As I'm sure most of you have guessed, my favorite place to hang out online is the website for the American Family Association. It's a website run by fundagelical oddballs who spend most of the year obsessing over what the gay folk are doing, but this time of year they really start caterwauling about the good ol' "War on Christmas".* All of this generally takes the form of a whole lot of pissing and moaning about companies that use the term "holiday" rather than "Christmas" in their advertising. (You know, because they couldn't possibly be selling Hanukkah or New Year's stuff at the same time.) The AFA even goes so far as to promote a "Naughty or Nice List", complete with the phone numbers of the offending companies so people can call and complain. If you're so inclined, you can also order buttons and stickers emblazoned with the slogan "It's Okay To Say Merry Christmas". (I was going to take a dig at them about the prices, but they're actually quite reasonable.)
The AFA lives in a fantasy world where "there are companies and individuals who want to ban "Merry Christmas" and replace it with 'Holiday Greetings'". Now I'm not sure AFA chairman Don Wildmon does his shopping, but I certainly don't see any paucity of "Merry Christmas" stuff lying around. Hell, the stores had Christmas stuff out before Halloween. What I do know is that by whining about how "Merry Christmas" is the only acceptable holiday greeting and getting their undies knotted up about freakin' Best Buy not using the word "Christmas" in their newspaper ads, AFA is completely missing the point: There is no war on Christmas because Christmas has already been secularized.
I myself will be putting up a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and I'm a freakin' atheist. It will even include my (atheist) girlfriend's saccharine-sweet "Precious Moments" nativity in which all of the characters are macrocephalic, doe-eyed baby-people. And, horror of horrors, I'll even play a fair amount of religious Christmas music because it's not nearly as annoying as the rock-a-billy crap that gets passed off as Christmas music these days.
"What the hell", I can hear you ask, "Why would an atheist do something like that?"
Because it's what my family did when I was a kid and I enjoy it. There's something to be said for harmless tradition - Just ask the British, up to 44% of whom are atheists (Source), but who still, stunningly enough, have freakin' Christmas. You don't have to believe in something to have fun with it - see Halloween, for example, or note that I still call today "Wednesday" even though I don't believe in Odin. I bet that very suggestion burns some people up, but it's true. I can go through all the traditional Christmas motions: Put up a tree, listen to carols, bake cookies (Okay, so I can't do that, but my girlfriend can.) utilize reciprocal gift-giving to express a fraction of my feelings of affection for my family and friends, even go to church with my folks on Christmas Eve, enjoy every single minute of it...and not believe even a tiny bit of the supernatural hokum attached to it.
actually offend anyone, we have one greeting that Christians are supposed to be offended by because it's not "Christian enough" and another greeting that's been weaponized into a big middle finger to everyone else. What exactly is the good that comes of that?
The whole idea championed by some of these religious groups that appearance is everything is something I don't get. Are they honestly so insecure in the reality of their religion that the celebration of their biggest holiday is thrown into disarray because the phrase "Merry Christmas" doesn't appear anywhere in the Sunday ad from the Gap? Are they so adamant that every state capital needs a taxpayer-funded set of nativity figures that they forget the fact that they can put 50 nativity scenes in their own front yard if they want to? Are they really so terrified that there might be (gasp) secularists around that they'll get pissed off if someone has the temerity to wish them "happy holidays"?
The problem for the AFA and similar groups is that society (including 92% theistic American society) really has created a modern version of Christmas that has as little to do with the Christian one as the Christian one has to do with the pagan solstice celebrations that most of its rituals are borrowed from. That's the trouble with memes - they evolve and change over time. It's also why I'd be comfortable making a bet that many more people will watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer than go to church this Christmas.
*They also host a weekly all-Christian TV and Podcast program about how Christian folk are "silenced". Don't think about it too much or you'll realize that it's the very definition of irony.