Stop Telling People To 'Put Christ Back In Christmas'

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
Artur Debat / Getty Images

Alright people, it’s that time again. The elf warriors are back. (Kathy next door has an elf who “made cookies last night” so now Mary Ellen down the street is piiiiiiissed because that elf made her elf look like a lazy POS.) Black Friday shoppers are attacked (literally) by non-shoppers, and also fellow shoppers—they can’t win. (They just want a damn LOL doll house for 30% off! Let them live.)

Oh, and of course, my favorite—the “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” battle. Yep, that age-old “war on Christmas” (which is actually not really a thing) rages on in people’s minds year after year. The more secular the cups get at Starbucks, the more threats we hear to boycott yet another business that’s somehow ruining this holiday for your devout Christian neighbors.

Except me.

Because I am a Christian. And I love Starbucks (and Target, so settle down Mary Sue, because I’m just getting started.) Also, guess what else? In no way at all does any business, or neighbor, or person on the street, or person in the mall impact my family’s holiday if they aren’t Christian. If they don’t say Merry Christmas. Or they don’t believe Jesus is the reason for the season. It’s actually completely no big deal and has zero effect on my life, on the way I raise my kids, and on our ability to go to church and pray and celebrate the way we want to.

Because newsflash, other people’s choices aren’t always about me. Weird, right?

The truth is, when Christians chastise others who don’t honor their same beliefs, they are assuming that this holiday must mean the same thing for everyone.

But they are wrong. Those who do celebrate Christmas, but at a different type of church, or no church at all, deserve to enjoy their holiday too. And those who don’t even celebrate Christmas, but another holiday during the winter months, they too deserve a joyous season full of love and acceptance from their fellow Americans.

When we negate the experience of others who believe differently than we do, that’s exactly the type of judgment that gives the rest of us Christians a bad name.

Because here’s the truth: Christmas has evolved to be a holiday that includes both secular and religious traditions. And like it or not, Santa is king in a lot of families—families whose holidays may include lots of gifts, but who also incorporate other important pieces like laughter, family traditions, helping the less fortunate, baking cookies with Grandma, and filling the tree with handmade ornaments full of dried macaroni.

Families who—Jesus or no Jesus—look a lot like mine.

So who is fueling the fire here? Why do you care when a company celebrates Christmas with a tree or Santa hat rather than an angel or star? Or when someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” Or if the parents next door give their kids a shit-ton of gifts? Does it really affect your Christmas all that much? Does it really prevent you from going to church, celebrating your faith, and having the Christmas you want?

And yes, I get it—this holiday is extremely commercialized now. People camp out in tents in store parking lots on Thanksgiving night. I personally would cut off a toe before camping on a sidewalk just to get a deal on a TV or to score a Hatchimal for my kid. But that’s just me. Do I really care if other people do? Nope. Did I have a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family, just the way we wanted it? Yep. So if you’re a raging Black Friday shopper and stay up all night, you do you. Hope you score some awesome deals. Can you grab me a pair of boots while you’re out? (Brown, size 8.)

Honestly, I couldn’t give two shits if you spoil your kids rotten at Christmas. If your pile of gifts is 10 feet high, and that brings you and your kids joy, cool with me. Want to know why? Because it isn’t about me. My Christmas is my Christmas, and yours is yours.

Also, I have friends who aren’t religious at all. So yeah, their Christmas has no Jesus. But do you know what it does have? Love, family, tons of good food, and memories that will last their kids a lifetime. And I exchange gifts and cards and food and wine with them too. Because that’s what the holidays are about.

To me, the most beautiful thing about America is its diversity. And in a diverse nation, each family can make the holidays their own. And they should. So when you spew judgment or negativity or even hatred at non-Christian sentiments around the holidays, exactly what type of Christian are you?

Some families come back together and find forgiveness at Christmas after a fight and not speaking for months, or even years. Grandparents often meet their grandbabies for the first time as their grown children fly across the country with their new baby in tow. Cousins reconnect, catch up, and spend the day hearing all about each other’s lives.

And some of those homes with “spoiled” kids being showered with gifts? You don’t know their story. I have friends who foster children—children who’ve lived out of trash bags their whole lives. So if they feel like getting their kids a PS4, they’re going to do just that. And kudos to them.

I guess what it all comes down to is having “Christ” in Christmas means different things to different people. For example, we won’t even make it to church this year because our church services conflict with our enormous family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Does that mean Christ isn’t part of our holiday? No.

Or what about the family making amends after not speaking all year long? The family who decides to come back together, hug it out, say they are sorry, and enjoy a meal together. If that doesn’t sound like Jesus, I don’t know what does.

Or how about families who volunteer at soup kitchens and sponsor refugees and buy gifts for kids who would not have one single thing to open otherwise? Those families may not believe in God, or maybe they do. But whether they attend church or not, they are doing the work that makes this world better. They are caring for their neighbor and loving one another—doesn’t that sound familiar?

So as a Christian, if you say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and if your kids get 800 gifts or two, that’s okay with me. Enjoy your holiday. Eat the cookies and drink the wine and take blurry pictures of your kids dressed up in plaid sweaters and tearing open gifts. This is your day, as much as it is mine. And I hope it’s everything you want it to be.

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