Merry Christmas! (It’s the Law!)

In case you were wondering, it’s legal to wish people a “Merry Christmas.” Of course, no one really doubted that. But attorney Kelly Coghlan has decided to take the phony “War on Christmas” nonsense to even more absurd levels by letting people know that federal law officially calls December 25 “Christmas.”

Coghlan ( is the Houston lawyer who wrote the so-called Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2007. The law requires that school events — including required student assemblies — be turned into public forums in which students may evangelize, if they choose, to fellow students and others in attendance. It’s a thinly veiled end run around constitutional protections for religious freedom and has forced public school districts across the state to pay attorneys to help them craft policies in ways that don’t get them sued.

Now Coghlan has circulated an e-mail — audience unclear, but presumably parents and perhaps school districts on his address list — reminding them that Christmas is a legal holiday. Thanks for the news flash, Kelly.

His purpose, of course, is to reinforce the misperception that Christmas is somehow under attack in America. Never mind that the vast majority of Americans celebrate the birth of Jesus with public prayer, decorations and festivities every year. And Americans have been wishing each other “Merry Christmas” since our nation’s founding without having to be reminded that it’s a federal holiday.

Even more ironic is that social conservatives like Coghlan are now turning to government as a justification for wishing people “Merry Christmas.” He even reminds readers that no one goes around wishing “Happy Holidays” before other federal holidays like Labor Day.

It’s as if folks like Coghlan have no idea how absurd they sound. And perhaps they don’t. In any case, they have become a caricature of prim-and-proper busybodies constantly pointing out the obvious to everybody else.

Read Coghlan’s e-mail for yourself:

Dear Friends of Students:

Every year at about this time, in our schools and in the market place, there seems to be confusion about the name of the holiday that occurs on December 25th. All federal holidays (and there are 10 of them) are created by federal law under the United States Code, 5 U.S.C. Section 6103. Each of the ten federal holidays is listed and named in this statute. To view the federal statute, click here on the website

The official federal holiday that occurs on December 25th is “Christmas Day.” It is the only federal holiday in December. Therefore, all of us in America should not hesitate to wish everyone “Merry Christmas.” By doing so, we are merely using the official and correct name of the federal holiday, as provided by federal law. One is operating on a sound legal basis when proclaiming “Merry Christmas” (and asking schools and companies to call the holiday by its correct federal name).

What about “Happy Holidays”? We also have a federal holiday named “Labor Day,” but we don’t go around wishing everyone “Happy Holidays” leading up to the first Monday of September. Why should Christmas be any different?

We should all call the holiday by its official legal name as stated in federal law: “Christmas.” Few people know this. Pass it on. Merry Christmas!

20 thoughts on “Merry Christmas! (It’s the Law!)

  1. Maybe I should send out a letter to inform people that the Fourth of July is Independence Day. What do you think?

    I would think Coghlan would object to Labor Day all together because it is a Marxist celebration of the proletariat. You know—organized labor. “Workers of the world unite.” I just wonder what strings the Marx Brothers pulled to get the feds. to designate it as a national holiday. Groucho could be very persuasive, but in the end, I think it must have been Harpo’s squeeze horn that did the trick.

    Telegram for Kelly Coughlan: Eggs are egg-shaped. Stop.

  2. What would Coghlan et al do if they couldn’t wallow in this pretend victimhood? If I’m not mistaken, this is the same Kelly Coglan who was warned by a federal judge a couple of years ago to stop filing contrived, frivolous lawsuits.

  3. Thanks Charles for your response, but hope you didn’t put too much information in it for Mr. Coghlan. Don’t want him to be chagrined by the concept of egg, whatever its shape may be. I’ve started responding to friends who extol me to use Merry Christmas with a “And a Merry Kwanzaachrishanukkahramadan to you”. Coming to Christmas is a wonderful celebration of Jesus and his teachings, but still think all faith perspectives could learn from one another. Peace on Earth, good will toward ALL.

  4. When I was a kid, I thought “Happy Holidays” was a unified way of wishing people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. As I have gotten older I have realized it is a very nice way of wishing people a happy holiday season regardless of which of the many world holidays they followed.

    But, to me, I think the problem is actually opposite of those who think there is a “War on Christmas”. Within facebook there is a popular game called Farmtown. In Farmtown a person can purchase a nativity scence for their farm. I am not a religious person – but them seems inappropriate to me. Somehow a a navity scence in a make believe farm with make believe cows and crops just seems wrong.

  5. Although he’s not quite open enough to admit it, the real core of Coghlan’s argument is in the parenthesis: “… (and asking schools and companies to call the holiday by its correct federal name).”

    He’s not just claiming that December 25 is Christmas Day* and that it’s quite all right to say “Merry Christmas” (both claims with which I heartily agree), he’s trying to justify pressuring schools, businesses, and other establishments NOT to wish people anything other than “Merry Christmas” during December. He wants to imply that it’s somehow NOT a federally-protected right to wish someone “Happy Chanukah,” “Blessed Ramdan,” “Festive Diwali,” “Season’s Greetings,” “Happy Holidays,” or anything other than “Merry Christmas.”

    As so often happens, in the guise of protecting the liberty of Christians, some on the Religious Right would infringe the liberty of everybody else.

    *December 25 is actually the first day of Christmas, which lasts until January 6 (in the Western churches). Christmas for the Orthodox churches this season will be on January 7, 2010.

  6. Isn’t it obvious that Happy “Holidays” is all inclusive for everyone in December (Christmas, Hannuka, Kwanza, Festivus, as well as New Year’s day)? Doesn’t that lump in everybody together so that no one will be left out due to their religion or whatever? And what’s wrong with that? Jesus, if they want to know the real meaning of Xmas they should be made to study Sol Invictus and Saturnalia. All hail the birth of the new SUN. BTW, what is going on in Houston lately?

  7. Yes, but you are all missing the real point. Real Americans (defined as white baptists with names like Buffy Robertson) say Merry Christmas. These people who celebrate these other holidays are nonAmericans who attend the wrong kinds of religious institutions and have names like Kwami Ntanga. They are not real Americans—not really. Oh sure, some were naturalized and some were born here. However, it takes more than that to be a real American. Now, let’s review what it takes to be a real American:

    1) White skin

    2) Baptist (or some other appropriate affiliation. Catholics need not apply).

    3) Buffy Robertson

    4) Merry Christmas

  8. Elizabeth, this will probably sound cynical. But I think a make-believe farm is absolutely the PERFECT place to celebrate a mythical event that probably never even happened. Let’s certainly not require it in public arena. “Happy Holidays” is also the perfect greeting during this time of year for anyone you don’t know for certain is a practicing christian. And where in the bible does it say “merry christmas” anyway?

  9. They’re making such a big deal about the legal holiday being officially called “Christmas Day…as provided by federal law.” Well, shouldn’t they be following that “federal law” and be repeating the legal terminology, “Christmas Day?” Where’d that “Merry” part come from? That’s not “federal law,” too, is it?

    I went to the “federal law” on holidays, United States Code, 5 U.S.C. Section 6103, cited by Coghlan ( and searched for “Christmas” and found the holiday listed, but there was nothing dictating that anybody say “Merry Christmas.”

    So perhaps Coghlan could post the URL for the part of the “federal law” that mandates “Merry Christmas.”

    Wanna know what I think? I think Coghlan is just full of empty verbiage.

  10. Well Marsha. You see. It’s like this. The American people have a right to “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” The word “Merry” is that there “happiness” part.

    When Science Teacher says the Christmas story is a “mythical event,” he/she means “fur as I knows uv.” Fifteen other people may have 15 different “fur as I knows uvs.” That’s why they call it “faith.”

  11. Charles:
    “Fur as I knows uv” the birth of Jesus was originally placed in the Spring, and was only moved to December to replace Winter Solstie celebrations.

    “Fur as I knows uv” the only true ‘War on Christmas’ in America was waged by the original Puritan settlers, who condemned it as a Papist relic and punished people for celebrating it.

    “Fur as I knows uv” there are a lot of holiday celebrations in late December — going on to ‘New Year’s Day’ in January — but most of that celebrating takes place in December too and ends — drunkenly — at Midnight. Along with the others there’s the joint celebration of Beethoven’s and Darwin’s birthday on December 15th.

    And can’t help reminicing that a few years ago Christmas, Hanukah and the start of Kwanzaa came over a 2 day period, and a graphics designer friend — a Muslim — and I — an atheist — regretted we hadn’t realized it early enough to get some cards in the stores.

  12. Peace on Earth. Good will to men. Whether its Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Beethoven (my birthday and Winston Churchill’s too), Darwin, or whatever, we could probably all agree on that much. Merry Christmas and whatever else y’all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Knock yourself out, Charles. Repeat any words you choose. Nobody’s trying to stop you.

    Don’t try to force me to say it. That’s where I draw the line. And that seems to be some kind of threat to you.

    Doesn’t it seem appropriate that one who truly is wishing the best to other people during a season which includes numerous observances would want to be pleasant and not insult the other persons by wishing them the wrong holiday. I wouldn’t want to say “Merry Christmas” to a Jew or “Good Winter Solstice” to a Christian or “Happy Hanukkah” to a Muslim. Unless I know the exact holiday the other individuals celebrate (such as close friends), I would want to wish them the best in a way that would be the most pleasant for them. So, Charles, do you understand now? Saying “Happy Holidays” is a positive thing. Please don’t make it a negative thing.

    The point I was making with my first post is that Coghlan asserts that “Merry Christmas” is the law. For Coghlan to claim that “federal law” mandates that “Merry Christmas” must be repeated — by anybody — at any time — is absurd and patently false. It is not — I repeat, NOT — in the law at all, in any form. Read the statute for yourself. Just google the citation in my comment or in Coghlan’s quotation above.

  14. Charles, you asked, “Are you nuts or something?”

    Nuts? Not in my estimation. Something? I certainly hope so.

    Did you read the statute? Did you find anywhere that “Merry Christmas” is mandated “as provided by federal law” as Coghlan claims in the letter to Friends of Students?

    Just because you don’t wish your friends “Happy Holiday” except at Xmas doesn’t mean that other people don’t. I’ve routinely said to my friends, “Enjoy your holiday” or “Have a good holiday,” prior to President’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, anytime we were about to enjoy the luxury of sleeping in on a weekday.

    Charles, please tr,y during this excellent season (the days will soon begin to lengthen), to be as pleasant as possible.

  15. I have no problem with saying Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or anything else. I think you were the person who decided to get all irate and huffy because I said Merry Christmas. I didn’t get all irate and huffy when you said Happy Holidays. I even gave you a Happy Holidays because that is what you preferred.

    Therefore, I can only conclude that you have some sort of chip on your shoulder, possibly from one of your lost marbles. Just in case you would like to collect your marbles, they are on display in the British Museum.

  16. Charles, I have no problem with you or with anybody else saying whatever you wish. You and I do NOT have a problem with each other. I didn’t realize I was irate or huffy with you. My original post didn’t mention you at all. This is a discussion. I’m not irate or huffy now either. At all!! I’ve tried to make it clear that I don’t care who says “Merry Christmas.”

    You wrote, “Therefore, I can only conclude that you have some sort of chip on your shoulder, possibly from one of your lost marbles. Just in case you would like to collect your marbles, they are on display in the British Museum.” Was that really necessary? Actually, I think it would be great to own the Elgin marbles. What beauty!

    The first time you addressed a comment to me you spoke of “pursuit of happiness.” My comment about “that ‘Merry’ part” had been tongue-in-cheek. It seemed to me at the time that you were asserting that “pursuit of happiness” means forcing everybody else — of all religious stripes — to say “Merry Christmas.” I think I misread your intent there. If so, I humbly apologize. I think that you may have been channeling others.

    What I was asking — of anybody, even rhetorically — is Where does Coghlan come up with this absurd notion that everybody should say — ONLY — “Merry Christmas,” which he claims is “provided by law?” It’s certainly not in the law that Coghlan cites.

    I don’t take kindly to people who make false claims, knowing they are lying. Mistakes are one thing, but the mistake Coghlan makes in his letter was intentional, designed to mislead people and foment hate. Those “Friends of Students” might believe his lies and persecute individuals of other religions, all the while thinking that they are within the law to do so.

    In reading the law, I noticed that the only official federal religious holidays are Christian-centered. All the other holidays are non-sectarian. There are no official Jewish nor Muslim nor Asian holidays.

    Happy New Year’s Eve! Can we agree on that?

    Were you at the TFN party tonight? If so, I wish we had met.

  17. Oops! I didn’t mean to indicate that “Asian” is a religion. I should have said that there are no official federal holidays for Jewish, Muslim or Asian religions. Please forgive.

  18. This fictitious “war on Christmas” has gotten beyond ridiculous. Christmas is now celebrated in countries that don’t even have a majority Christian population. So I ask the right wingnuts, where is this so-called war?? Again, they are just lying once more. Lying has become a Christian virtue.