2004-12-24 9:42 a.m.

Have A Merry Holiday

Is it just me, or is the word "holiday" really being abused this year?

OK, it's not just me. But I think the motivations of the Committee to Save Merry Christmas and mine are just a leeeetle bit different. To wit:

The primary goal of the Committee to Save Merry Christmas is to preserve the culture and tradition of the vast majority of Americans that celebrate and honor Christmas. Christmas is a nationally declared federal holiday that has been observed from the inception of our nation. [...]

This intentional and deliberate exclusion of "Merry Christmas" in the Federated Department Stores advertising and decorations is extremely offensive to the culture and tradition of Americans who honor and celebrate Christmas.

In other words, it's dishonoring Christian culture to not be bombarded with advertising saying "Merry Christmas." It's as if Christmas shopping (or, as my employer and many other companies so crassly refer to it, "the buying season") were one big materialistic lure to come to Jesus. Guess He really is the reason for the season!

Me, I object to it on linguistic grounds -- specifically, that people use the general-purpose word "holiday" when there's no other reasonable interpretation other than "Christmas." It's using language intended not to offend in a ham-handed way that has no regard for context, and it just ends up sounding stupid.

When I'm Queen of the Universe, and I've solved the problem of what Ratty's Ghost describes as "the dreaded impostrophe," and I've beaten "their/there/they're" abuse out of the general population, and everyone's stopped saying "all of the sudden", "holiday" abuse is next on the list. (And yes, Eats, Shoots and Leaves is on my to-read list; why do you ask?)

Yesterday, on my way to work, I heard a radio ad that had some helpful hints to offer for our "holiday dinner." Don't bore them with turkey or beef, the ad said (and here we hear a chorus of bored children and husband). Feed them a pork roast for holiday dinner! I'm sure Muslim families all over the Bay Area would have been thrilled to break their Ramadan fast with a big juicy piece of pork, had they heard this ad in time.

(And where's the sensitivity to "holiday"-celebrating vegetarians, I ask you? I'm grievously offended because my culture isn't being honored here. I'm going to go write a letter right now demanding representation for vegetarian traditions in advertising.)

Then there's the "holiday music" played by the likes of KOIT (lite rock -- less talk!). Now, they refer to it as Christmas music on the website, but every time I've been subjected to it they've referred to it on-air as "holiday" music, which is sure to fool those Jews who have been tuning in all month just dying to hear that dreidel song and who will be incredibly disappointed to find out that they're not actually included after all.

Now, "holiday sweater" is ok, because the women who wear them (while inflicting KOIT on their coworkers and humming along to the feel-good "holiday music") also have ones for Hallowe'en, Valentine's Day, Easter, etc. But let's talk about the holiday decorations the holiday sweater-wearing women put up around the office as part of their role on the Holiday Committee. If they're red and green, if they have little Santas and reindeer on them, they may be festive, but let's be honest about the fact that there's only one holiday that's represented here.

And how about "holiday sales?" Last night I heard an ad that exhorted me to rushrushrush to their store to handle my last-minute shopping, because "the holidays are almost here!" If someone were to go to their store to buy those last-minute Hanukkah presents, they'd really have missed the boat, and I'm pretty sure that the store wasn't running this ad a couple of weeks ago. Unless I'm completely confused and "the holidays" actually refers to Christmas and New Year's Eve and there's some electronics-shopping angle I'm missing out on here.

Give it up, people. Just slapping in "holiday" when you mean "Christmas" fools no one. Either put a little thought into it or go back to overusing Christmas already. The Queen of the Universe demand's it.


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