The “Grinch” never came any closer to stealing the true meaning of Christmas than has trying to be “politically correct.” In recent years there has been a strong move to change the traditional Christmas greeting of “Merry Christmas” to the “politically correct” terminology of “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”
“But one wouldn’t want to offend those who are celebrating Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or something else would they?” Absolutely not, but most people are not offended by the use of the term “Merry Christmas.” Yet, it is important to the vast majority of Americans to whom the celebration of Christmas is so significant and special and to those who want to preserve the spirit, history and tradition of the “Christmas” that the U.S. Congress designated as a legal holiday on June 26, 1870.
What do “Happy Holidays,” and “Seasons Greetings,” have in common with “_ _ _ _ _ _ mas?” They both leave “Christ” out. So what? What does “Christ” have to do with the celebration of Kwanza, Hanukkah, Santa Claus, presents, office parties, red nosed reindeer, decorating trees, wreaths, holly, sleigh bells, retail sales, booze, atheism and feasting? Not much.
What does Christ have to do with CHRISTmas? Everything! Without Christ there can be no CHRISTmas. There can be a holiday, a season, festivals, and religious observations of every persuasion, but without Christ there can be no CHRISTmas, in either fact or spirit. One cannot even say or spell the word “CHRISTmas,” let alone explain its actual history, meaning or origins, as it is celebrated in the United States, without Christ.
The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia states that Christmas is “Christ’s Mass in the Christian calendar, the feast of the nativity of Jesus.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “Christmas” as “A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus.” Jesus who? Jesus, the Christ Child, the only begotten Son of God, born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
First there was Jesus Christ and because of Christ there is the celebration of His birth, CHRISTmas. Secular customs and traditions have developed since; but, first there was Christ.
Even the greatest current secular symbol, the “Ho, Ho, Ho” jolly old Santa Claus seen everywhere during the Christmas season, was first made popular in New York during the 19th century. And before that the European traditions of “Sinterklaas,” and Saint Nicholas can be traced back hundreds of years; but, first there was “Christ.”
Why, there are even some who would try to replace the bright guiding light of the Star of Bethlehem with the red glow of the nose of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph’s nose has been guiding Santa’s sleigh since 1939 when Robert May wrote a verse for a Montgomery Ward promotional comic book. In the late 1940’s his brother-in-law adapted the verse and used it in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;” and the cowboy crooner, Gene Autry, made Rudolph famous but, first there was “Christ.”
When someone says “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings,” rather than “Merry Christmas,” those wanting to share the gift of Christmas could ask, “What Holiday?” or “What Season?” What better way to create or reinforce an awareness of the “reason for the season,” that very first Christmas when “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life?”
If we keep the spirit of the Christ Child and His love in our hearts and share it with others, Christmas, in its truest sense, will be with us every day of the year, Merry Christmas folks, Merry Christmas.
This column was originally written over 12 years ago and is modified and republished each year as an Ole Seagull’s testimony as to what Christmas means to him. The political correctness of “Merry Christmas” may change but the true meaning of CHRISTmas will never change.