The Reason for the Season

by MARIA RACARDIO '16

With Christmas fast approaching, we’ve all been receiving the annual cards from friends and family sending us good wishes. These cards bear a variety of messages, such as “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” They all basically mean the same thing, right? Not necessarily. Although “Merry Christmas” has been the traditional greeting during this time of year, increasing cultural awareness has led many people to use the generic “Happy Holidays” to avoid being religion-specific. However, taking the “Christ” out of Christmas detracts from the true meaning of an already over-commercialized holiday.

Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and this often gets overshadowed by gift-giving and other non-religious traditions. Wishing people a “Merry Christmas” is not only a festive greeting, but it also reminds us of what should really be on our minds during the Christmas season. After all, the holiday would simply not exist if it weren’t for Christ.

Almost all of the traditional “holiday” customs are rooted in Christianity. For example, Santa Claus developed from the Catholic bishop, St. Nicholas, who was famous for his anonymous gift-giving. The traditional Christmas colors, red and green, are also based on Christian symbols. Red is said to be symbolic of Christ’s blood shed during the crucifixion. Green is a symbol for eternal life, which is also represented by the traditional Christmas evergreen trees because they survive year round. These other religious customs continue to be in widespread use, so why should we remove the phrase “Christmas” from the holiday traditions?

Some people argue that alternative seasonal greetings such as “Happy Holidays” are more inclusive to people who celebrate other holidays; however, grouping all of the religious celebrations together into one “holiday” actually lessens their importance. If you know that someone is Jewish, wishing them a “Happy Hanukkah” is much more meaningful than a generic “Happy Holidays.”

Other people believe that “Happy Holidays” should be used if you do not know someone’s religion. However, a poll by USA Today/Gallup found that 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas. Here at St. Ursula Academy, between 85-88% percent of the students are Catholic, so the number of people who participate in Christmas traditions is likely even higher. Partaking in these traditions means that they are celebrating a holiday that is fundamentally Christian. Therefore, using a greeting with a religious connotation should be acceptable because the holiday is religious.

At St. Ursula Academy we value diversity and individuality. We should try our best to show respect for other religions by varying our holiday greetings depending on the religion each person practices and the holiday they will be celebrating. However, if you don’t know someone’s religion, don’t be afraid to wish them a “Merry Christmas” because after all, Jesus is the reason for the season!