If there’s no “Merry Christmas” in Branson, Missouri now, then where and when?

In the not too distant past the words “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” was the greeting of the Christmas season. It seems that everywhere one went, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they were surrounded by the “reason for the season.” From storefronts, to interior store advertising, greetings coming from store clerks, and the playing of traditional Christmas carols, the words “Merry Christmas” and the spirit of “Christmas” just seemed to permeate the air.

As did generations of Americans before him, the Ole Seagull actually learned the words to Christmas Carols like “Silent Night,” “Little Town of Bethlehem” and most of the old carols from a public school song book as he and his class mates prepared for the annual school Christmas Program.

Isn’t it interesting that the first 180 years of our nation’s history illustrates exactly the opposite of what the federal courts, over the last 50 years or so, are telling us the First Amendment actually means.

Even with that however, the Ole Seagull is not aware of any law or federal judicial decision prohibiting the use of the words “Merry Christmas.” Yet, in just a comparatively few years of our nation’s history, the very word “Christmas” is disappearing, not only from our nations schools but the very celebration of Christmas itself.

“But Seagull, how can schools teach the meaning of a holiday named Christmas without teaching its history, origin, and traditions? Wouldn’t they have to mention the ‘C’ word?”

“They can’t and they would have to.”

In recent years, those who would take Christmas out of Christmas, for whatever reason, have developed a strategy of “political correctness” and “let’s not mention Christmas because it might offend someone.” The word they would substitute for Christmas is “holiday” and the phrase they would substitute for “Merry Christmas” is “Happy Holidays.”

A recent column appearing in the Dec. 24, 2004 Wall Street Journal contains an illustration of just how far the pendulum has swung. It pointed out that “the mayor of Somerville, Mass., apologized for mistakenly calling his December celebration a ‘Christmas party.’ He should have called it, he said, a ‘holiday party.'”

“Boy Seagull, it’s a good thing that something like that can’t happen here in the land of “Ozark Mountain Christmas,” “Old Time Christmas,” and the “Adoration Parade.”

“That might be the way we wish it were but is it the way it is?”

The Dec. 24, 2004 edition of this paper contained a letter from a lady who, while eating in a local restaurant with her husband, received the greeting of “Happy Holidays,” from their server. It’s the same greeting that a lot of us, and, probably tens of thousands of visitors to Branson, received during Ozark Mountain Christmas. When her husband said, “I think you mean ‘Merry Christmas'” she quickly responded, “Oh, we can’t say that unless the customer does.” The Ole Seagull would echo the words that the writer of the letter used to describe the incident, “How sad.”

“Now Seagull, you are not actually going to suggest that the Branson community, make a concerted effort to use the term ‘Merry Christmas’ rather than ‘Happy Holidays’ are you?”

“Why not, isn’t ‘Merry Christmas’ more consistent with the promise of an Ozark Mountain Christmas, and our areas traditions and values?”

Shouldn’t our community be committed enough to its values and its advertised promise of an Ozark Mountain Christmas to make a concerted effort to provide those who respond and come with more than the politically correct, “Happy Holidays?” At a minimum, if employees – particularly those involved with the marketing of our area and the meeting of the public- are going to be encouraged to give a greeting, why not encourage them to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays?”

“What’s next Seagull putting up banners across Highways 76 and 65 saying “Merry Christmas,” putting verbiage in our “Ozark Mountain Christmas” advertising saying, “Visit Branson, Missouri, where Christmas is still Christmas, or a big banner across the front of City Hall saying “Merry Christmas?'”

“Why not, is it Ozark Mountain Kwanzaa, Ozark Mountain Hanukah, or Ozark Mountain Holidays that we advertise and promise or is it an Ozark Mountain Christmas? Besides, isn’t Christmas the official government name of the holiday being celebrated?”

Can anyone reasonably take offense if a community simply stands up and says, “We celebrate the holiday of Christmas, its promise and spirit and would love to have you come and share them with us?” If not in Branson, Missouri now, where and when?

About Gary Groman aka The Ole Seagull

Editor of The Branson Courier
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