11.27.15 Issue

by Sol Marburg

I froze. Slowly, I turned to face the gas station cashier, who was smiling pleasantly and awaiting my response. I could feel the rage boiling inside me. How dare this lady wish me a Merry Christmas? Everyone knows I’m Jewish. I’ve never been so offended in my life! I’ll never set foot in another QuikTrip EVER AGAIN! Without responding, and barely able to contain my indignant rage, I turned back around and stormed out the door.

Nope.

This never happened. It has never happened to me, it never will happen to me, and if it happens to you, you might want to take a good hard look at your life. Of course this first bit is true. If you simply exist during the winter, some professional at some point is going to wish you a Merry Christmas. Or they’re going to have a Christmas tree in their lobby, or an elf hat on, or a design that incorporates the smiling bearded fat man in the jolly red suit. That is going to happen, likely often. What doesn’t   — or at least shouldn’t- happen, is the rest of the scenario. Our modern era of political correctness has ushered in the phenomenon that, thanks to the ever-dramatic mass media, has been labeled the “War on Christmas”. Interestingly, there are a couple sides in the war that may not even exist.

How it works, largely, is as follows: Major company makes a policy change to reduce the actual presence of “Christmas” in their brand’s winter identity, adopting instead a “Happy Holidays” motto. This is because there are many people in the United States whose religious beliefs or lack thereof don’t include the celebration of Christmas. Seemingly, this is not a big deal, as it rightly should not be. However, what usually follows is an uproar of angry, offended individuals who DO celebrate Christmas, and who believe that this major company is somehow attacking their beliefs. They usually return fire by blasting out heated posts to the company’s social media platform or, if they are over a certain age, writing a heated letter to the editor of the local newspaper. They swear that their money will never find its way to that corporation again. Personally, I’ve never witnessed the other side of the coin, but I am perfectly willing to believe that there are non-celebrators who get equally as offended and self-righteous if they feel a company has gone a little overboard with the Christmas spirit. Well, I have a message for both those groups of deeply offended and passionate individuals: grow up.

You won’t catch me saying this very often, but this is one instance where I really do feel sorry for the large corporations of America, as well as businesses of every size that are now forced to weigh their options when Halloween comes to a close. They seem to think that if they send out a coupon book that says “Merry Christmas”, they will offend and alienate every non-celebrating customer they have. Yet they know that if they switch the slogan, to “Happy Holidays,” they will immediately be lambasted as having declared war on Christmas. Starbucks may have been the first notable case of this in 2015, but it was by no means the first and is likely even further from being the last. I simply don’t understand it. My personal belief is quite simple: I don’t care. I’ve come to terms with the fact that over 90% of the country celebrates a holiday that I don’t believe in. I’m over it and, frankly, I always have been. A company giving out greetings that are in tune with the season, whether it be “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” is nothing more than a cordial, benevolent wish of good towards their customers. If you want to be really cynical (or like me, you’re into marketing) you could also argue that it’s nothing more than a marketing ploy. But in no way is a company’s approach to the season a “War on Christmas” or a war on anything else. If you are the sort of person who can’t cope when a company makes a decision like this, regardless of which approach they take, you might want to step back and take a good long look at your values.    Whether a company decides to do “Christmas” or just “Holidays” has no impact on the lives of the customers. Since Starbucks is in the spotlight at the moment, I’ll elaborate using that example. Whether Starbucks includes or omits Christmas trees on its seasonal cups does not matter. Period. It’s up to that company to pick, and there are no offensive answers. If you are offended by the use of “Merry Christmas” or, alternatively, “Happy Holidays”, you are choosing to be offended. I’m all for political correctness, but at a certain point, it’s beyond silly. I could rant on and on, but for the sake of brevity, I will summarize my opinion. If a company adopting the “Christmas” approach offends you, you are wrong. If a company adopting the “Holiday” approach offends you, you are also wrong. Regardless of how you celebrate, kvetching about how other people acknowledge the season is not in the holiday spirit.

Happy Hanukah.