Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays ... who cares?

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By Linda Ireland

Every year about this time, great debates arise about keeping "Christ in Christmas" and whether it is proper for stores to use "Merry X-mas" or the more generic "Seasons Greetings" in advertising or for clerks to greet customers with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I think we should be grateful for clerks who are polite enough to offer any greeting, much less pick apart how they say it. Friendly clerks are a blessing.

Don't you hate getting in checkout lines where the clerk gives you the stink eye, makes impatient noises and shoves your purchase at you with way too much force?

If they want to smile and say "Happy Holidays," it's fine with me. It covers everything from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year's.

A lot of people disagree, insisting on religious protocol that is not addressed anywhere in the Bible. Check it out. There is not a suggestion that early Christians held a celebration of Christ's birth.

There are many Christians who have decided against any religious observation of the holiday, based on their own study of the scripture. However, they still enjoy sharing their bounty with others this time of year.

I don't mind a peaceful debate about the subject, but it seems that way too many people want to whip anyone who disagrees with them - which pretty much destroys their argument for peace on earth and good will toward men.

I am certain that if God intended for us to celebrate a holiday in his name, he would not command us to worship at the feet of the retail gods, fight over the last Buxom Barbie on the shelf or call the clerk bad names.

A couple of years ago, I received an e-mail from our graphic artist Mary Vaughn that purports to be a letter from God to his children.

Part of it says, "It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking my name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate my birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival.

"Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime, how I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate my birth, just get along and love one another."

I don't know who wrote this piece of wisdom, but it is particularly fitting when you consider the abuse shoveled on overwhelmed store clerks this time of year.

It's not her fault that your item won't ring up or that the bozo in front of you can't read the 20 items or less sign. She didn't set the store's policies on returns or refunds. It's not her fault that you picked up the only whatchamadoodle on the shelf without a price tag.

And if you think she's the dumbest thing you've ever dealt with, please don't say so. She's probably thinking the same thing about you, but if she retaliates, she may lose her job.

Give her the gift of giving her a break, instead of losing your temper.

Any clerk who manages to get through the buying frenzy with a smile on her face should get a nice Christmas or X-mas bonus, whatever her store's policy entails.

If you want to spread some holiday cheer, remember to be nice to the folks behind the counter at the retail stores and your fellow customers too. Give them a big smile and wish them a Merry Christmas, even if they can't say it back to you.

And keep those receipts handy.