COMMENTARY: In 1870 our country had 37 states. By then, 33 of these states already had done something the United States federal government finally did that year: name Christmas an official holiday. Alabama was the first state to name Christmas as an official holiday, doing so in 1836.
On June 28, 1870 President Ulysses Grant signed the legislation to make the federal holiday of Christmas. There wasn’t opposition because most politicians didn’t want to be known as opposing Christmas.
I have written about this previously, but it still seems we Americans are conflicted. People seem glad to have the day off, but the core issue involves the question of whether Christmas is a religious holiday.
Of course, since it celebrates the birth of Jesus. Can this religious federal holiday be allowed by the U.S. Constitution? We have done it for a very long time and we are doing it this year for certain.
The Supreme Court did not stop nativity scenes in 1984, but the high court has not ruled directly on the constitutional issue of the federal holiday of Christmas. I do not want the Supreme Court deciding whether Christmas should be a federal holiday. Rather, this should be decided in the legislative process.
The only way to ensure Christmas remains a federal holiday is to pass a constitutional amendment naming Dec. 25 as the Christmas Federal Holiday. When passed by Congress, then the constitutional amendment must be passed by 38 states to become a part of the U.S. Constitution.
To take the other side, if enough federal or state legislators vote against the constitutional amendment, then that’s the answer about whether our nation should have a federal Christmas holiday. But an overwhelming group of federal and state legislators would rather set their hair on fire than be known to have voted against Christmas.
I am willing to see the federal holiday of Christmas be retired if enough members of Congress and members of state legislatures put their name on a vote against the Christmas amendment. This would settle the issue on constitutional grounds.
We must do so because the “politically correct” crowd has threatened lawsuits on many government entities including public education. In most public schools, Christmas became Winter Holiday without a vote in Congress.
This spilled over into the business community. Citizens quelled it when they announced no Christmas greetings, no shopping from us. The stores caught on. They can also say Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah or anything else, but they cannot omit Christmas greetings and still get our business.
When some of our laws are in effect repealed by special-interest groups without elected representatives voting, our representative form of government ends. The only way to proceed is an up-or-down vote on Christmas in our country. Our representatives must be put on the spot to vote.
I do not blame public schools for casting off Christmas songs, plays and pageants when our representatives and senators do not stand up for Christmas. They have let unelected people force the issue.
Now, I do not have any trouble with the separation of the biblical story of the Baby Jesus in the public schools. Leave that to the parents and churches. However, in the effort to not say Christmas, traditional songs cannot be sung.
Also, Santa Claus is politically incorrect, so students are not permitted a classroom “naughty or nice” song. Teachers are instructed in many schools to have nothing to do with Christmas.
For me it will always be the Christmas holidays. Some of my most treasured memories are of Christmas with my family. Friends have come and gone. Loved ones are around me while others have passed. They still figure brightly in my memory.
I agree with Erma Bombeck: “There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” Or to not be able to celebrate Christmas with a child.
There is a need for a constitutional amendment on Christmas so some federal judge does not take it away from our country, or even the Supreme Court.
Merry Christmas to you if you celebrate Christmas. Happy holidays to you if you do not.
Michael Swickard is a former radio talk show host and has been a columnist for 30 years in a number of New Mexico newspapers. Swickard’s new novel, Hideaway Hills, is now available at Amazon.com.