The “War on Christmas” …is there really such a thing?!
(originally posted in The Pawprint, December, 2010)
For the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about a “War on Christmas.” Now we know there are places in the world where people of one faith make war on people of other faiths, which is of course just horrible. But this argument says that people in America (and other similar countries) are trying to destroy Christmas, by saying things like “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays.” I have a very sensitive nose, you know, and this smelled kind of odd to me, so I went to check it out.
Now first, know that all dogs feel the same way about the holiday season – we love that there’s extra food around, dropping onto the floor, but we get lonely when our people leave us alone to visit family and friends. Beyond that, though, I like to just sit back and watch. Some people get so stressed out, driving crazy, worrying about everything, while others like Handsome just love the decorations, music, and spirit of giving that seems to come over the whole community.
In fact, Handsome tells me that the celebration of Christmas is bigger than ever. Decorations go up, stores start advertising, and even radio stations start playing carols earlier and earlier every year. Meanwhile, there’s certainly no lack of churches celebrating the religious side of Christmas. So what’s this “war” we keep hearing about?
Well, here’s what I’ve found. There is a very sad fact about animal nature. If you’re ever in a dog park and a fight starts, or even if one dog is beating up on another, you’ll see most of the pooches run to check it out. They don’t necessarily want to get into the fight, but they sure enjoy the excitement. Even if everything else in the park is just what they like.
Humans are the same way. If a thousand people are enjoying the mass-love-affair that is the holiday season, but one person says “Hey, that guy over there hates Christmas,” people will turn to listen to what she says. And since she likes the attention, she’ll keep it up. And some people will choose to believe her, and next thing you know, the happiest of holidays has become… well, a big stinking dog fight!
So here’s the real truth behind the “war on Christmas.” If you own a small business, you can say whatever you want to your customers. Maybe you know them personally and can say “Good morning Mrs. Wienerschnitzel, how was your nephew’s birthday party last week?” Great! But if you run a big chain of stores or restaurants, it’s impossible to be that personal. So in order to make your customers’ experience more pleasant, you might tell your employees to say certain things, all the time. “Welcome to Mutt Steak! May I take your order?” Stuff like that. And then in the holiday season, to be part of the festivities, you might add another greeting in. And because you have all sort of customers, that greeting’s got to be universal.
Now in regular life, it’s great to be greeted by everyone in their own way. Some people pat me on the head. Some people ask me to sit and shake their hand. Some give me a big hug. Great! I like to jump up and lick strangers right in the mouth, though Handsome tries to discourage that.
So, similarly, if a person wants to greet me with “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Hanukkah,” or “Joyous Kwanza,” or “Blessed Eid,” or “Groovy Solstice,” or “Hey, cold enough for ya?!” it’s all fine by me. But the people who run those big companies just can’t tell their employees to say one of those things! It would be crazy to tell a Jewish checkout clerk that when her Rabbi buys a sweater at her store she has to say “Merry Christmas!” Just as it would be ridiculous to ask a devout Christian to tell her priest “Happy Hanukkah.” So instead, the stores have their employees say something that everyone, from the Pope to an atheist, can agree is festive: “Happy Holidays,” “Season’s Greetings,” “Ho Ho Ho,” whatever!
So, back to those people complaining about the “War on Christmas.” Is there really a war on Christmas, or are these people trying to start a sort of war on anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas? Wow, how un-Christmassy can you get!
So I say, ignore them! And meanwhile, I send every happy seasonal greeting there is to you! Your friendship has sure made mine joyous. I hope you get gifts you want, that you’re generous to others, that you soak up the spiritual beauty, and especially that you remember to give some special treats to any dogs in your life (but remember: no chocolate candies, those are bad for us).
And if you hear someone griping that Christmas is in danger from well-wishers, just know that they’re a big Scrooge trying to ruin everyone’s good time. Celebrate, and in the words of the beautiful old carol, just spread Tidings of Comfort and Joy.
And if you do, in the words of the much newer one, you’ll help make it a Happy Christmas: “War” is over if you want it!