What's the Big Fuss about 'Happy Holidays'?

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Bill
Barnwell's piece on the 13th
about this same subject
was clever and fun and rang very well. Throughout reading it I kept
thinking that he had picked up and developed an etymological origin
which I really like…, and came upon well into my adult life; I was
disappointed that I hadn't brought it to mind earlier in this ridiculous
rhubarb about Christmas greeting terminology. I thought I had missed
my chance to present it, but Barnwell never slid over into the construct
of my interest so I'll present it forthwith. He didn't; I shall.

Barnwell's
article developed the theme of the offensiveness of burdening unreceptive
people with the greeting of, "Happy…," or, for that matter,
"Merry…," when those people might find such cheery sentiments
offensive. All well taken. Light fun poked at people overly serious
about others' condition.

The best part
of the whole deal is that the secularists who are disparaging "Merry
Christmas" and promoting "Happy Holidays" are using
a word with decidedly ecclesiastical origins. Holiday, in
Merriam-Webster's 10th Edition, first listed definition,
is: "HOLY DAY," and is derived from the Middle English
from the Old English for "holy" and "day."

That definition
has stuck with me through the years, especially when I hear the
English or Canadians speak of being "on holidays." But
I hadn't thought of it as a subject for a learned treatise on current
events and attitudes until Barnwell explored that other avenue.

So, the secularists
are blocking the use of the specific word "Christmas,"
and substituting the less specific, but no less religiously implicit
( ? explicit) word "holiday." I love it! Substituting
"holiday" for "Christmas" is a public good because
it eliminates the perceived religiosity of "Christmas,"
but we've just demonstrated that "holiday" has just as
much religiousness in its origin and primary definition. Realization
of that should really hurt the atheists and the ACLU.

In the civil
arena the ACLU is going to have to get busy and proscribe the use
of such a holy word as "holiday" on the sign on City Hall's
front lawn. How about "Happy Winter Time-Off." Boy, that's
smooth. But, we have to protect the unsuspecting citizenry from
the establishment of religion, even at the cost of casting a pall
over the free exercise thereof.

In the politically
correct arena of commerce they are just going to have to get used
to the idea of foregoing what they thought was an artful dodge by
using "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry
Christmas" because it is just as religiously loaded as the
latter.

Now, it can
readily be said that "holiday" in general usage has been
assigned a much less pious meaning. That is acknowledged and is
the second definition in Merriam-Webster but the first definition
is "holy day" and is indicated to be synonymous by being
written all in small caps, as above.

Further, "holiday"
might be defended by some as being more generally non-sectarian
than "Merry Christmas" albeit of considerable religious
impact. Two problems with that: it certainly wouldn't satisfy the
hard case atheist activists because it still represents a holy,
faith-based concept; second, it would reveal the ploy of the PC
crowd as being primarily and specifically anti-Christian.

It cannot be
denied: holiday is a religious word. Going back one more definition
we find that "holy" has five definitions in Merriam-Webster.
The first one doesn't specify religion, but try to interpret this
as anything other: 1 : exalted or worthy of complete devotion
as one perfect in goodness and righteousness !! Definitions two
through 4-b use the words "DIVINE," "deity,"
and "sacred." The fifth definition refers to the use of
"holy" as an intensive: holy mess, holy
terror. It goes on to the use of "holy" as a "mild
oath" — holy smoke. Sounds downright profane. The dictionary
left out holy cow — perhaps in deference to the Hindu; also,
they left out a couple other holies that are in common usage…,
but so will we.

Holiday is
not only a religious word; it is a Christian word. Its derivation
is from the Old English through the Middle English. Holy
might somewhat predate Christian England from the Angles and Saxons,
but in its persistence down through Middle English holy very
much has brought down its Christian associations, both Roman Catholic,
then Church of England. The reader doesn't have to believe, just
acknowledge.

"Merry
Christmas; have a Holy Day."

December
15, 2005

Chuck
George [send him mail]
is a retired orthopedic surgeon in Alabama.

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