In recent years, there has been an increasing level of controversy surrounding different interpretations of the festive season. At times, the debate can become fraught, stirring up passions and reinforcing divisions, particularly between what can be perceived as the two main involved parties.
On the one hand, there are those who wish to push for a more secular holiday season in the name of inclusivity, by looking to minimize its connection with Christmas and Christianity. This is due to a belief that widespread public attention to a Christian holiday is in some way offensive or even harmful to those who do not share in celebrating this occasion. Many in this camp will be fervent in demanding that any mention of Christmas be removed from public places and will encourage businesses to adopt a secular approach to the holiday season.
In fierce opposition to this viewpoint, a number of Christian conservatives argue that there is now a ‘War on Christmas’, presenting a threat to freedom of religion and expression. Replacing the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ with the more secular term ‘Happy Holidays’ is perceived by some as hostile towards Christians and an attempt to erode at the public expression of Christian holidays and traditions.
Faced with these two competing ideologies, businesses are faced with much scrutiny over the manner in which they promote the festive season and Christmas. This should not be the cause of too much concern so long as policies are left up to each private business to decide for themselves, based on their own values or indeed what they believe is in their best interests financially.
In seeking to increase profits, private companies will form their policy in order to best please their customer base. As such, if it is believed that a more secular promotion of the festive season will lead to greater financial success, companies will be inclined to embrace that option, with the same principle applying in reverse.
For example, although the evolution of Starbucks holiday cups over the past two decades should be more of a reflection on each design’s appeal to the average customer, there will inevitably be those who will argue that the designs instead form part of a political agenda. This is a very different issue to concerns around freedom of expression in places like public schools, where everyone should be free to celebrate their holidays.
However, it would appear that people who would genuinely take exception to any of the various terms associated with the festive season, whether it be secular or religious greetings, are in no way a majority. A Public Policy Polling survey from 2016 found that 80% of Americans are indifferent to which form of greeting people use. These are, after all, intended as well-meaning expressions of goodwill and a way of spreading some festive cheer.
So from everyone at Students For Liberty, we hope you have a wonderful holiday, and we extend our best wishes for any other occasions you may celebrate this festive season.