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The battle over Christmas

By Nathan Rice

There are a few things that let me know the holiday season has officially begun. The first is when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade comes on the television. The second is when Tony Macrini, the host of the morning show on AM 790 WNIS, reads and discusses an article about the war on Christmas.

There will undoubtedly be some newspaper articles and news stories that will announce there is a war on Christmas. Someone will find a story of a town that changes from a Christmas parade to a holiday parade or a city that removes a nativity scene from a government-owned piece of property, and they will use that to show that Christmas is under attack.

Others will rebut the war on Christmas by proclaiming inclusiveness or citing separation of church and state. They state that simply saying “Merry Christmas” excludes those who do not celebrate the holiday, and that a nativity scene on any piece of government-owned land is a declaration of a state-endorsed religion.

I think both sides often take the debate too far. A city changing the name of a parade doesn’t mean that you can’t say Merry Christmas or that you can’t celebrate the Redeemer’s birth. On the other hand, a county continuing a longstanding tradition of displaying a nativity doesn’t mean that they are sanctioning the Christian faith.

When the debate about the war on Christmas starts again this year, I hope we can move the narrative from one of over-reaction to one of mutual love and respect.

We could start by not taking everything so personally. Many who celebrate Christmas call for a boycott of a store that sells holiday trees instead of Christmas trees, claiming that the store owners are bent on destroying the tradition or faith of Christmas. Likewise, many who do not celebrate Christmas are quick to call those who say “Merry Christmas” bigots who refuse to respect the beliefs of others.

There may be some store owners who don’t like Christmas, so they purposefully use their businesses to begin the removal of Christmas from prominence. There may also be some who say “Merry Christmas” simply to make a point. However, it’s probably a very small minority in both cases. A lot of the time, people aren’t trying to harm you or what you celebrate when they say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”

Couldn’t we also agree to disagree? Instead of being offended that a store associate says “Happy Holidays,” couldn’t we just smile and say, “Thank you; you too”? Rather than allowing a nativity scene or someone saying “Merry Christmas” to ruin a season, couldn’t the tradition of the display be honored and those who celebrate a faith during Christmas be respected?

We’ve become increasingly divided as a nation this year, and hateful rhetoric on all sides of issues and political parties has intensified throughout the year. We are now in the most wonderful time of the year, but I’m worried that the division will only increase as we argue over what to call Dec. 25. I encourage everyone to stand up for what they believe in, but I hope we can all do so in a manner that is loving and respectful. If we do, perhaps we can have peace on earth and goodwill towards men, even if it is just for a moment.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.