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Diverse populations celebrate diverse holidays

November 29, 2009 Events/Meetings, Popular Culture, Religion 30 Comments

Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is the holiday season in North America.  For most this time includes Christmas.  For the rest of us we often celebrate another holiday, such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah.  We have a diverse population in St. Louis so I’m curious to see how diverse my readers are so the poll this week asks what holiday you celebrate in December.

I was going to randomize the answers but I decided to list Christmas twice so I needed to make sure everyone saw that before answering.  Twice? One is for the birth of Jesus and the other is because it is December 25th.  Get the difference?  I have never once celebrated the birth of Jesus but I have celebrated Christmas because it is December 25th. I’ve included an “other” option this week.

Personally speaking I know how awkward it is when you are wished a merry holiday you don’t celebrate. I’d like store clerks and others to say “Happy Holidays” than make presumptions about what, if any, holiday I might celebrate. Naturally “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is controversial:

The American Family Association is calling on consumers to boycott Gap Inc. and its brands, which include Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, this holiday season. The Christian organization alleges that the retailer’s ads downplay the word “Christmas.”

The boycott, according to the AFA, is in response to Gap’s holiday advertising and in-store promotions over the years, which have stayed away from recognizing any specific religion. For instance, last year’s campaign was themed “Merry Gap-mas,” substituting the chain’s name for Christ’s. The AFA—which had boycotted other retailers like Sears and Target in the past for their holiday ads—is singling out Gap this year. The AFA is planning to release a “Naughty and Nice” list of retailers who address Christmas and those who don’t.  (Source: Brandweek)

Below is Gap’s 2009 holiday commercial the AFA doesn’t like:


I took the AFA poll:

Since Gap has now included the word “Christmas” in a television ad (in a dismissive manner), should AFA call off the boycott of their stores?

  • Yes. Any reference to Christmas is good enough to me. 5,267
  • No. Gap has taken a disrespectful attitude towards Christians with its ad. 47,935

The 2009 AFA “Naughty and Nice” list is here.  I personally celebrate retailers that don’t push one religion at the exclusion of others so I’ll use their list in the reverse of how they intended. You may agree or you may not.  Share your thoughts below and vote in the poll in the upper right corner.

Happy Holidays everyone!

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "30 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ryley says:

    Sure it's true that the “reason for the season” was myth/Christianity based at one time. However as a modern secular society it's really become a commercialized national holiday that EVERYONE can enjoy and I don't see anything wrong with that. If you're the bible thumper type do the church thing and decorate your house with baby Jesus. If not then buy everyone presents and celebrate another year of prosperity.

  2. Ryley says:

    Sure it's true that the “reason for the season” was myth/Christianity based at one time. However as a modern secular society it's really become a commercialized national holiday that EVERYONE can enjoy and I don't see anything wrong with that. If you're the bible thumper type do the church thing and decorate your house with baby Jesus. If not then buy everyone presents and celebrate another year of prosperity.

    As for the AFA….get a real problem.

  3. Fenian says:

    I do find the push for “Happy Holidays” at the expense of “Merry Christmas” a little silly. When one looks at religious demographics from a reputable source such as Pew or other unbiased sources, over 3 out of 4 Americans identify as Christian of some sort. Just over 4% of Americans identify with a religion other than Christianity. Less than 2% of Americans are Jewish and less than 1% of Americans are Muslim. There is a sizable portion of the population, just over 15%, that declares no affiliation or agnostic/atheist.

    I do not wish to offend others by saying Merry Christmas, but when one objectively looks at the data, the religious diversity that so many claim to exist, is not found.

    • If 3 out of 4 identify as Christian then 1 out of 4 does not. By using the greeting Merry Christmas with all you'd be wrong 25% of the time. I'd say that is a large margin of error.

      • Fenian says:

        Point taken. However, my point was more in regard to religious diversity than it was what greeting one uses. Again, only a little over 4% of Americans adhere to any religion besides Christianity. That is all religions, from Judaism to Buddhism to ISKCON to Sikh to Druze and everything in between. The way that it is portrayed in the media however, is that the celebration of Channukah or Ramadan or Kwanzaa etc. is prevalent. I believe it is done solely for politically correct reasons, not because it reflects the demographics of our nation.

        Again, I am not meaning to offend anyone or belittle their views as non-Christians, I just find the way that American religious diversity is portrayed in the media and perpetuated by many to be misleading. It is as if they say it enough, people will believe it.

        The following link is from 2007, but I find it to be one of the most concise links I could find.

  4. Adam says:

    what's most frightening is that the AFA and others like them refuse to recognize their authoritarian tendencies as such, and then they cry about persecution when they don't get to force their “truth” on the rest of us. they remind me of children, but without the hope of maturity.

  5. MEanerness says:

    Merry CHRISTMAS Steve

    • Happy Holidays!

      • stlsig says:

        If a majority of respondents in your poll celebrate Christmas for reasons other than Christ's birth, it should then be acceptable to say Merry Christmas, right?

        It's clearly a tradition that transcends religion if you use your poll as evidence to prove that.

        • Adam says:

          sure. but it's also acceptable to say “happy hanukkah” to the minority who celebrate hanukkah, “merry kwanzaa” to the minority who celebrate kwanzaa, “happy holidays” to the those who just use the 25th as an excuse to get together with family, etc. that's exactly what the GAP add does – it acknowledges those who don't celebrate the birth of christ. of course, the AFA doesn't like that because they're religious imperialists.

          • stlsig says:

            I think the difference, as even Steve has pointed out by creating two entrys in the poll, is that Christmas is a holiday that transcends it's religious meanings. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa don't transcend their religious meanings. That being said, I'd never be offended if someone offered me that greeting. It's the seasons for sharing, and people openly offering you a greeting is what makes this a great country. I'd hate to have to watch how I greeted someone because they think that Merry Christmas is offensive. If were really going to get to that level of correctness, then we're going to live in a very bland and vanilla world by the end of my life and that would be a shame. Then again, I think the majority of Americans don't get offended by a simple salutation.

            The AFA is just another group offering up an opinion for a minority of people. I personally think they are going about this in the wrong way, but then again, that's the business model for getting attention in our country. Make an outlandish statement, get on the news, and hope that it sticks with enough people to get what you want.

            Happy Monday,

            Greg G.

  6. LisaS says:

    Even if 75% of Americans identify as Christian, alienating 25% of the population is not wise marketing, at the very least. While my family celebrates Christmas–and it's quite a challenge to focus on the religious aspects of the season amidst the consumerist orgy–because our friends include Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, & Native Americans, I'm painfully aware of how ostracized from the society at large they feel this time of year. I prefer the more inclusive “Happy Holidays” for their sake–and to help separate the secular celebration from the religious.

    And yes, Ryley, the AFA needs to get a real problem.

    • Exactly. If I'm a customer at Catholic Supply “Merry Christmas” is probably a safe bet but when I'm at the grocery store “Happy Holidays” is the only greeting that won't offend. But as we see Christians get upset when they aren't wished “Merry Christmas.”

      • ScottF says:

        “… _some_ Christians get upset…” 🙂

      • stlsig says:

        Seriously? In my 30 years of living, I've never once heard any of my DEVOUT Christian friends (I lived in the bible belt for 6 of those years) ever get mad at someone for “saying” happy holidays. If you're going to go and pick out the one blue hair that doesn't like it, don't claim that Christians are getting upset. That's misleading.

        I just can't get my arms around someone feeling awkward when a person greets you in any way that's nice and polite. I'm trying to respect your opinion here, but I can't make any sense out of it. Can't we all just be happy and enjoy the season? Life is far to short to be bothered by what someone says, especially if they are being friendly there are far to many unfriendly people out there.

        As for advertising, I absolutely respect the Gap for their stance. Either you say Happy “everything” or say nothing at all. Either way, I can respect that as a smart business move.

        -Greg G.

        • When you've got Fox News talking about the war on Christmas and groups boycotting business that try to be inclusive of all then yes I'm serious. I'm pushing back against the push for everyone to celebrate Christmas.

          • stlsig says:

            Oh man. So now because Fox News says something, all Christians are up in arms?

            You're REALLLLLLLYYYYYYY stretching to make your point here.

            My point from my last post still stands. If a store clerk is being nice to you by offering you a greeting, when they are likely working 12 hour days during the holidays and have every reason not to be nice, I can't understand how that's “awkward”. Then again, I love people and think that we should be all inclusive and accept what everyone does, rather than trying to hide our uniqueness and individuality it like it's a bad thing.

            That is just my opinion,

            Greg G.

          • I never said all Christians were up in arms. The easiest way to ensure inclusiveness is to actually be inclusive in your language.

          • stlsig says:

            That's how your post above read to me, but I think I've read your work enough to know that you don't mean all Christians. I'm just not a fan of one group taking a label, in this case “Christian”, and then other people running with it as if it stands for all or a majority of Christians.

            I stand by my point that inclusiveness means that no one should be offended if someone says Happy Holidays, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc… everyone is trying to convey Happiness and joy, because it's a wonderful time of the year.

          • It would be interesting to see what would happen if a store clerk wished every customer a Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa. I'm willing to bet management would hear about it if they did. If everyone were equally free to express their own greeting then it would be no big deal but that is not the world we live in. The minority view is not allowed. Take gender as example, the more we tweak our language (police officer rather than policeman) the more open jobs become to women.

          • stlsig says:

            By your statement above (in your main post) you would still feel awkward by that persons saying happy Kwanzaa to you and you'd be the guy talking to the store manager complaining. That sounds like a circular argument to me.

            I say let them say what they want as long as they are being polite and courteous to the customer. You can't fight the small mindedness of parts of our populous by giving into this P.C. culture. I understand that you'll disagree with me, my opinion is that we should be embracing our individual differences and appreciating how each of those make us who we are. I believe that if we spent more time appreciating others rather than trying to be PC, we'd all have a lot more love for one another rather than anger toward our differences. I realize that takes more work and would take generations, but I think that's what makes America great.

            Thats just my opinion though,

            Greg G.

          • This is not about trying to be politically correct. I'm tired of being bombarded with Christianity. So I'd welcome other greetings from a minority viewpoint. But to be safe “Happy Holidays” covers everyone except the right-wing fundamentalists that expect all to greet them with Merry Christmas.

          • stlsig says:

            Bombarded with Christianity. Welcome minority viewpoints, but no majority viewpoints. It's ok as long as it only upsets right wing fundamentalist.

            Wow. In the words of Ron Burgundy: agree to disagree.

            I wish you well over the holidays and as a mater of courtesy,

            Happy Holidays,

            Greg G.

  7. G-Man says:

    I think it's important to separate those who identify themselves as Christians from the hatemonger fundamentalist crowd.

    • Very true! I think the latter group is the only one offended by the use of “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,”

      • stlsig says:

        That I agree with. I feel like there is far to much attention paid to the extremest groups in our society these days, this only divides us even further.

  8. Jenniferwhatnot says:

    Wow, I don't feel “bombarded” by Judaism when Jewish colleagues wish me a Happy Hanukkah, I just smile and say “Same to you.” I understand from whence springs the animosity towards Christians (as a stereotyped group), since we're all sick of people trying to use the law to enforce religious beliefs; that said, I think getting offended by being wished a Merry Christmas is being too sensitive and is just as absurd as a Christian being offended by Happy Holidays. Can't we all just take the holiday season as a time to leave off with this national sport of umbrage-taking?

  9. Good people, politicians and businesses don't alienate others. They work to be inclusive and make everyone feel special.

  10. Billy Bob Thornton says:

    Happy GAP-ukah!

  11. Billy Bob Thornton says:

    Happy GAP-adan! Happy GAP-anzaa!


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