observance competition but suppression of holiday observance.

Who's been prevented from observing the holiday of their choice?
12.28.2008 3:53am
Lucius Cornelius:
Golem:


I would feel hurt, sad, and perhaps offended, if a fellow Jew greeted me with "Merry Christmas."


Hmmmm....I am a secular Jew and I rarely find myself at Jewish functions anymore. About the only time I know I am surrounded by Jews is when I am with my family. So I could see saying "Merry Christmas" to someone and not remember that they are Jewish. Of course, I also sometimes get names mixed up even with people I know.
12.28.2008 9:42am
Federal Dog:
Having worked for decades in universities where everyone is offended at everything, I have had ample occasion to contemplate what it does and does not mean. In reality, people are not offended at all: That claim is social subterfuge designed to mask bad conduct that would otherwise be widely and rightly condemned.

When people scream offense, they are simply engaging in bald-faced aggression: They hate something or someone, and are venting that hatred. Because indulging in animosity and attack would normally cause others to condemn the attacker's lack of maturity and emotional self-control, that person must find a way of repackaging aggression to evade social censure.

Offense is the way aggression is repackaged to make it socially acceptable. If the attacker is not really an attacker, but, rather, a victim of someone else'e offense, the attack becomes a victim's exercise of virtue, speaking out against some imagined outrage. The attacker, now repackaged as a victim speaking truth to power, may now not only indulge in wholesale aggression and abuse, but (s)he also escapes censure for obviously antisocial and emotionally imbalanced behavior.

Hence the advice to forego meaningless offense is doomed to fail: Meaningless offense is not meaningless when it is a ticket to narcissistic self-indulgence that would otherwise be socially condemned.
12.28.2008 10:07am
William Oliver (mail) (www):

Mr. Somin, you beg the question. The Christian position is not that there's something inherently wrong about wishing "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." It's about the concerted effort to obliterate the word Christmas from the public sphere by taking offence every time someone says it.

It's not about my neighbor choosing to say Happy Holidays. Who cares. It's about clerks at stores being fired for saying the word "Christmas" or wearing a pin that contains the word. It's about Principles banning the word in schools and suspending students for saying it. It's about secularists declaring that "Merry Christmas" is "hate speech," or, as Tom Flynn writes, that Christians have "hijacked" the season and "[Americans] need to recognize that a war of sorts is genuinely in progress, a war to redefine American life...and it is desperately important that non-Christians win."

For Christians to sit back and do nothing is silent agreement with this attitude. As Plato wrote "The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." That is true with these kinds of debates as well.

It is simply incorrect to pretend that Christians should sit by and watch their religion be slowly banned and say nothing about it. "Merry Christmas" is not hate speech, and it should not be banned, and those who care should not sit idly by and let it happen.
12.28.2008 10:37am
Allan (mail):
Anybody interested in the etymology of "holiday"?
12.28.2008 11:26am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Allan:

Interested in the etymology of "Holy?" That is an interesting one...... Turns out to share a root with "Health."
12.28.2008 12:27pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
William Oliver:

It's about clerks at stores being fired for saying the word "Christmas" or wearing a pin that contains the word. It's about Principles banning the word in schools and suspending students for saying it. It's about secularists declaring that "Merry Christmas" is "hate speech," or, as Tom Flynn writes, that Christians have "hijacked" the season and "[Americans] need to recognize that a war of sorts is genuinely in progress, a war to redefine American life...and it is desperately important that non-Christians win."


Regarding clerks being fired, I think a lot of this is extremely contextual. If simply saying "Merry Christmas" without any other contextual elements is enough to be fired, nobody should want to work at such stores. However, if the clerk is wearing a pin saying "Jesus is the reason for the season" and refuses to take it off for work then this borders on religious outreach work which has NO place in the interaction with customers, and a clerk would be very rightly fired, as would clerks who insisted on wearing their political affiliations on their sleeves.....

However, I SINCERELY thank you for the fact that I am fairly sure you have honored my heathen traditions in your holy days through bringing a little bit of Yggdrassil into your house, decorating your house with branches of evergreen trees, and so forth in obvious contravention of the teachings of both the Bible (for example, Jeremiah 10:2-4) and the early Church fathers like Tertullian. It is nice to see that my heathenry is included in your religious festival.
12.28.2008 12:38pm
Allan (mail):
I really get torqued when the calendrists wish me a Happy New Year.
12.28.2008 1:35pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Allan:

Here is your full etymology for Holiday.

From OE haligdæg, halig (see holy) + dæg (see day).

Holy from OE halig from Pgmc: *khailagas (cf. O.N. heilagr, Ger. heilig, Goth. hailags "holy"). Appears to be from PIE *kailo- which is the root of various words for whole, health, and holy. Interestingly enough also the root of the following feminine names: Helga and Olga.

Day from OE dæg, from PGMC *dagaz (day). From here there seems to be some disagreement. My OED suggests *dhegh meaning "to burn" as the root here, but Watkins (American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots) draws it from a prefixed form of *agh meaning "day."

So does it mean "burning Olga?" ;-)
12.28.2008 1:59pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I completely agree with Ilya.

I would ask Jerry F. exactly why he thinks Obama is an atheist, but I have a feeling the answer would not increase the happiness of my holidays.
12.28.2008 2:33pm
LM (mail):
JS, nor your knowledge.
12.28.2008 2:38pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Allan:

I really get torqued when the calendrists wish me a Happy New Year.


I get really Torc'd for my New-Year celebrations. I can't afford a torc made of gold though....
12.28.2008 2:58pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
"Why is there so much disrespect directed towards our Lord and Savior Santa Claus?"

An elderly fellow who stalks children around the world? "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake"?
12.28.2008 3:04pm
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
einhverfr

Golden Torc a Simon R. Green reference?
12.28.2008 7:28pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I hope that like the Boy Scouts of America, the Keep the Christ in Christmas folks get what they want, and Christmas is properly recognized as the religious holiday it is. Those who celebrate it will be tolerated and they are welcome to do so, but keep it out of my government.

And I would think that the election of an atheist (albeit not an open atheist) to the White House would undermine the view that Christianity is still secure in America.

Should we conclude that religions other than Christianity are insecure in America?
12.28.2008 8:41pm
Yankev (mail):
einhverfer, the comment period expired on theother thread, but in reply to your question


Every Jewish source I have ever read about Jewish views of the Messiah seem to suggest that the story-line was largely to perpetuate the influence that Cyrus had on Israel. Would you agree that Cyrus manifested patterns of "the Messiah" in his day from a Jewish perspective? Are there modern parallels?

We must be reading different Jewish sources. Nothing in Rambam (Maimonides as the pagans call him, for one, would support tht view, and certainly Jeremiah, Exzekiel and Isaiah predate Cyrus. Being Persian, Cyrus was not descended from the tribe of Judah, let alone the royal house of David, which means he misses one of the major qualifications for the job.

Also reply here to Dr. Weevil for the same reason:

Was 'Christos' used to mean Messiah when devout Jews wrote in Greek?
I don't know. I am not aware of any major Jewish religious works written in Greek. In general they were (and continue to be) written in Hebrew, although the Gemara is primarily in Aramaic. A few works were written in Judeo-Arabic, but these were intended largely for laymen. Popular works in English today (e.g. the Artscroll series) tend to use the translitered Moshiach of the Anglicised version messiah. My guess is that even in Greek, devout Jews would probably avoid the term krystos so as not to create any confusion between (a) the messiah and that certain man who claimed to be, and between (b) the Jewish concept of the messiah as human being and the Christian concept of messiah as divine or demi-god.
12.28.2008 10:33pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
"However, I SINCERELY thank you for the fact that I am fairly sure you have honored my heathen traditions in your holy days through bringing a little bit of Yggdrassil into your house..."

Cute. In fact, I used to be a pagan, so your attempt to be snarky is a little off.

What I did *not* do is try to get someone fired for not hiding their religious beliefs as if it were pornography. I didn't get my underwear in a knot because a pagan friend of mine offered me a happy solstice. Unfortunately, the aggresive antichristians aren't willing to return the courtesy.

In fact, it doesn't bother me if someone wears a religious symbol other than my own, even if they are a cashier. It's unfortunate that you feel obligated to try to get anybody who does fired.
12.28.2008 10:54pm
Tracy W (mail):
Is this the way you guys behave with your friends and family members? Your brother-in-law or law school roommate tells you you offended them, and your response is to deliberate on whether or not he has good reason for his feeling of offense?
Me, I apologize -- and feel I've learned something about my relative/friend and/or myself.


Well yes. For a start, a number of my relatives are inherent teasers. If I immediately apologised whenever they claimed to be offended, they would claim to be offended by everything just to see how far they could push me.
Secondly, a non-zero number of my relatives who aren't practical jokers have very conflicting views about life. For example, some of my relatives would be offended if I voted for a particular party, others of my relatives would be offended if I didn't vote for the same party. It's impossible at the same election to both vote and not vote for a political party (it may be possible to illegally vote for multiple politcal parties, of course). It's impossible to live my life in a way that would avoid offending at least one of my relatives, and I don't see any reason to apologise for making up my own mind about who to vote for.

Always apologising whenever someone claims to be offended is only a useful approach if you only have relatives and friends who are sensible, whose sense of humour does not include teasing, and who never have conflicting values. As I don't, I have to deliberate as to whether or not any particular reason for offense is good or not.

I don't even always feel that I learned something, after about the first three dozen times I've heard Great Uncle Fred's views on matter X, I think I am justified in feeling that each occasion in which he expresses his views on matter X contains no new information about either him or me. (Fred is not the uncle's name, by the way).
12.29.2008 6:16am
Melancton Smith:
Dave Hardy wrote:

An elderly fellow who stalks children around the world? "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake"?


That does beg the question, how does he know and will telco's have immunity?
12.29.2008 3:30pm

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