The “War on Christmas” from a retailer’s point of view

This guest post is by J. Howard Boyd.


As we enter the holiday shopping season, I would like to call out a few points about the whole “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” debate.

This is an extremely stressful season for those of us who make our living in the retail marketplace. Most of us rely on sales from this season to make up for the poorer sales that occur throughout the rest of the year. Many of my customers this season I see throughout the year, but the vast majority will be people I see only once a year, if that.

My biggest pleasure in serving you this season will be to help you find just the right gift for that special someone on your list. In order to do that, I will have to learn some things from you about the intended recipient. I will ask about their likes and dislikes, but I probably won’t ask about their religion, and I certainly won’t be asking you about yours. It’s just not relevant to the task at hand (and there are a lot of other people whom I also need to help!)

At the end of our time together, hopefully I will be tallying up your purchase. As we both are aware, this is a season of giving as well as shopping, so I may take the opportunity to wish you well as you go on your way. If  you made it clear to me in our conversation that you are a Christian, I will probably wish you a Merry Christmas. If you have indicated you are Jewish, I may say Happy Chanukah. If you have shared that you are a Pagan, I will wish you Good Yule, or Happy Solstice. If you haven’t shared your religious beliefs with me, I will most likely say Happy Holidays. This is not because I “hate” Christmas or Christians; it is merely because I don’t know what you might be celebrating this season.

There is also a very strong possibility that I will wish you a Merry Christmas, anyway, since I am a Christian, and it is my cultural fall-back phrase. Again, it wouldn’t be said as any sort of challenge to you; I wouldn’t be trying to force you into my beliefs. I would say it only because we have shared a (hopefully) pleasurable experience together, and I want to wish you well, one person to another.

In any case, I would hope that, as a member of this pluralistic society, you can recognize when a fellow human being is simply wishing you well, and accept that wish in the spirit in which it’s given—as opposed to responding with, say, a lecture about political correctness, or about freedom of/from religion, etc.

One last point: In my opinion, the real War on Christmas is waged by the incessant marketing and commercialization of the holiday. If I had my way, we in the retail world would completely sever all marketing from Christmas / Chanukah / Solstice / Kwanzaa or other holidays, and just refer to it as the Winter Gifting Season. That way, as a Christian, I might feel like I am allowed to celebrate my holiday from Dec 25 through Jan 6, as it should be, rather than being forced to celebrate it from Thanksgiving through Dec 25, and then shut the door on it.


About J. Howard Boyd
J. Howard Boyd manages an independent bookstore in Seattle WA. He is a Christian married to a Pagan. So far, nothing in their house has burned but the occasional pie.

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  • It’s sad that you give the Solstice to the Pagans. The solstice is a physical, scientific phenomenon. It’s the time when we’ve tipped as far as we’re going to tip, and we start going back the other way. It’s literally the time of year when the sun starts coming back.
    And I think you can appreciate that without worshiping the sun, just like you can enjoy a sunset without worshiping the sun.

  • Jackie Cutter

    I’m pretty late to this because I surfed here from elsewhere but I’m going to comment anyway.

    The things this article says are legitimately the exact same things that are constantly posted on Facebook and talked about by people who think they’re tolerant over coffee. “Oh, it’s a pluralistic society! We can all recognize the good wishes of others no matter how they say them!”

    Do this sometime: Try taking on the cultural holiday greeting of a minority faith in your area. Start wishing people “Happy Solstice” or “Happy Hannukah” or “Happy Kwanzaa.” People will likely treat you like you have some horrible political or religious agenda for doing so. They aren’t going to take it as tidings of good cheer. They’re going to take it as an attack on their faith.

    When people say “Just recognize that it’s the thought that counts,” this is an attitude that -only- benefits Christians during the holiday season. In fact, I would argue that as a Christian you had no business writing this in the first place, because -you- are -not- the one being harmed by this phenomenon. You may not be in the same camp as the Christian whiners who insist that there is some asinine “War on Christmas,” but you’re still a beneficiary as a member of an oppressive majority faith.

    People who are in minority faiths do not always have the luxury to experience “Merry Christmas” with the good cheer of a pluralistic society because frankly it’s pretty obvious when you’re on the receiving end that, no, not all instances of “Merry Christmas” are innocent expressions of one’s culture. When people are emphasizing “Christ,” as in “Merry CHRIST!mas,” and gushing about how happy they are that some store was “brave” enough to put a majority religious phrase like that in their window, it’s ridiculous to expect me to consider that simple good cheer. It’s Christian whining.

    And that’s ignoring the fault in assumptions made by you and many other Christians–innocent as you think you are–that Christmas is something so universally relatable that anybody who doesn’t celebrate it should just accept that they meant well and move on. Because no: I’m not obligated to be grateful and happy when somebody assumes my religion.