Dear Crabby, Is There a ‘War on Christmas?’

Dear Crabby,

With Christmas almost here and falling on a Sunday, I was wondering, do you think there is a war on Christmas in the United States?

Noel Natale

Dear Ms. Natale,

Boy. You’re a little pot stirrer, ain’t ya? Why couldn’t you ask something simple like, ‘Is there a Santa Claus?’ But since you asked for my opinion (careful what you wish for) the ‘war’ you’re talking about exists purely in the minds of those not getting their way. Now before folks get hot under the collar and start heading straight for the comments section, just hear me out. This fuss all started about a decade ago and gets dragged out during the holidays like a fruitcake you swore you’d thrown out last year.

Let me put your mind at ease: there is no organized or well-coordinated attack on Christmas. I take that back. There was an organized attack on Christmas, but you had to be living in the 17th century to have been part of it. That’s when the Puritans banned celebrations related to the holiday because it didn’t fit with their interpretation of the Bible. Sound familiar? While I don’t have definitive proof, I’m guessing folks aren’t meeting in back alleys or underground bunkers plotting how they can steal the baby Jesus and all other aspects of Christmas. Look. Growing up on my block in Detroit you could find just about any ethnicity: Armenian, Italian, Irish, and on and on. And along with that came many different religions. My family hung lights on a Christmas tree, while my buddy Jay Finkbeiner’s family lit candles on their menorah. It wasn’t rocket science. I tried to remember to say ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ but sometimes I slipped and said ‘Merry Christmas’ to them. They were never offended. In fact, Mrs. Finkbeiner once said, ‘You’re wishing me well. Why would that make me mad?’ She was a wise woman. DearCrabby

But, Crabby. What about all this ‘Happy Holidays’ nonsense? I’m so glad you asked (at least I’m going to pretend you did). I hate to be the person to tell you this, but the greeting ‘Happy Holidays’ has been around for over 100 years. The reason we hear about it more these days is because it’s being used more often as a way to be more inclusive. This may come as a shock to some, but not everyone in the U.S. subscribes to the Christian faith. That’s why many businesses started using the ‘Happy Holidays’ greeting as a way not to offend their wide spectrum of customers who have different religious affiliations and those who aren’t religious at all. So, if the over-exhausted cashier at Target wishes you ‘Happy Holidays,’ feel free to reply with ‘Merry Christmas’ if that’s your preferred seasonal greeting instead of berating or correcting them. He or she is trying to survive the season like you are.

I’d also like to say something about the word ‘war.’ Words have power, which is why I’m told by serious writers that it is important to use the right ones. So, as someone of, ahem, a certain age, I can assure you I know what war looks like. First as a youngin’ during World War II who lived on rations and collected scrap metal, and then as a slightly older know-it-all private in the Army. War is what we see on the nightly news. It’s devastating and affects people’s lives in ways most of us can’t imagine. Just something to think about next time before you use the phrase.

Folks, I think we can all agree it’s been a long, strange year. If there was ever a time we needed joy, hope, and a little peace, this is it. So whether that comes in the form of a red Starbucks cup, a religious service, or volunteering in some capacity, don’t waste what little time we have left in 2016 nitpicking. Instead, take a page out of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. At the very end the narrator of the story says Ebenezer Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!’’ It’s the spirit of the season that matters; not necessarily what you call it. And when it comes to waging war, my suggestion would be to leave the actual fighting to the brave servicemen and servicewoman who know what it looks like. In fact, you might want to find a way to thank them for their sacrifice, which includes defending free speech and freedom of religion.

Hope that helps. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, too!
Dear Crabby

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Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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