A friend recently posted on Facebook a Peanuts cartoon image by Charles Schulz together with the words “It’s really strange. America is the largest Christian Nation in The world, and we can’t say “MERRY CHRISTMAS”!!“ * Unfortunately, this statement suffers from a number of inaccuracies.
The United States does, indeed, have the highest number of individuals claiming to be Christian, which is 65% of the population. However, according to wiseGEEK, the countries with the highest percentage Christian population at 98% are Ecuador, Armenia, American Samoa, and Greece.
Secondly, the USA is not a Christian nation. The Constitution is a secular document and the founding fathers deliberately created a separation of church and state. They knew that when there was an alliance between the two it created oppression and tyranny.
Thirdly, no law has said that we cannot say “Merry Christmas.” Some states have made laws which they claim “protect” Christmas, and one even passed a law ensuring that everyone has the right to say “Merry Christmas,” but no law has suggested that you cannot.
So, why does my friend feel the need to express such a defensive position when they are not, actually, under attack? My guess is that Christians in general are feeling threatened by friends and neighbours who are now more vocal in their expression of other faiths or of atheism. Until quite recently, most non-Christians just kept quiet. In the last decade or so, more people are making it clear that they don’t feel obligated to stay in the religious closet.
Of course, some television channels and personalities are doing their best to stir up paranoia and fear, and that makes all of us more likely to be suspicious of our neighbours. It’s a shame, really. Christmas is about loving and sharing whether you believe in the virgin birth or not. It’s a time for thinking about others, giving and receiving gifts, eating good food, and visiting family. If that’s not merry, I don’t know what is.
Christians borrowed the winter holiday from the pagan festival of Yule, which was an ancient tradition to create light and warmth in the winter. So, people of all faiths and non-believers, too, are free to say “Merry Christmas” whenever they like. Anyone who might object is clearly not in the spirit of the season, and they haven’t accepted that it’s really a secular holiday with religious trimmings. It’s an attempt at merriment in the dark, cold, winter, and we call it Christmas. Have a merry one, everybody!
*(Emphasis and capitalization in the original.)