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Forgotten Christmas
By C. Banescu - January 6, 1998

I have been living in the United States for almost two decades and I have seen an amazing transformation of the decidedly Christian Christmas holiday. Slowly but surely, Christmas has been secularized to mean a "winter event", a "holiday season" or even a "gift-giving season." Christmas seems to no longer represent the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the ancient Christian church and today in the Orthodox Church, people greet Christmas with the words: "Christ is born!" and with the response: "Glorify Him!" Over the centuries the western democracies, including the United States, have replaced this with "Merry Christmas." In the last few years, this simple greeting has also been gradually transformed into a bland and nondescript "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays."

American society has secularized Christmas to the point where it has become a mere shadow of the sacred "holy" day it is supposed to be. Gone are all references to the birth of Christ, of any Christian traditions, or mention of the miracle arrival of God among us, "Emmanuel." Christmas is supposed to represent the Nativity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is not merely a season of buying gifts, signing cute songs, decorating our homes, exchanging presents, and drinking Egg Nog. It is the second most important Christian holiday that commemorates God's entrance into human form and human history to save us all.

Unfortunately, except for Christmas carols that are played on various radio stations for a few weeks each year, and the occasional movie specials -- mostly classics made many years ago --, and a handful of TV shows, which very rarely portray Christmas in a positive manner, the word "Christmas" has virtually disappeared from mainstream America. You can't see it anymore in malls, shops, stores, window displays, news stories, greeting cards, magazines, or schools and universities.

Corporate America has also virtually eliminated this word from any of its announcements, newsletters, and memos. Companies still have "holiday parties" or "winter events", but no mention of "Christmas". They still send out all kinds of information on the care and maintenance of "holiday trees" and giving us tips on the shopping season, but once again no mention of Christmas. Catalog companies sell "winter trees" and "winter decorations."

Even the US Post Office has started to discriminate against Christmas and Christian holidays in general. This agency has decided to pretty much treat Christmas as a minor holiday and give preferential treatment to other religious groups instead. Here's what I mean. A few weeks before Christmas in 1997 I walked to the nearest post office to buy some stamps and mail my Christmas Cards. Upon entering the building a long line of people awaited me. I took my place on the end of the line, with about a dozen others. Having nothing better to do than wait, I began to take in my surroundings and look around to see various the "Holiday Cards" displays.

Right next to the main door there was a floor-standing display made out of cardboard loaded with about two dozen different types of greeting cards, wrapping paper, and other paper items. The display stand did not have any mention of the words: "Christmas" or even "Holiday". All of the greeting cards displayed messages of either "Season's Greetings", "Happy Holidays" or "Happy Hanukkah". Among the more than a dozen or so greeting cards, only one had the word "Christmas" written on it. I scanned all the cards all over again to make sure I hadn't missed any other Christmas ones the first time around. My suspicions were indeed confirmed. There was only one "Christmas" card among the 20-25 others on this holiday stand.

On the main counter, in front of everyone, a large table-top display of greeting cards prominently displayed, greeted everyone with "Happy Hanukkah" and "Happy Kwanza." Inside this particular display eight different types of greeting cards and paper accessories notably displayed the various messages of "Hanukkah" or "Kwanza." Behind the counter, several t-shirts hung on the wall with the Hanukkah and Kwanza designs matching the stamps. The design on one t-shirt matched the Hanukkah stamp design for 1997 with the "Hanukkah" message displayed right underneath the colorful graphic of candles. Also, on the center display a poster with the African holiday of "Kwanza" was hung. None of the t-shirts sported the Virgin and Child designs, and none of them made any mention of Christmas or references to the birth of Christ in their designs.

In 1997, the Post Office had issued Christmas stamps with the Virgin and Child design. The design was a decent reproduction of Mary and Christ and was both fair and respectful towards the Christian faith. That same year the Post Office had also released a Hanukkah and a Kwanza stamp. By printing only one stamp design for each holiday, this pseudo-governmental agency probably believed that it was acting equitably and fairly towards all Americans. They were seemingly trying not to give any preferential treatment to any particular religious group. At first glance that would appear to be a worthy and non-judgmental goal. But wait a minute! Where was the "Christmas" display? Shouldn't one be sitting right next to the Kwanza and Hanukkah ones? There wasn't one! Wasn't that interesting!

There are easily at least 20-30 times more Christians in this country than any other religious group. Shouldn't the Post Office have seen fit to put up at least one Christmas display inside their building? Furthermore, I really don't know what number of religious stamp designs would be appropriate, but designing one stamp for each of the three religious celebrants does not seem equitable and balanced, in my humble opinion.

Continuing on my story...

After waiting in line for more than half an hour and watching all the postal employees rotate through their 15 minutes brakes while scores of people took their places in the growing line, I finally reached the counter and asked to purchase my stamps and mail my letters. After having seen the Hanukkah t-shirt on the wall and no similar display with a Christmas t-shirt, I politely asked the woman behind the counter if they had any t-shirts displaying the stamp design of the Virgin and Child by Sano di Pietro. She looked confused at first and then she proceeded to point behind her to another t-shirt which had a drawing of Santa Claus. The t-shirt did not display any Christmas or other Christian religious messages. It simply showed a jolly Santa in a red suit and nothing else.

I repeated my question to the woman, and she sheepishly admitted that the Post Office did not make any Christmas t-shirts with the Virgin and Child picture, or any other kind of Christmas shirts with any of the traditional "Merry Christmas" or "Christ is Born" messages on it. It seems the Post Office has chosen to selectively forget Christmas and the 200 million of so American Christians who celebrate the birth of the Son of God and Savior of the world on this particularly holy day. If that's not purposeful and deliberate discrimination, I'm not sure what is.

I took my stamps, looked at the woman behind the counter, and wished her a "Merry and Joyous Christmas." If the US Post Office was not going to acknowledge and recognize the birth of Christ, at least I will. If our government chooses to forget Christmas, it's our duty to keep reminding them, over, and over, and over again. That is the Christian thing to do, in my opinion.

Merry Christmas!