Every year, the same controversy seems to crop up--the "war on Christmas"! It seems some Christian pundits walked into a Wal-Mart and were greeted with "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" and so this is obviously the work of some secret cabal trying to destroy the Christian religion. To this I say, if there is a war against Christmas, Christmas is winning. After all, it's the only religious holiday that gets a federal day off.
Here's what more likely explains the use of the more generic "happy holidays" at the stores:
PR Exec: We want you to have everyone greeted when they come into Wal-Mart so they feel happy and buy more of our lead-covered dinner plates.
CEO: Okay! I like your thinking, Marty! (PR Execs are often named "Marty") Since it's close to Xmas, let's have them say "merry Christmas".
PR Exec: Well, we have a lot of non-Christians shopping at our stores, and we don't want to make them feel alienated.
CEO: Okay, how about "merry Christmas, happy Hannukah, sweet Kwanzaa, and happy federally mandated day off"? That should cover everyone.
PR Exec: Clearly you haven't been trained in public relations! That'd take so long we'd have to pay our greeters overtime. What if we cover everyone with "happy holidays"?
CEO: Brilliant! Now let's go roll around naked in some currency!
PR Exec: Sweet! I'm all oiled up!
Now, the Christmas conspiracists probably think the conversation is more like this:
PR Exec: One of our greeters at one of our Cleveland stores tried wishing someone a merry Christmas. I made sure she was fired right away.
CEO: Good work! After all, if our masters at the Tri-Lateral Commission found out we weren't doing our part in destroying Christmas, they might have us removed to special re-education camps! And I hated camp as a kid.
PR Exec: Nope, I made sure every greeter only says "happy holidays" so people eventually forget what Christmas is. Ha ha ha ha! Let's go trash a manger scene.
CEO: Sure thing! And offer our employees a thousand bucks for whoever brings me the head of Santa Claus by the next full moon.
That said, Christmas is alive and well--people still celebrate it either as a religous holiday or a family gathering, decorating and gift giving is at the usual high even in this economy, and the radio is still packed with holiday music. Also, the very notion of wishing someone a "happy holiday" still acknowledges Christmas, since this time of year isn't considered particularly special to atheists, Jews or Muslims (Hannukah, as any Jewish friend will tell you, is one of their more minor holidays, only really given much attention because it lands near Xmas). The fact that retailers are trying to be more inclusive isn't a bad thing.