The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 12, 2009

Not so ‘happy holidays’

Church group wants to hear ‘Merry Christmas’

WATSONTOWN -- Volunteers at a small Watsontown church have already distributed more than 200 red and green buttons that declare their desire to hear the words “Merry Christmas” this year.

As of last week, they had ordered 100 more buttons, which display the words, “It’s OK, Wish Me A Merry Christmas.”

“We’ve had a really great response from it,” said Sue Fairchild, of Watsontown Baptist Church, who is spearheading the campaign, based on a national initiative aimed at turning the tide of a movement that uses the phrase “Happy Holidays” in an effort to avoid offending those who do not celebrate the Christian-based holiday.

The movement has been targeting retail stores, which are sensitive to the issue.

“You never want to offend anybody,” said John Azaltovic, operations manager at the Best Buy store in Hummels Wharf.

“This time of year, there are multiple different ethnic religions that have holidays. We do in a way, through advertising, celebrate them all.”

The company’s mantra this year, he said, is “Buyer Be Happy.”

Gift cards are available for every holiday.

“I don’t tell my associates not to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ ” Azaltovic said. “That is up to them. If they want to say that to a customer, I don’t have any problems against it.”

“If someone says ‘Merry Christmas’ to me, I say it back,” said Azaltovic. “That’s common courtesy, the polite thing to do.”

A similar practice is followed at other stores.

“We ask our cashiers and other service associates to politely and appropriately greet our customers,” said Dennis Curtin, director of public relations for Weis Markets Inc. “We do not have a scripted holiday greeting for our service associates.”

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie said, “We encourage associates to use their best judgment when greeting their customers.”

The most important practice is for their greetings to reflect the communities in which they serve, she added.

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