November 16, 2007

And what holiday would that be, exactly?

I saw this little story on yesterday about Lowe's calling their Christmas trees "family trees" in a recent holiday catalog. Now, to be fair, Lowe's admits that the "family tree" moniker was an error, and that their TV and magazine ads, and fliers from here on out will bear the word "Christmas" in the description. So please don't go boycotting Lowe's!

However, this brought a familiar ire to the surface for me. Retailers switched from "Christmas" to "holiday" advertising some years ago, which, in a way, I can understand. The "holiday" season starts right around Halloween and lasts through New Year's Day, so I can understand lumping all the holidays in this time period together for marketing ease. What I don't understand is why the "holiday" decorations and marketing are almost always related to Christmas, yet the word is rarely seen or mentioned anywhere!

If you decorate your store with evergreen trees strung with lights and ribbon, put a Santa hat on your store mascot, hang red and green banners, and play "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night", are you invoking images of Thanksgiving? Hanukkah? Kwanzaa? Ramadan? New Year's Day? No! These are, without a doubt, solely Christmas trappings.

Why the ambiguity, then? So as not to offend non-Christians or those opposed to Christmas? Fine; I am not one to judge, but wouldn't the proliferation of the obviously Christmas theme without the inclusion of your preferred holiday encroach on offensive as well? Wouldn't you say to yourself, "Ah, my favorite store is celebrating the holiday season. Wait, what's with all the Christmas trees? Where's the (insert preferred holiday symbol here)?" When is the last time you saw a menorah in a "holiday" display? Plus, aren't retailers at all concerned with offending Christians, too?

And then there are the well-meaning employees that I will come across who will wish me a hearty "Happy holidays!" I suppose I can understand the generality here, more so than with their employers ("Happy Internet Explorer Day!" "I hate Internet Explorer - viva Firefox!"). Why risk invoking an angered response when you're just trying to do your job? Perhaps I could adopt Chef's response; an even heartier "Merry Christmas to you, too!"

In the end, I know that retailers are really just unwilling to lose even one of the $474.5 billion dollars they hope to rake in this year by potentially offending someone. I know that Christmas is becoming an increasingly commercial holiday. Fewer and fewer people are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

And that makes my heart break.

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