business news in context, analysis with attitude

Our lead story on Christmas Eve was about how some retailers have gotten so politically correct that they are not making references to Christmas – or any other end-of-year holiday, for that matter – in their store decorations, preferring to go with more generic “season’s greetings” for fear of alienating someone.

The most public example of this has been Macy’s in New York’s Herald Square, which is where the famous film “Miracle on 34th Street” took place.

USA Today reported that “instead of ‘Merry Christmas,’ there are holiday decorations with the generic slogan, ‘Everyone Has A Gift to Give.’ The only holiday specifically mentioned on the main floor is Thanksgiving, because Macy's is selling commemorative Gund teddy bears from its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade for $19.99.

“Federated Department Stores, parent of the Macy's and Bloomingdale's chains, says in a statement says it has ‘no policy’ on Christmas, but notes that ‘Season's Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ embrace ‘all of the various religious, secular and ethnic celebrations’ in November and December.”

Some people, of course, are upset by this policy, saying by not keeping the Christmas in Christmas, these retailers are offending people who do observe that holiday and ignoring the root reason for the holiday. And USA Today noted that “conservative pundits such as Patrick Buchanan call retail stores the latest battleground in the ‘moral values’ debate between conservatives and liberals.”

Our commentary suggested that we all need to calm down a little bit. We wrote, in part: While we would agree that it seems a little over the top to decorate a store for the Christmas holidays without ever once using the word “Christmas,” we’re at an interesting juncture in this country. We have a broader number of people than ever before, and these people have a wide range of beliefs and observances. It seems to us that the worst that companies like Macy’s can be accused of is trying to be sensitive, of trying to do the right thing. We suspect that, in the long run, a common sense middle of-the-road approach will win out…and that retailers will find a way to recognize the multi-layered quilt of celebrations that take place in this country at this time of year. And, we suggested, that calling this a “moral values battle” only serves to politicize something that shouldn’t be political. We wrote, Maybe, for once, we could all practice a little generosity of spirit…which is what the holiday is supposed to be about, whatever you call it or however you observe it.

Our position, to say the least, inflamed some passions among MNB users:

One MNB user wrote:

Well Mr. Content Guy, you knew this was coming.

In your article “Keeping Christmas in Christmas”, you sounded like the ultimate Politically Correct Guy.

The same Companies that don’t want to mention Christmas are trying to increase sales by attracting those specific people that celebrate CHRISTMAS. How much would sales increase if we told people to celebrate just a season. So yes, by taking Christmas out of Christmas does offend those who observe Christmas. While I truly appreciate and encourage all people of all faiths to have their celebrations, there is a reason to keep Christmas in Christmas. Not increased sales, Christ’s birth.

I enjoy your articles because of your opinions (whether I agree or not), don’t try to be Politically Correct.


MNB user Joe Brennan wrote:

While this country tries admirably to embrace all the diverse ethnic and religious communities there seems only one group that it is okay to diminish, ridicule or question their beliefs, Christians.

Happy Hanukkah, Jolly Kwanzaa, Warm Winter Solstice and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! To all others Happy New Year, except the Chinese and Jews who have their separate calendar for their New Year celebration.


MNB user Larry Williams chimed in:

The last time I looked the calendar still refers to Dec 24 and 25th as Christmas Eve and Christmas. Let’s leave Centuries of tradition and celebration alone. If our diversity causes us to be afraid of who we are and what we believe then we are not really celebrating diversity at all, rather fearing it. I have no problem with retailers honoring Kwanza and Hanukkah. But I seriously doubt if the there would be overwhelming retail reaction to celebrations of these holidays. Perhaps Christians should bow to liberal leanings and just stop buying gifts one year to celebrate Christmas! I wonder how the retail community would act then.

MNB user David Pruitt wrote:

I must disagree with the assessment of Christmas greeting. Christmas, the holiday season began with the birth of Christ, thus the name, Christmas. Just what does Happy Holidays or Season Greetings mean? Merry Christmas means Happy Birthday Jesus.

Just as I am an American and celebrate the 4th of July, I am a Christian and celebrate Christmas.

Now, before anyone judges me as being narrow minded I have many friends that are Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, agnostic and atheist. Each and everyone of them received a Christmas card from me and not a single one was offended or have refused to speak to me again. In fact most were thrilled that I remembered them on Christmas and certainly hope and look forward to them remembering me on their special holiday.

If we start homogenizing all of our holidays what does Easter become??? How about July 4th??? Memorial Day???

What should we call Easter? Happy Bunny Day??

Do we change the name and meaning of July 4th for fear of offending others because the country they come from has a different day of celebration, or worse they might be British and we wouldn't want to rub it in.

Do we change Memorial Day so as not to offend anyone our Armed forces have fought against in the past 200 years?

We are becoming pasty white dull. We are a nation of many colors, cultures and holidays. How about we celebrate them instead of trying to make everyone the same?


MNB user David M. Metz wrote:

This question is a 2 edge sword. I am a Jew who grew up in NY, who now lives in Southern California. I enjoy watching everyone celebrating Christmas and all holidays for that matter including my own.

Last weekend I wanted to go to a place that was filled with the spirit of old Saint Nicholas. It was very hard to find. The elaborate Christmas trees the glowing Menorah and the sounds of caroling in the square were all gone. We finally found it in the Old City of Orange, CA. Thank G-d! For those of us who believe in a higher power. Which this country was also built on.

It is a shame to see that this country, which was built on the principles of religious freedom to escape religious persecution of England, is now practicing it our selves. This country was built by many cultures. Not just by one culture! We did not just appear here. Ok take it out of the schools & Governments, I can deal with that. But take it out of retail? I do not know what this country is coming to. Is there a way in which we could all be tolerant of each others’ beliefs?


Another MNB user wrote:

Let me see if I understand what's being said...

We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr's. Birthday as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We celebrate Valentine's Day as Valentine's Day. We celebrate Easter as Easter. We celebrate Memorial Day as Memorial Day. We celebrate Independence Day (July 4th) as Independence Day (July 4th). We celebrate Labor Day as Labor Day. We celebrate Halloween as Halloween. We celebrate Thanksgiving as Thanksgiving, and now...

We're to celebrate Christmas as "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays"?

Interesting. Very interesting. Believe me, I do understand the position these retailers are in. It's a no win situation. It's just sad that we've gone so far down the road of political correctness that they would even have to consider such a thing.


MNB user Justine Johnson wrote:

On a personal note, Kevin, I really enjoy your column. Thank you for your research and your commentary. And, today, thank you for "the gift" of having a chance to respond.

The day is about setting out a day of the year to celebrate a birthday, the birth of Jesus Christ. Thus, Christmas. We have become so politically sensitive to all those who have come to our dear country that we can no longer freely call what is as it is. Yes, Christ's very coming is the "Spirit of giving", but He was never perceived as "politically correct" at all. This (and to fulfill prophecy) is, after all, why He was ultimately crucified. So here we are, now, a multi-cultural society (which is also what we were then) where Christians who stand strongly and lovingly on their beliefs and values are tagged intolerant, and we are the ones who are no longer "politically correct" if we raise our voices in the noise of the crowd to say "Remember the reason for the season". Do you really think the executives of Macy's/Bloomingdale's really care if they are offending someone because of the multi-faceted society we live in, or do they want to preserve their bottom line? (USA Today quote: "The only holiday specifically mentioned on the main floor is Thanksgiving, because Macy's is selling commemorative Gund teddy bears from its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade for $19.99.")

If those offended by Merry Christmas (which is a politically correct way of saying, Happy Birthday Christ) may possibly stay out of the stores because of this (doesn't this also quality as "intimidation techniques"?), why can't Pat Buchanan say what he believes without being tagged the intimidator? Oh, and believe me, I don't agree with many of his practices, I'm just curious why "sensitivity" doesn't apply both ways? The "Spirit" of the season is that a Savior was born to restore us to our Creator (if we chose to accept "the gift"), it is why the very "holiday" came to be. The celebration of the Christ child. I doubt God really intended it to become the retail feeding frenzy it has become. Isn't it funny how so many show up to enjoy the days off from work, giving/receiving gifts, special meals - but don't really believe in the very thing (or, more appropriately, One) that the day is set aside to celebrate. So, instead of them choosing not to participate, Christians must be sensitive and tolerant and not stand up or speak up when we water down the celebration day so we don't offend anyone who truly doesn't believe in what (or, more appropriately, Who) is being celebrated. It's like showing up to a birthday party for someone you don't know and/or don't like. How interesting - it's politically incorrect to acknowledge who's birthday we celebrate. Hmmmmmmmmmmm,

Well, the one thing we agree on, Kevin, is it shouldn't be expected that the retailers of the world will share the true reason for this Season of giving and generosity (although some do!). We should be accepting Him as the Gift ourselves, teaching it in our homes to our children, and sharing it through prayer and service in our communities. This is the ultimate in "sensitivity" - caring enough about others to introduce them to the Savior whose birth we celebrate.

You sound like a devoted husband and father, Kevin, God bless you. I'm praying you share the reason we have a day of celebration on December 25th, and that you had a very Merry Christmas!


We did, thanks. And we appreciate the blessings. There are those who would suggest that we need all of those that we can get…

MNB user Brian Bittke wrote:

Christmas is a holiday established by Congress and signed into law by the President. It is not identified as “holiday!” Everyone knows about Christmas and if some choose not to participate they are not being forced to do so.

We have gone so far to be “politically correct” that Christmas is being moved into oblivion. Just look at the schools. They do not identify Christmas; it is now the Winter break.

I believe others who do not believe in Christmas should be tolerant of those who do. Until Christmas is no longer the holiday of record, let’s keep Christmas in Christmas!


And another MNB user wrote:

Kevin, The Battle Over Christmas is part of a larger issue. For years Christians have felt that they are being sent to the back of the American Bus. Most movies, TV shows, and popular songs that reference Christians or their beliefs do so in a mocking way. When "The Passion of the Christ" came out, Christians were savaged as anti-Semites or kooks. When Bush beat Kerry, pundits complained about ignorant fundamentalists voting for Bush because they're scared of men kissing in public. When a major news event related to abortion occurs, major news organizations draw more many more quotes from Planned Parenthood than National Right to Life. For many Christians, the experience is that the culture is being robbed of Christmas.

In many grocery stores I see gobs of "Happy Holidays" and "Season Greetings" mixed in with the holly and the wreaths. I do see some signs saying "Merry Christmas", but they are always put on the same billing as "Happy Hanukah" and "Happy Kwanzaa". This seems to be an attempt to make sure no one is offended by Christmas.

Christians don't seem to understand why people would be offended by Christmas. Christmas has been the dominant holiday in America. And it's made America a better place to live. Certainly it's been good for retailers. Most non-Christians have come to terms with this. They want respect shown them for their beliefs, but they don't want to be intolerant of Christians and eliminate all cultural references to Christianity. Certainly our nation is pluralistic, and our culture will reflect that. But that doesn't mean that Christmas and Christians have to be brought down in order to respect non Christians. But that's what it feels like is going on.

Retailers naturally want to remain neutral, but that's very difficult. A grocery store is part of a community. It's part of the American culture. Retailers giving pride of place to Christmas (while showing proper respect to people of different beliefs) should simply be good business. Except in a few areas, the people who celebrate Christmas dwarf those who observe Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice or what have you. Good retailing can reflect the culture of the area while respecting other people's values.

With "Happy Holidays" steamrolling "Merry Christmas", I see many retailers simply wanting to avoid offense. Unfortunately, they've succeeded in offending millions of Christians. I'd like to see retailers do a better job of walking the fine line.


MNB user Dave Tuchler wrote:

Regarding the story about Macy's and avoiding Christmas messages - - the sad aspect of this whole thing to me is that in the PC interest of not excluding anyone, we include no one. Rather than allowing the diversity of celebrations to shine, we are left with a lot of generic shopping mall-worthy holiday-esque beige.

One MNB user wrote:

I never realized you were such a liberal.

This would be, in our opinion, a mischaracterization of our opinion in this matter.

And a really annoyed MNB user wrote:

Your view is so wishy washy that you put your self into the PC camp. It's not the Liberals vs. the Conservatives it's people with values vs. those without. Don't need your newsletter any longer, thanks.

As per your request, we’re taking you off our mailing list. And we’ll address some of these comments below…but first, we should note that not everyone thought we were a liberal, wishy-washy, PC apologist for a valueless culture.

MNB user Jeff Totten wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, especially those about intimidations on both ends of the religion/sectarian spectrum. I liked what one columnist said (Maureen Dowd or Ellen Goodman, I think, and I can't find my clipping) about the pastor in North Carolina who spent $7,000 on ads demanding retail stores to use "Merry Christmas" or else his flock would not patronize them: why didn't he spend that $7,000 on food and clothing for the hungry in his community? A reader echoed my thoughts and the columnist's thoughts as well with a letter to the editor of the Baton Rouge or New Orleans paper. Let's focus on the spirit of the holidays -- peace on earth and good will to all men and women, of any and all races. No one should have any problem with this central message.

MNB user Christine Friesleben wrote:

By lumping every religious or secular observance in December under the generic banner of “season’s greetings,” we do more to promote the commercialism of the “season” than to acknowledge the religious or cultural observance each denotes. Retailers concerned about offending the 10 percent of the population that is not Christian? Give me a break. As a Christian, I am not offended when I see store displays touting merchandise specific to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and I doubt my Jewish and African-American brothers and sisters are offended by my observance of Christmas. I would venture a guess, however, that we are all offended by retailers who water down our celebrations in search of the almighty dollar.

And MNB user Jim Zimring wrote:

Kevin, once again your voice of reason, tolerance, compassion, understanding and basic good sense speaks volumes. Thank you for a well worded message that needs to be repeated over and over, since those who disagree do not seem to care to hear any other voice but their own.

Perhaps you have read Anna Quindlen's piece in this week's Newsweek. If not, do yourself a favor and take a look. She, too, is one of the people who, after reading her words, evoke the thought, "I wish I could express my views as well -- it's a gift."

Have a great holiday season and a happy and prosperous new year. And continue your great work, both as a terrific resource for our industry and a worthy armchair sociologist!


Now, there are two fairly opposite points of view being expressed here.

Go back and read our original piece. The title was “Keeping Christmas In Christmas,” and we were, in fact, arguing for a kind of national tolerance that would be inclusive of all religious points of view, as opposed to a vanilla “season’s greetings” approach. We did suggest that because we are a society and a culture going through profound changes, it may take a little time before we are able to achieve this kind of inclusiveness, and that characterizing this as a culture war only exacerbates differences, as opposed to giving people and institutions room in which they can come together.

One additional point. Look around at a lot of the stores making a big deal about the Christmas holidays. We would suggest that very little of what they are doing has anything to do with the real spirit of Christmas. It ain’t exactly like the moneychangers in the temple, but let’s not confuse religious observances with the conduct of commerce.

Incidentally, we’ve never viewed tolerance as a liberal value. We know some pretty liberal people who are awfully intolerant, and some people who are extremely conservative in their behavior and beliefs who also are among the most tolerant people we know.

If we worked at Macy’s, we might have suggested that we find out how many different end-of-year holidays are celebrated by all the different races, nationalities and religions who make up the city of New York, And we might have suggested that the store create some sort of incredible, wall-sized quilt that recognized all of these observances. (New York, by the way, is probably the most diverse place in the country, and therefore a place where greater sensitivity may be called for. “We are the city of people who are not like us,” the estimable Pete Hamill noted in an unrelated New York Times op-ed piece yesterday….and as usual, he had the phrase and the sentiment absolutely right.)

And by the way…if we wanted to be “politically correct,” we never would have brought up a subject and addressed it in a way that had the potential for getting us into trouble and lose us members of the MNB community. This was a discussion subject fraught with landmines…but we ventured into it anyway, and expressed an opinion that we knew might not win us any friends.

Here is our bottom line position on this. We believe that to delete all specific references to Christmas during the holiday season is ludicrous and even disingenuous…and that retailers (not to mention society in general) have to find ways to celebrate both the holy day and the holiday while still acknowledging and even commemorating the other end-of-year holidays that are observed by an increasingly diverse community of citizens. We believe that figuring out how to do this, however, in an era when cultural and political nerve endings tend to be exposed, is going to take some time, and that we all need to be patient as this inevitable evolution occurs.

We also believe that labeling this as some sort of culture war is only harmful, and adds to the level of distrust and misunderstanding in a way that actually could be described as un-Christian. Declaring war over such matters adds only noise, not clarity, and makes it difficult for tolerance to be achieved.
KC's View: