12/22/05 — Residents take their stand for 'Merry Christmas'

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Residents take their stand for 'Merry Christmas'

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on December 22, 2005 1:48 PM

Ed Allen of Goldsboro said he is tired of "holiday" parades and children getting out of school for "holiday" break.

For the past two years, his answer to the debate over the proper greeting for this holiday season has been a banner with two simple words: "Merry Christmas."

"It's time to take Christmas back," Allen said. "It's time to make our move. Otherwise, we won't even be able to say 'Christmas.'"

Allen's quest began last year when he said many Goldsboro businesses would not display his Christmas banners. He said he believes these businesses did not want to offend any other religions, but, in the process, their plan backfired.

"I won't support them, if they won't support Christians," Allen said. "The first thing you know it will be against the law to say 'Merry Christmas.' I've decided I've got rights, too, and I'm offended by this."

Born to a Methodist mother and Baptist father, Allen said religion has been a pillar in his life. As a child, Christmas was the most joyous time of the year. Although Allen did not receive many gifts, he said his parents always found a way to give a Christmas present.

Neighbors would get into the spirit of the season by wishing one another "Merry Christmas" and families would go in droves to Christmas mass, he said.

However, Allen said times have changed. Now, more people say "Happy Holidays" and more businesses sell "holiday" gift cards.

Without Christmas, though, no "holiday" would exist, said David Bappert, 48, of Patetown.

In recent years, Bappert said he has noticed that individuals and businesses have not made an effort to give Christians the same tolerance as other religious people.

"I just wonder when enough is enough. I'm tolerant of everyone. I don't hate anybody. I keep seeing this happening over and over again, and I'm getting tired of it," Bappert said.

For example, in New Jersey, a group of people had placed a nativity scene in a park alongside representations of other religions. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the group for the nativity scene and nothing else, Bappert said.

"I thought tolerance meant tolerance for everyone," he said.

The debate between saying "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" has spread across the nation. Various groups and officials were angered when President George W. Bush sent out cards referring to the "holiday season," and the decorated tree on the Capitol lawn was termed a "Holiday Tree" instead of a "Christmas Tree."

The debate has even reached the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Walter Jones is the co-sponsor of House Resolution 579. It states that the House should recognize the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas and should disapprove of any attempts to ban references to Christmas. Secular references to a "holiday" or "winter" season are considered such attempts, Jones said.

In a statement, Jones said, "Christmas is a national holiday in our country. Those who wish to express their faith with reference to the Christmas season and its traditions should have the same freedom as those who wish to make reference to a 'holiday' season. Let us all be free to celebrate the spirit of the season as we see fit."

In Goldsboro, however, there are some individuals who believe phrases such as "Happy Holidays" are one of many ways to celebrate the spirit of the season.

"They are the same thing," Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said. "Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas are the same thing. One is Happy Holy-Day and the other celebrates the birth of Jesus. I'm happy to use both."

Mayor Al King said his views on the debate reflect traditional values.

"I believe in 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year'," he said. "I say that for those who celebrate Christmas. For those who don't, I simply say 'Happy Holidays'. I say 'Merry Christmas' because that's what the season's about."