Aren’t y’all tired of fighting? I believe in taking a stand. We’re up against all kinds of hate, oppression and injustice. There are slave markets in Libya, and a pedophile is running for Senate.
So at this moment do we really need a winter war for Christmas domination? POTUS thinks so.
On Wednesday in Missouri, President Donald Trump started and ended his tax reform talk with Christmas:
“Remember … I was the one who said, ‘You go to the department stores and you see ‘Happy New Year’ and you see red, and you see snow and you see all these things. You don’t see ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore. With Trump as your president, we are going to be celebrating ‘Merry Christmas’ again, and it’s going to be done with a big, beautiful tax cut.”
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This coming from a man who has said “Happy Holidays” over the years and whose 2015 Christmas card included that phrase.
“Happy Holidays” is not a weapon, but Trump made it one. He made Christmas a campaign ploy, insisting that inclusive greetings like “Happy Holidays” were an attack on Christianity.
“I’m a good Christian,” he said in Iowa in 2015. “If I become president, we’re gonna be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store. You can leave ‘Happy Holidays’ at the corner.”
What about the First Amendment, freedom of religion and freedom from religion?
I celebrate Christmas. I believe in Jesus. I say “Merry Christmas” to the people in my life who recognize it as a holy day. I say it to those who enjoy it as time off for family, food and giftapalaooza. But it’s not “Merry Christmas” or kick rocks.
Saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” does not ignore Christmas. It doesn’t hurt my religion. It’s loving thy neighbors — some of whom celebrate Hanukkah, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, other holidays and no holidays.
Last year I joined some friends, a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to tour President Barack Obama’s White House at Christmastime.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christian, but they do not celebrate Christmas. So I’m not so sure my friends would feel comfortable or welcome at this year’s White House. I mean, POTUS implied that good Christians say “Merry Christmas.” He told his wife, Melania, to avoid stores where clerks say “Happy Holidays.” He tried to incite a boycott against Starbucks because its red holiday cup didn’t say “Merry Christmas.”
The narrative this season is Trump brings back Christmas. The First Family greeting card says “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” (Even though the invite to the Dec. 1 party for reporters says “Holiday Reception.”) There’s an official Make America Great Again Christmas hat. Much ado has been made about Melania’s Christmas decor. It’s all festive and fun, and like Obama and presidents before him, Trump will host a Hanukkah party.
But that one step of inclusivity doesn’t change the fact that the words “Merry Christmas” do not make or break the soul of the country. Want to celebrate Jesus? Spread love and not semantics.
Yeah, the Obama family cards said “Happy Holidays.” Because acceptance.
Let’s be very clear: Obama celebrated Christmas. True. Obama’s White House discussed taking the Nativity scene down to be more welcoming but kept it up. And Obama said “Merry Christmas” every single year. He just didn’t demand the entire country get on board.
Last year, like every other Christmas of his presidency, Obama went deep into the Christmas spirit while acknowledging everyone:
“We will join our fellow Christians around the world to rejoice in the birth of our Savior. And as we retell his story from that holy night, we’ll also remember his eternal message, one of boundless love, compassion and hope. … Those are values that help guide not just my family’s Christian faith, but that of Jewish Americans, and Muslim Americans, nonbelievers and Americans of all backgrounds.”
Isn’t that America’s greatness? Our people, not all of whom share the same beliefs. “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” are ways to wish everyone well, to spread a little love.
There is nothing wrong with saying “Merry Christmas.” But treating it as the official and exclusive American greeting sounds a lot like the Grinch Who Stole Democracy.
Jeneé Osterheldt is a Kansas City Star columnist. On Twitter: @jeneeinkc.