Pundits on the airwaves are fond of suggesting atheists and non-religious people are issuing a "War on Christmas." This is rather ridiculous. Nontheists simply feel the need to call attention to alternative points of view during times when religious groups cross the boundary between separation of church and state and use public, taxpayer-funded resources to unconstitutionally promote religion.
Apparently the notion of suggesting, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" indicates an "attack on Christmas."
In recent decades, during the annual approach to December 25, it is widely alleged that public, corporate, and government mention of the term "Christmas" is avoided and replaced with a generic term—usually "holiday" or "winter"—and that popular non-religious aspects of Christmas, such as secular Christmas carols and decorated trees are still prominently showcased and recognized, but are vaguely associated with non-specified "holidays", rather than with Christmas.
Supporters of using the word "holidays" instead of "Christmas" cite the fact that many of the symbols western societies have come to associate with Christmas were taken from non-Christian pagan traditions that pre-date the birth of Jesus. Specifically, symbols such as decorated trees, mistletoe, holly wreaths and yule logs all have non-Christian origins. From a historical context, "Christmas" only recently adopted these long-standing winter traditions into its own identity. Therefore, many non-Christians (as well as some Christians) argue that the most accurate description of this season is the "holiday" season, not the "Christmas" season (a label which only describes the religious celebration of Christ's birth).
In the past, Christmas-related controversy was mainly restricted to concerns of a public focus on secular Christmas themes such as Santa Claus and gift giving rather than what is sometimes expressed by Christians as the "reason for the season"—the birth of Jesus. The term "Xmas", the subject of controversy during the mid-to-late 20th century, originated from the use of the Greek letter chi, Χ, as an abbreviation of Christ (Χριστός).
Christmas Day is recognized as an official federal holiday by the United States government, and relatively few have officially raised objections to this designation. However, a few less mainstream groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State argue that government-funded displays of Christmas imagery and traditions violate the U.S. constitution—specifically the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of religion. The battle over whether religious displays should be placed within public schools, courthouses and other government buildings, has been heated in recent years.
Supreme Court rulings starting with Lynch v. Donnelly in 1984 have permitted religious themes in government-funded Christmas displays in their interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, though the inclusion of such displays is not mandated. Since these rulings have been splintered and have left governments uncertain of their limits, many such displays have included secular elements such as reindeer, snowmen and elves along with the religious elements. Other recent court cases have brought up additional issues such as the inclusion of Christmas carols in public school performances, but none of these cases have reached the US Supreme Court.
A controversy regarding these issues arose in 2002, when the New York City public school system banned the display of nativity scenes, but allowed religious symbols of Hanukkah and Ramadan to be displayed, as well as other less overt Christmas symbols such as the star at the top of a Christmas tree. Such a policy angered many, including commentator Bill O'Reilly, who in 2006 said such a policy was "anti-Christian". The school system successfully defended its policy in Skoros v. City of New York (2006).
Christians have as of late implemented boycotts against retail outlets who choose to use "holiday" and "season's greetings" instead of the specific term, "Christmas" in advertisements and displays.
Last updated by Morgan Matthew Feb 12, 2009.