Separation of Church and Retail

I’ve been too busy with studying for my final exams and subsequently working at Target the last few weeks to check on holiday news lately, but I did some catching up lately.
Apparently this year, more than ever, a very hot item of debate is “Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.” Before I even discuss this issue, let’s reflect on what Christmas in retailing has become… Insanity. What does fighting your way through toy aisles looking to grab the last model of a toy that some celebrity on TV made “a hot item” even have to do with Christmas? Take a look in the bible. You won’t find “Black Friday”, the “Doodle Monster”, or “Apples to Apples.”
Around Thanksgiving this year, a rumor began to spread that my employer, Target, was banning their team members from saying “Merry Christmas,” a rumor that is completely false. Once again, is this most likely an example of the exaggeration of one experience at one Target store. This has happened before, often sparking mass chain letters, such as the Dick Forrey Letter. After the “Merry Christmas Ban Rumor” came out, conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel apparently questioned some team members in the Detroit area and claims that they said they’d be fired if they were caught saying “Merry Christmas.”
Even if there were a couple Target managers who were misinformed about Target policy is, it’s ridiculous to hold the entire 1400-store chain accountable. As soon as this rumor came out, a notice was posted at my Target explaining that it was false.
Let’s take a look at the issue as a whole now. I exclusively used “Happy Holidays” over the past few weeks for one major reason: I have no clue what religion a complete stranger is! If I really wanted to, I suppose I could do some profiling of every guest I talked to. Maybe I could check to see if they were wearing a religious symbol, or what items they had in their cart. But why? Why does retailing have to be so religious?
If a guest said “Merry Christmas” to me, I would respond with “Merry Christmas” as well. I did this several dozen times. There’s no reason to force “Happy Holidays” then. But just as I don’t assume that every female shopper with a belly is expecting, and thus don’t automatically congratulate for fear of offending, I don’t assume every guest is Christian.
Apparently some Christians are offended by not being offered a “Merry Christmas” when shopping their local discount store. I just don’t understand this. As a little kid, before I had a real understanding about religions other than my own, I thought people said “Happy Holidays” because there are multiple holidays in Christianity that people celebrate this time of year. There’s Christmas, New Year’s, and for some more traditional Christians there is Epiphany of the Lord or Three Kings Day on January 6. To my conservative friends, may I suggest you look at it this way?
This is not to say that there isn’t the other extreme of political correctness. Boston, among other cities, began calling its main Christmas tree “Holiday Tree” this year. Let’s face it… It is a symbol of a certain religion, and it’s probably more offensive than tolerant to force it as a symbol of all the holidays this time of year. The same goes for “holiday stockings” as well as “holiday wrap” and “holiday ornaments” with Christmas themes on it.
I don’t feel retailers shouldn’t make reference to Christmas in their flyers or in their obvious Christmas sections in their stores. I’m definitely not an extremist in this regard. But I don’t think retail stores (with the obvious exception of Christmas stores) should promote greeting customers they don’t know with a greeting that doesn’t apply to one out of five Americans. Tonight is Christmas Eve, and if you’re Christian, now is the right time to practice your beliefs with your own family and friends. But if I don’t know you, you’ll still get a friendly “Happy Holidays” from me if I see you out in public… Or on this weblog…
Happy Holidays!

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