Christmas: Commercial Holiday or Sacred Holy Day?
Most people would generally agree that Christmas is a “magical” time of year. It is during this time of year that people seem to be a little more thoughtful of others, especially for those of their own families as they shop for that special gift. There are also those who broaden their vision, and with giving hearts, they reach out to those who are less fortunate in order to make their holidays a little brighter. However, no matter how a person views Christmas and its meaning, the fact remains that commercialism plays a huge part in the celebration of the holiday. The question that begs an answer is whether more people focus on the commercial aspects of the holiday, or on the deep spiritual roots and meaning of the holiday.
Religious Holiday or Commercial Celebration
According to an article by Cathy Lynn Grossman for the Religion News Service, “Nine in 10 Americans will celebrate Christmas this year, but a new poll shows that increasing numbers see the holiday as more tinsel than gospel truth.”  A survey released on 17 December 2013 by the Public Religion Research Institute, revealed that more people prefer to be greeted in stores and businesses at this time of year with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” than “Merry Christmas.”
Another interesting factoid revealed by the survey is that 26 percent of American adults view Christmas as a cultural holiday, and not as a day to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Life and the Light of the world – Savior and Redeemer. Even in many of our schools, students are encouraged to say “Happy Holidays” versus saying “Merry Christmas” so as not to offend anyone who may not be religious, or view religion as part of the holiday celebration.
Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI stated, “The trend is in that direction, for sure. The percentage of people who say the Bible’s Christmas story is historically accurate has fallen more than 17 percentage points since a 2004 survey reported by Newsweek.”  Still, according to Grossman’s article, approximately 49 percent of those who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, believe that Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary as had been foretold by prophets of old, that shepherds saw a star in the East over Bethlehem – the City of David, and that wise men came and worshiped the Christ-child, presenting to Him precious gifts. Among those who share these beliefs are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church by the media and others).
A Shift towards a More Secular Christmas
Why is it that there seems to be a spiritual temperature shift in the celebration of Christmas and its true meaning? Why do more people tend to settle for a more secular holiday greeting? Jones commented, “One reason is that a decade ago, many more people identified as evangelicals, who (according to the poll) take the holiday most seriously. Today, they are 18 percent of Americans — outnumbered by the 20 percent who say they have no religious identity.” 
There are many people, including Christians, who choose the more secular greetings of “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” as a means of compromising, so as not to offend any persons of a faith different than their own, or any persons who may have no religious affiliation whatsoever. But, what about those who greet people at this time of year with “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Kwanzaa” for example? Why is it that “Christmas,” whereas if the last syllable is dropped spells “Christ,” causes so much cultural unrest?
Nearly 66 percent of single adults say that the religious greeting should be skipped as “They didn’t grow up with a stigma attached to being unreligious,” Jones said. 
Most adults are about as religious about Christmas as their families were in their childhood: 70 percent celebrated it then as a strongly or somewhat religious day, but 26 percent had a cultural celebration.
Most (79 percent) will watch Christmas movies such as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or “A Christmas Story,” but a smaller number (59 percent) expect to attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
People are equally likely (36 percent) to read the Christmas story from the Bible, as they are to read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” 
Jones also pointed out that the biggest spenders are also the most generous with time and funds for the less fortunate.
Keep Christ in Christmas
In spite of the commercialism of the Christmas season, many Christians, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ, celebrate the real reason for the season – the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They know and appreciate the fact that He is, has always been, and forever shall be, the reason for all seasons, not just Christmas, though Christmas has an extra special meaning. They also realize that there is no gift that can compare to the greatest gift ever given to humanity – the gift of God’s Only Begotten Son to the world. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
So, why has the world seemingly turned to a more secular view of Christmas? Because, as John records in his gospel account in John 1:4-5, 9-11:
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . . .That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
While there may be many who prefer to be greeted with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings,” there are still those who view Christmas as a religious holy day, and prefer to keep Christ in Christmas, and extend the greeting “Merry Christmas!”
Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as a Gospel Doctrine teacher and Ward Missionary for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He also serves as a Stake Public Affairs Specialist for the Annapolis, Maryland Stake. He is a 30-year honorably retired Navy veteran.
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