Don’t you dare oppress my religious beliefs by wishing me a happy holiday!

I must have signed up to some loyalty program at Strandbags when I bought a briefcase some time. Tonight I received this:

Dear Jeremy,

We have received a number of complaints in relation to our ‘Happy Holidays’ promotion.

It was never our intention to offend or in any way reduce the importance of Christmas, and if it has done so, we sincerely apologise.

To this end, we have instructed our stores to remove the ‘Happy Holidays’ promotion immediately.

As always, your valued input and feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

Yours Sincerely

Rory Crawford
Chief Executive Officer

You have got to be kidding. Somebody actually complained that saying “Happy Holidays” didn’t pander sufficiently to their religion? And instead of responding with something pointing out how silly that is, and how even Christians can have happy holidays, they actually caved?

Well now you’ve pissed off people who aren’t insane fundamentalists. And there are a lot more of us. And our objection – that you think we’re some kind of theocracy where you must pander to the religious in order to do business – makes a hell of a lot more sense than theirs.

Strandbags’ contact details, if you’d like to let them know what you think of their cowardice.

PS Talking of cowardice, despite ending the email with “your valued input and feedback is welcomed and appreciated”, Rory’s email comes from the presumably not-checked “noreply@loyalty.strandbags.com.au” and there’s no return email address given. Funny, that.

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40 responses to “Don’t you dare oppress my religious beliefs by wishing me a happy holiday!

  1. I just received that, too. I was confused.
    I’d like to know what the ‘Happy Holidays’ promotion even was – do you know? Surely it can’t just be that they said ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Happy Christmas’, ’cause that’d be ridiculous.
    Molly

  2. I’ve seen similar petulant whinges on my wife’s facebook: Wa, Wa, PC is killing Christmas, Christians are the only people who it’s OK to discriminate against, Wah wah.

    Yeah, right. If Christmas is being killed, then why did Melbourne’s Christmas bunting get set up on the day after Halloween? (ie., on All Saint’s Day, another Christian Holiday), and I can guarantee that the first Easter eggs (another Christian Holiday) will be on the shelves within days of Boxing Day (if not on Boxing Day itself).

    What I think is that Christians — this sort of very loud petulant entitled Christians, anyway — just hate having to share. They really do think other religions, let alone atheism, get too much airtime: that is: any at all. Why aren’t Judaism and Paganism and Atheism and Buddhism and all the others kept shut away in the dark where they can be forgotten happily? Why should Christians be so horribly oppressed in being forced to acknowledge the existence of people who don’t think they’re right?

    That isn’t to say there aren’t Christians who just try their best to live up to the teachings of Christ, and I wish they weren’t caught up with these selfish, small-minded, arrogant entitled hypocrites. They deserve better. Decent people usually do.

  3. Just counting down the days now until the msm reports on some pre school that has cancelled a visit from Santa and removed all references to Christmas because some lonely, self hating, barren. latte sipping. local council appratchik tries to be politically correct.

  4. I definitely am signed up to the Strandbags loyalty program but I didn’t receive this email. I’ve complained, nonetheless, as Strandbags is one of my favourite stores ever! I’m so disappointed. I asked them to clarify what these people were actually complaining about (i.e. was it the fact that they used the word ‘holiday’ instead of ‘Christmas’, or was it the perceived blasphemy of using the Christmas season to launch a sales promotion) and I hope they write back with a response. I’m not holding my breath though.

  5. What makes me laugh is that the majority of the people who complain about ‘discrimination’ against Christians have never been near a church apart from maybe weddings and funerals. They want to defend a cultural heritage which their daily lives actually render meaningless.

  6. Every single society going back to cave men have invented something to celebrate this time of year:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice#Observances

    “Happy Holidays” is a recognition of that diversity. A diversity that is opposed by fundamentalist Christians because it exposes the Church’s history of taking over Pagan celebrations and making them boring compared to what came before.

  7. I’m confused. I’m a Christian, my workplace closes over Christmas, so I get a holiday, and I would quite like my holiday to be a happy one (who wouldn’t?). Thus, why on Earth would I be even remotely unhappy about being wished a happy holiday?? Bizarre.

  8. I’m going to do my “devil’s advocate” thing and try to propose an alternate theory for why people are complaining – because while I think this backdown is ridiculous I do sympathise a bit with those who find “happy holidays” to be an insipid term.

    I’m as non-religious as a person can be – staunchly and aggressively atheist – yet I still feel a cultural attachment to Christmas. I’ve celebrated it every year since I was born, and I think it’s arguable that in Australia Christmas has transcended religion and become a secular holiday. Yes it is based on a religious event and it has the word “Christ” in it, but most Aussies don’t celebrate it as a religious holiday anymore. My family certainly doesn’t – God doesn’t get a look-in at our lunch (although Santa always shows up).

    Yet despite the complete absence of any religion in our celebrations it’s still called “Christmas” by me, my family and all my friends. Incidentally my Hindu and Muslim friends call it Christmas and ‘celebrate’ it just as I do. It is, after all, an Australian tradition of sorts.

    So when people/businesses back away from the word “Christmas” in preference to “Holiday” they don’t just get a backlash from fundamentalist Christians – they also get a backlash from ordinary people like me who think “WTF is so wrong with calling it Christmas?” and “Why are you caving in to religious fundamentalists?”.

    It’s quite ironic when you think about it. There is a valid perspective that sees the “Happy Holidays” promotion as the cave-in to religious fundamentalism and its removal as a secular victory, not the other way around.

  9. narcoticmusing

    Amazing that on White Ribbon Day people spend their time and energy to complain – in such a volume that the chain felt the need to respond – about someone wishing them well.

  10. I can’t believe that Stranbags thought it necessary to send out an apology FOR THEIR happy Holidays Promotion because some people didn’t like it. I am more insulted as an Australian by them doing this. I am over the fact that we as AUSTRALIANS have to cater to the many foriegn people who have chosen to come and “live in” in OUR country, OUR lucky country, and who believe it is their right to start dictating to us as to how we celebrate our religious holidays etc. I wouldn’t do that in their homeland so please DO NOT tell me what to do in MY homeland. If you do not like the way we do things here, GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM and fast!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Um, what Cheryl?

    I don’t think it’s correct to suggest that Christians in Australia are, as a rule, from overseas.

    Or is that a submission for next week’s Pure Poison Cut & Paste Trophy?

  12. Thing is, though, Mondo: it’s not Athiests/Hindus/Muslims/Discordians/whatever who are backing away from Christmas, in those vanishingly rare examples where it can be demonstrated to have happened at all.
    Whenever this canard is brought up, and the person bitching and moaning is asked for a cite, there’s nothing. When my wife got into this argument on Facebook, she asked for evidence that this was happening, and got one article saying that trainee Santa Clauses were being asked to go “Ha Ha Ha” instead of “Ho Ho Ho” to avoid startling children (which is neither anti-Christmas nor anti-Christian, it’s simply stupid), and the French ban on wearing crucifixes openly (while they stuck their fingers in their ears and sang lalala when it was pointed out that this was an attack on Muslim displays of faith, that it affects Muslims, Jews and Sikhs more than it does Christians, and that it happened years ago).

    So if people are going to complain about how Christmas is being ruined by PC and secularism, first they have to come up with an actual example of it happening, which doesn’t turn out to be “a friend of a cousin read about it happening in a kindergarten somewhere about ten years ago,” and second, they have to explain how public Christmas bunting all over the damned city from November 1 (only moving to make room for Easter preparations) doesn’t count.

  13. Well I got the apology email and my first thought was ‘what promotion’ some people must have very little to do if they are doing mass complaining to a bag company over a holiday slogan!! Happy Holidays to you all :)

  14. jordanrastrick

    I’m suspecting Cheryl is *maybe* employing irony.

    But its likely correct that there are proportionally more “practising” Christians among migrants than non-migrants, and I’d guess its true in absolute numbers over a relatively short time frame of recent arrivals (say maybe 20 years.)

    It’s quite ironic when you think about it. There is a valid perspective that sees the “Happy Holidays” promotion as the cave-in to religious fundamentalism and its removal as a secular victory, not the other way around

    Indeed. In the Western world, the war on Christmas started with Christians attacking it for its Pagan roots, and (eventually) Secular capture.

    Wikipedia is well worth a read.

  15. So if people are going to complain about how Christmas is being ruined by PC and secularism, first they have to come up with an actual example of it happening

    I’m not sure that anyone is complaining that Christmas is being “ruined” – what people are reacting to is the cultural cringe involved in re-naming a longstanding Australian tradition because the traditional name could potentially offend some religious groups.

    And if you need an actual example of this, what about the fact that Strandbags have tried to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” in a transparent attempt to be PC?

  16. “I’m suspecting Cheryl is *maybe* employing irony”

    Here’s hoping.

    “because the traditional name could potentially offend some religious groups.”

    I don’t think that’s why anyone’s doing it. It’s because they’ve gradually realised that “Christmas” is a religious concept, and excludes many Australians to whom they’d like to sell things.

    If you’re not a Christian organisation, why pretend that you give a damn about “Christ”?

  17. You’re absolutley right Lefty, I should have phrased it as follows:

    “because the traditional name could potentially offend some prospective customers.”

    Although it does appear that they’ve misread customer sentiment somewhat and have decided that the pool of customers potentially alienated by “Happy Holidays” is bigger than the pool alienated by use of the word “Christmas”.

    Personally I’m a bit happy about that.

  18. Personally, I’m offended by the word “happy” as it discriminates against us sad-sack depressives who haven’t been happy since 1987. I demand you all cease and desist from wishing anyone a “happy” anything.

  19. **pfft** “Homeland”! Tee hee hee!

    Who the f**k uses the word “homeland” in everyday conversation? Bloody hilarious!

  20. jordanrastrick

    It’s because they’ve gradually realised that “Christmas” is a religious concept, and excludes many Australians to whom they’d like to sell things.

    But Christmas is, as Mondo argues, a secular concept.

  21. “Who the f**k uses the word “homeland” in everyday conversation? Bloody hilarious!”

    You know who else used the word “homeland” in everyday conversation…

  22. Wow, so I actually received an email back – apparently from the CEO himself:
    ___
    Dear Belle,

    Thanks for your email. It appears “Happy Holidays” is a particularly sensitive issue for a number of our customers.

    We remain committed to being an all inclusive company and as such, have no reference to “Happy holidays” or “Christmas”. The current promotion was purely intended as a “Gift giving” promotion for anyone that may be celebrating over this period, regardless of religious affiliation.

    We have no intention of alienating any segment of the community.

    Kind regards

    Rory
    ___
    So he wants to run an an all inclusive company – this is great.

    Therefore, he uses the phrase Happy Holidays in his promotion – a good way to achieve aforementioned goal.

    But then he removes Happy Holidays promotion because some Christians want exclusivity for anything relating to their religious holiday season – this is where you stuffed up Rory!!

    “It appears “Happy Holidays” is a particularly sensitive issue for a number of our customers.” You’d have to be the most self-centred, infantile, whine-bucket to have an issue with the phrase Happy Holidays.

    “We have no intention of alienating any segment of the community.” How does Happy Holidays alienate anyone?? How???

    Pfft. I give up.

  23. But then he removes Happy Holidays promotion because some Christians want exclusivity for anything relating to their religious holiday season – this is where you stuffed up Rory!!

    Isabelle – you’re making the same dubious assumption that Jeremy has in the initial post: i.e. that the pressure to abandon “Happy Holidays” is coming from Christian fundamentalists who want “exclusivity”.

    As I have explained above it is equally possible (and I would argue more likely) that the pressure came not from Christian fundies, but from a mixture of Australians who object to the blanding* of Christmas as a sop to religious minority groups.

    * I appreciate that ‘blanding’ is not a real word but I hope it nonetheless conveys my meaning.

  24. As I have explained above it is equally possible (and I would argue more likely) that the pressure came not from Christian fundies, but from a mixture of Australians who object to the blanding* of Christmas as a sop to religious minority groups.

    Would you care to lay out your evidence for this?

  25. Splatterbottom

    This is all nonsense. If anyone wishes you “Happy” anything, you should take it as a positive gesture and move on. Why fuss about someone trying to be nice?

  26. Mondo Rock – Fair point but I still think it’s most likely to be Christians (probably of the ACL type) who would be the ones complaining. I actually explicitly asked Strandbags to shed some light on what the complaints actually were (i.e. was it the fact that they used the word ‘holiday’ instead of ‘Christmas’, or was it the perceived blasphemy of using the Christmas season to launch a sales promotion), but all I received was a pretty stock standard PR reply with no specific details, as you can read above. Therefore, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that none of us will ever know who complained. Even if it was a mixture of Australians complaining, I still think the course of action taken by Strandbags was foolish. Is it not obvious to everyone that Happy Holidays carries only intentions of inclusiveness, respect and goodwill?

  27. narcoticmusing

    Agree completely SB

  28. Cats – what do you mean?

    Are you asking for evidence to support my assertion that there is another possible explanation for this boycott? Because if so there’s no need for me to provide evidence – all you need to do is review the scenario I’ve laid out and ask yourself whether it is a logical possibility.

    I’ve given you all the background you need to do this, including a relatively detailed account of why a secular person (such as myself) might object to a “Happy Holidays” message, and if you can find fault in that logic feel free to identify it.

    If you’re asking me to provide evidence to support my stated opinion that mine is a more likely explanation for the campaign then again, sorry, but I am only stating an opinion. I’m not asserting a fact.

    Out of interest why aren’t you asking Jeremy to provide evidence to support his opinion that this is the work of Christian fundamentalists?

  29. Therefore, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that none of us will ever know who complained.

    I agree Isabelle – I had a quick look on Google to see if I could find any reference to this campaign but all the links led me back here!

    Even if it was a mixture of Australians complaining, I still think the course of action taken by Strandbags was foolish. Is it not obvious to everyone that Happy Holidays carries only intentions of inclusiveness, respect and goodwill?

    I agree again. It must be Friday afternoon or something.

  30. I have never heard anyone but a Christian complain about taking the “Christ” out of Christmas. I suppose there could be some people who object to any change, even if it’s one away from the dominance of a religion they don’t share, but it hardly seems likely that they’d be campaigning against Strandbags.

  31. I have never heard anyone but a Christian complain about taking the “Christ” out of Christmas.

    Really? I’ve heard many conservatives complain about the public retreat from traditional “Christmas” celebrations solely on the basis that we are abandoning a long-held cultural tradition in order to pander to minority groups. But then I listen to Sydney morning radio.

    What I hear is usually a defence of ‘Australian tradition’ rather than a defence of specific Christian dogma.

    I guess at the end of the day, as Isabelle says above, we’ve got nothing but speculation upon which to rest our theories.

  32. jordanrastrick

    “I have never heard anyone but a Christian complain about taking the “Christ” out of Christmas”

    I’ve never heard anyone but an American complain specifically about this, although I am not counting one of those copy/pasted Facebook statuses that I did see from a person I know. But I don’t like to make hasty generalisations….

    I heard Janet Albrechtsen make a [hostile] speech about political correctness, in which she used an example Easter eggs being renamed “Festive spheres”, or something like that, somewhere. And she mentioned the resurrection of Christ. But I have no idea if she’s actually a Christian.

  33. The idea that anyone might get “holidays” upset the “bring back workchoices” and the “what about the productivity” crowds and they raised merry hell about it, obviously. This has nothing to do with religion.

  34. This reeks of ACL mass complaint action.

  35. What I hear is not Conservatism per se, but a particular rabid facet of neo-conservatism which is based on Conspicuous Christianity. It basically comes down to a defence of Christianity being the best of all conceivable religions (including none), for all time ever, and while I may not personally be Christian, I think it’s deplorable that there aren’t more Chaplains in Schools and people should be forced to go to Church more often. It’s Good For Society.

    It’s not Christians, so much as people who are abusing a façade of Christianity for their own political ends.

  36. jordanrastrick

    It’s not Christians, so much as people who are abusing a façade of Christianity for their own political ends.

    As a Christian, I think that, in the limit, its very hard to distinguish between these two groups. I thought that independently as an Atheist, and its actually somewhat well supported by the Bible.

    But yes most of the day to day news cycle sound and fury on these issues I suspect tends to come in part literally from the kind of person you describe. Hence my comment about Albrechtsen above.

  37. narcoticmusing

    Welcome back Jules! Happy Holiday! ;)

  38. Cheer and Happy Holiday to you.

  39. Aren’t we reading way too much into this? Just a commercial entity overreacting.

  40. Wow, people certainly like to get carried away when it comes to pushing their opinions.
    For my two cents, I take it as a positive if someone/some company wants to wish me a ‘happy’ anything. They are only intending to send goodwill my way irregardless of how I feel about the context.
    Some people just seem to have nothing more interesting to do than to get upset and make an issue over something that needn’t be an issue at all. You people are generating your own misery if you want to interpret every single little thing as personally offensive. I just do not understand this mind set but I suggest you get yourself some professional help.

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