Trump’s ‘Merry Christmas’ debate has no place in our diverse society

“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct… Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” said President Trump to a roaring crowd at the 2017 Values Voter Summit. This statement reinforced the increasingly common belief that there is a “war on Christianity” being waged, and greeting each other with the words “Merry Christmas” is the way to fight back.

Though this was in October, Trump’s attempts to impose the celebration of Christmas on the U.S. as a whole occurred throughout his campaign and has continued recently as well. He has released a Christmas edition “Make America Great Again” hat, and more seriously, has made clear attacks on other religions, most notably Islam.

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So no, there isn’t an attack on Christianity, as Trump likes to lead people to believe, but there is a war on Islam, fueled by Trump himself trying to ban Muslims from entering the country, or just recently retweeting videos with anti-Muslim content. Not only is Islam under attack, but there has been a 67 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. since 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League, as evidenced by the white supremacists and neo-Nazis violently marching in Charlottesville this past August chanting known Nazi phrases such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” These are the issues we should be focusing on, not the importance of greeting people with “Merry Christmas” when the alternative, saying “Happy Holidays,” is a clear way to express inclusivity toward and support for cultures and religions that unfortunately aren’t always accepted in this country.

What Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that opting to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is simply a way to respect the various denominations. It is extremely important to be aware of the wide array of religious and nonreligious holidays celebrated in the U.S. at this time of year, such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Mawlid and many others. According to Pew Research, 70.6 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Christian, leaving almost 30 percent whose religions celebrate holidays besides Christmas. But even if the overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas in some form, that does not give us, or more importantly our President, the right to ignore and disrespect religious minorities and their religious beliefs. Trump is choosing to blatantly disregard this population.

As aforementioned, being “politically correct”—as Trump calls people’s desires to be inclusive of all denominations—isn’t attacking any holiday or religion, regardless of what Trump claims in his speeches. Saying “Happy Holidays” during December is a way for people to express that they don’t assume everyone they meet is Christian—something that Trump should understand with an Orthodox Jewish daughter and son-in-law, as well as a business that requires relations with people from places such as Asia and the Middle East. I can’t imagine Trump wishes all of them a “Merry Christmas” this time of year.  

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Aside from that, the words “Merry Christmas” are not an integral part of the Christian faith nor of the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The phrase is nowhere to be found in the Bible and was not said by early Christians, so there is seemingly no historical or ideological importance to the greeting. Therefore, opting to not wish everyone you see a “Merry Christmas” is in no way an attack on Christianity, just as opting to not wish everyone you see a “Happy Bodhi Day” is not an attack on Buddhism.

Regardless, if hearing or saying “Happy Holidays” ruins somebody’s celebration of Christmas, that is an issue with the strength of one’s faith, not with society as a whole. Personally, the number of times I hear “Merry Christmas” is in no way correlated to my enjoyment of the holiday each year. My faith doesn’t teach me that my celebration of the birth of Jesus relies on the greetings I hear on the street. Religion doesn’t depend on society to go on—it goes deeper than any simple phrase—so being respectful of differing ideologies should be of no consequence to one’s own faith.

And I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect the President of the United States—a country founded on the idea of a religiously tolerant government—to be respectful of all ideological celebrations. This isn’t a matter of political beliefs or moral values. This is just a matter of being polite.

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