The Spokesman-Review

Opinion

Our View: Sentiment behind ‘merry Christmas’ is universal

To be honest, it’s a stretch to think these words will be widely read.

Not on Christmas, the day that alters behavior and dominates attention in America like nothing else. People are doing other things today.

That’s one reason editorial writers across the land scratch their scalps so earnestly every December, wondering what to say when no one is interested.

Another is that nagging issue – sensitivity.

Not everybody celebrates the rock star of holidays. Not everybody shares a Christian cultural heritage, although most Americans do.

So for most newspapers, most of their readers are immersed in gifts and trees and carols and turkey dinners and church pageants. And even if editorial page readership won’t rank on many Christmas Day agendas, the writers are determined to acknowledge the conspicuous reality that surrounds them.

But in a way that doesn’t seem overbearing and impolite to non-Christian readers.

As a society, we’ve managed the dilemma pretty clumsily. We’ve agonized over whether “happy holidays” is just a politely inclusive alternative to “merry Christmas” or a rude denial of the country’s fundamental faith structure. Public schools have converted Christmas vacation to winter break. Creches in the state Capitol trigger culture wars.

Sometimes, meanwhile, proclaimers of brotherly love curse anyone who openly doubts, even disputes, Christian belief.

At least those things seem to happen when the spotlights are on and the cameras are running. Other times we manage better. Devout Christians can give and receive “happy holidays” with cheer and sincerity. Many a non-Christian offers a hearty “merry Christmas.”

So, merry Christmas, happy holidays, “… and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Yes, those words are from the New Testament.

But the sentiment is universal.



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