...That is the seasonal question. Every year I am asked, "Should businesses decorate for Christmas?" To me, it's a simple answer... why not? Should you limit menorahs as well? The questions about holiday decorations come with Santa-sized baggage, and these symbols of the holiday season can be a challenge. I have heard people say that they are concerned about offending customers, they could not afford a legal challenge, or they are worried that their employees will have a problem with celebrations.
One chain of salons demands that their stores refrain from holiday decorations and sends them secular bangles to display instead. A local library won't permit discussions about Christmas or Hanukkah. One major bank claims they are being safe and inoffensive to customers by demanding no holiday adornment at all. They're afraid of offending the purchasing public, and more than 78 percent of Americans claim to be Christian (Gallup.com). When you factor in countless non-Christians who love the experience of Santa Claus and the lights and decorations that come along with it, the percentage grows considerably. Are we trying to have a vanilla world with no excitement and decoration? This will only end when we all agree to say enough.
I have friends who identify as agnostic but they display as many, if not more, Christmas decorations than you will see in my Christian home. One Jewish friend lavishly decorates a Christmas tree. One student of mine who is Muslim from Jerusalem enjoys the decorations, lights, and the feeling of giving during the holidays. He is fascinated by the merriment, not offended. My personal research of friends and associates that are Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists reveals just what I expected: they aren't offended but rather like it.
What happened to the all-American recognition of our diverse, cultural differences? When my son was in grade school, he had a wise teacher who educated her students about the curiosities of holiday celebrations of different cultures. The students made stars, Santas, menorahs, and dreidels. That's the spirit: recognize differences and enjoy the season together. We all may remember one school system that would not permit any treats that included red or green decorations, and students and teachers couldn't wear those colors either. Let's learn from these extreme examples of political correctness run amok.
I say "Merry Christmas" with regularity. The generic "Happy Holidays" doesn't do it for me. I am particularly interested in the sales clerk who gives a fearful blank look while wondering how to respond. I have been greeted with "Happy Hanukkah," and I politely accept the salutation and return it. When I know someone's religion, I address their specific greeting. What's wrong with that? How about a dose of common sense and decency?
What about companies that call a Christmas tree a holiday tree? Is a menorah a holiday candelabra? No, it's a menorah, a meaningful Hanukkah symbol to my Jewish friends. In my local mall, there is a giant menorah that co-exists by the Christmas tree. They are beautiful and very relevant to the community. But some cleanse our holiday terms to minimize the meaning of the celebrations and observances. Is the next chapter going to be about a demand that Macy's Department Store stop decorating their holiday windows or the White House stop decorating the national Christmas tree?
Some people pray to the sports gods every weekend and decorate with their chosen team's colors. I observed fans of all sorts last weekend disagreeing with each other but able to co-exist. We don't all agree on our choices, but we know when our team is the best but we respect individual differences and preferences. Is the next wave going to be "Don't wear your Michigan jersey, it may offend the Ohio State fans," or "Don't permit the athlete to point to Heaven after a great play?"
Let's respect our beliefs and celebrations and not be afraid to celebrate, but don't forget to permit employees to respectfully bow out of the holiday activities. Their beliefs may not permit this type of celebration. My recommendation is put up the Christmas trees and all of the holiday finery in full display. Invite your employees to bring in their decorations or respectfully decline to participate as well.
Recognize our differences and celebrate! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Go Blue, or whatever you chose to celebrate.