How Secular is Christmas?

This year I have had the privilege of not only working at a retail store during the holidays but of working everyday in the part of the store where our fresh dead christmas trees are. As a result every customer who I have worked with since the day after thanksgiving has had some expectation that I would wish them a "Merry Christmas." The custom of saying Merry Christmas to everyone who walks in or out of a retail store seems a little silly to me especially before we have even hit the month of december so I continued wishing people a "nice day" instead.

One day a family came in to pick out their tree with kids all dressed up in christmas themed sweaters, and parents taking pictures left and right - in front of the trees, in front of where we cut the trees, in front of the tree they picked out etc. Once we had their tree all bundled up and ready to go they asked us if we were allowed to use the work "christmas" at our store. To which we pointed to the large signs that said "fresh cut christmas trees." Apparently they had heard that Lowes was not using the word "christmas" this year (this isn't actually true) and instead are calling all of their trees "holiday trees." As a result this family searched home depot's advertising for the word "christmas" before they would come to our store to pick out a tree.

The other associates present wished the family more than a few "merry christmas's" before they left and I personally agreed that it was silly to call christmas trees "holiday trees." To this the father said "exactly. Its about Christ." This caused my eyebrows to raise more than a little, so I smiled and fought the urge to respond to the comment. Then they left.

Apparently all we have to do to take the "christ" out of christmas is to start calling christmas trees, "holiday trees." A few weeks later I had a customer show up and ask me where our "holiday trees" were. Not realizing he was joking, I pointed to the mass of trees sitting a matter of feet away form us. "Oh no," he replied I want your "holiday trees" not your "christmas trees." He pulled out a home depot ad and showed me the top of it where it said in large letters "Fresh Cut Holiday Trees." "Those are Christmas trees, I want your "holiday trees."" I smiled and said, "oh we must be sold out of those." Apparently Christmas is not a "holiday." :wall:

Not saying "merry christmas" actually turned into great fun. More than a few people became convinced that I wasn't allowed to say it. A few people got mad when I said "have a good day,' and replied "and merry christmas to you too." But alas the conflict is apparently much larger than me entertaining myself by not pointing out the temporal proximity of a certain holiday to every customer that purchases something from me. All over, conservative christians are boycotting and threatening lawsuits against retailers and cities for their supposed attempts to take "christ out of christmas." Boston for example was going to call its city christmas tree a "holiday tree," but gave into pressure and threats of lawsuits from christian groups and returned to calling it a christmas tree.

What is repeated over and over is the idea that retailers are afraid of offending non-christian customers, and that they have somehow caved into pressure to be "politically correct." But I have a more plausible explanation, perhaps the retailers are just trying to appeal to a larger market with their holiday items. Given that most of the "christmas" items bare no christian symbols and no relation to christianity, why not encourage non-christians to buy them. The first step to doing so is by removing the reference to a specific religion a.k.a christ-mass.

The problem is not that retailers have secularized christmas. The problem is that christians have secularized it by bringing in rituals and traditions that have nothing to do with christianity. Here are a few of the things I have noticed that have nothing to do with baby jesus or christianity:

Evergreen trees
Snowflakes
Snow
Santa Clause
Reindeer
Cookies
Snowmen
Ornaments
Turkey
Ham (actually the idea of a christmas ham is kind of ironic).
Sleighbells
horse-drawn sleighs
Quite a few Christmas Carols - jingle bells for example
Winter
Cranberry sauce
presents made by elves
wrapping paper
Rudolf
Bing Crosby
Egg Nog
pumpkin pie
garland
poinsettas
The North Pole
Peppermint
hot chocolate
holly
christmas lights

Now if retailers just happen to want to market secular non-religious items like evergreen trees to a larger market why should christians care? You can't take the "christ" out of the christmas tree when it never had anything to do with "christ" in the first place.

Maybe because they (the one's that care) don't want to admit that some of their treasured symbols have non-christian (aka pagan origins), and that many more of them spring from fond memories (white christmases/snow), and pop culture (Santa Clause) rather than any actual religious beliefs. Retailers by having the audacity to market their dead evergreens, and inflatable snowmen to non-christians have made that fact uncomfortably clear.

If anyone can mount lit reindeer on their roof and giant inflatable santas in their yard what will be left of christmas for the actual christians? The only thing they will have left are angels and nativities, and plenty of other religions believe in angels.

What's worse than taking "Christ out of christmas?" Making the non-religious symbols of christmas the general symbols of winter holidays celebrated by the religious, non-religious, christian, and non-christian alike. Taking away the christian exclusivity of Santa and the decorated evergreen is a far greater sin than taking the "christ" out of christmas. After all how many christians actually sit around their nativity and talk about christ on christmas?

The truth is, for true believers in the birth of christ as the son of god, it is not possible for others to take the "christ out of christmas." For those who want the lit evergreen to forever remain a christian symbol the threat is all too real.

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Quite right. It doesn't

Quite right. It doesn't make any difference to me what anyone else calls the holiday. I know what it means to me, which won't change simply because someone else doesn't believe the same way that I do. Just as I would hope that others' beliefs would be strong enough to survive the differing beliefs of other people. If they aren't, then perhaps they should be re-evaluating themselves and not getting pissy because someone wants to make more money for their business, which all good business owners should be in the practice of. (All of this comes from a Southern Baptist, in case it makes any difference.)

Actually, Santa Claus,

Actually, Santa Claus, a.k.a. Saint Nicholas is very much Christian. Otherwise, even the date (Dec 25th) has more to do with pagan festivities than anything Christian.

Sorry I was raised baptist

Sorry I was raised baptist and saints really don't mean anything to protestants so I didn't make the connection, but you're right Santa has a little correlation with christianity if highly diluted given his current incarnation.

That is to say that I don't

That is to say that I don't think Saint Nick had elves.

That is to say that I

That is to say that I don’t think Saint Nick had elves.

But elves, the North Pole, reindeer and so forth are separate items on your list.

Nicholas (whether you grant the title or not) embodied the Christian ethos. This (plus meeting the other requirements) is why the Roman Catholic church recogized him with Sainthood.

the current popular santa

the current popular santa clause mythos came from the "twas the night before christmas" poem, in which santa clause was actually an elf. Yes the name was derived from "saint nicholas" but that hardly qualifies him as being the same entity.

In Japan, Christmas is

In Japan, Christmas is pretty much 100% secular. 1% of their population is Christian but something like 99% celebrate Christmas (actually Christmas Eve). In the US, it's as secular as the people celebrating it want it to be.