By Owen Allen-Manes | United States
During recent years more Christians have considered the prevalence of phrases such as “Happy Holidays” as a war on Christmas. Perhaps the most well-known battle in this so-called “war” took place in coffee shops during the Decembers of 2015 and 2016. Starbucks Coffee had been using seasonal cups throughout the holiday months since 1997, usually with Christmas related designs. This changed in 2015 when the chain introduced a more neutral red cup, rather than one featuring a specific holiday. This seemingly minor change sparked outrage in the Christian community. Many Christians boycotted. Some – inspired in part by a YouTube video uploaded by Josh Feuerstein – responded with “Merry Christmas” when asked their name for the order. Apart from confusing baristas and giving money to a company they were outraged with, these protests sent a message. Christmas is under attack.
But is it?
It’s hardly a secret that most businesses depend on sales during the holiday season. Starbucks is no exception. Holiday-themed meals and beverages have replaced calendars as the official gauge for the beginning of winter. With so many marketing tactics surrounding the holidays, it makes sense for companies to attempt to sell as many peppermint mochas as they possibly can, regardless of whether or not the customer celebrates Christmas. This, in addition to the observation of the holiday by more secular people and non-devout Christians, has changed the way that Christmas is perceived in modern culture. For many years now, Christmas has been more about holiday songs, movies, gift giving, and family postcards, with a brief service intended for more committed parishioners.
It’s been that way for longer than you might think. The true date of Christ’s birth has been subject to debate since its beginning. Both the United Church of God and Bibleinfo.com have published articles suggesting that Jesus may have been born in late September, citing the habits of shepherds at the time of Christ’s birth mentioned in Luke 2:8-9. Other scholars have placed Jesus’ birthday in March, June, and August. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is still subject to debate. A common theory for the cause of Christmas’ celebration in December speculates that leaders of the Roman church in the fourth century decided to observe Christmas at the same time as pagan festivities during the winter solstice. This made the conversion from paganism to Christianity easier. This theory perfectly encapsulates the perception of Christmas for hundreds of years to come. Even in the fourth century, commercialism and general cheer became intentionally associated with Christmas in order to widen appeal. The intended audience did not necessarily subscribe to the principles of the Bible.
If the exact date of Christmas is not during the winter months at all, is Jesus truly the reason for the season? As society becomes more conscious of the increasing number of cultures and religious practices in our country, “Happy Holidays” is likely to surpass “Merry Christmas” as the standard cheerful greeting to customers or passersby. We as Americans are not removing Christ from Christmas because it is likely that Christmas, more specifically, Christ’s birth, did not take place during the “Holidays” that Christians exclude a number of philosophies from. Neutral coffee cups and “Happy Holidays” do not signify a war on Christmas. They simply exist to generalize the holiday season, appealing to a wider market of multicultural and open-minded consumers. Saying “Happy Holidays” may be a more accurate way to convey well-wishing in a month and a half of glorified consumerism containing more than one holiday. In the great melting pot of American culture, predominantly focusing on one religious platform in December is short-sighted for businesses trying to capitalize on a broader market.
This year, as we enjoy our cookies, gifts, and gingerbread lattes, I would like to wish you a very happy holiday.
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