If hearing someone say “Merry Christmas” offends you, it probably has more to do with your politics than your faith. A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll reveals that “Merry Christmas” remains the favored seasonal greeting for 56 percent of Americans, with 31 percent preferring “Happy Holidays.” One notable finding is that a majority of those under 30 favor “Happy Holidays,” while older people are more traditional.
Millennial writer Alina Selyukh implied that this was because her generation is “the most diverse generation of adults in the country’s history.” But in this poll, the usual racial and gender divisions were absent: 55 percent of African-Americans prefer Merry Christmas, as do 56 percent of both men and women, and there were only small differences within demographics such as education and income.
The biggest divide is political. The poll found a 33 percentage point gap between “happy” Democrats and “merry” Republicans.
This phenomenon was illustrated in Sunday’s Doonsebury comic in which families from opposite sides of the political spectrum share a delightful dinner together until a departing guest scolds the host for saying, “Merry Christmas,” and the evening is ruined. As I noted in my book “Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past,” the expression “Merry Christmas” was popularized in the USA in 1844 by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and has remained a seasonal staple ever since. The use of “Happy Holidays” spread in the late 20th century as a way for retailers to greet customers without fear of offending those who might not celebrate Christmas.
But not everyone was happy with the generic holiday greeting. To some, it seemed to be part of a concerted effort to negate Christmas altogether. Paradoxically, a Gallup survey showed that 10 times the number of people were irritated by hearing the supposedly neutral “Happy Holidays” than by “Merry Christmas.” And even millennial-subject-of-worship Barack Obama said “Merry Christmas” as president.
This issue long predates the Trump administration, but the president’s pushback against PC holidays solidified the political battle lines. The Washington Post claimed that people — mostly liberals — afflicted with what they call “Trump Christmas Brain” are hesitant to use the traditional greeting because it might look as if they’re siding with the president. The Atlantic’s James Hamblin claimed that President Donald Trump emphasizing “Merry Christmas” turned “the holiday into a tool of demagoguery,” and that it is “an homage to an era when the nation was Christian and any other religion was second-class, and when whiteness meant unquestioned authority.”
That is, they decode Trump’s secret message as may all your Christmases be white.
The progressive line is that in increasingly diverse communities, openly celebrating Christmas is exclusionary because those who are not Christian will feel unwelcome or offended. The solution, implemented in public schools, colleges and many government offices, is to homogenize holidays and observances, reducing them to the lowest common denominator. For example, a University of Maine administrator cautioned against displaying “xmas trees, wreaths, xmas presents, menorahs, candy canes, etc.,” on campus, so everyone would “feel included and welcome.”
Americans have the right to celebrate unpoliced
However, stamping out cherished traditions hardly promotes inclusion and is not the least bit welcoming. Religious holidays — whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali or others — are important and meaningful events for those who observe them and should not be considered offensive to those who do not. Americans have a right to celebrate holidays in whatever manner they wish, and not to be shamed and bullied by the PC police. People are only driven further apart when they are forced to walk on eggshells out of fear that some sullen victim-in-waiting will take exaggerated offense at their innocent, heartfelt expressions of good cheer.
This is the point President Trump is making by saying “Merry Christmas,” that despite what progressive censors say, it is OK to use this traditional greeting. People should say Merry Christmas — or Happy Hanukkah, Happy Diwali, Eid Mubarak, or any other holiday greeting proudly and happily, and hope others will take it in the festive spirit it is offered.
Americans can — and should — be kind and joyful for each other, no matter what they believe. And they should leave it to the cynical progressive Scrooges to grumble about the idiots saying Merry Christmas who should be “boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”
James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of “Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past,” has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins