If you haven’t heard, Starbucks hates Christmas, or more specifically, they hate just the Jesus part of Christmas.
The “insanity” (as The Atlantic puts it) over the Starbucks Christmas cup controversy was, to me, not that surprising. It was inevitable that, at some point in the next few weeks, some rant somewhere would go viral about the War on Christmas and the ubiquity of “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas.” Such social media eruptions are as much a tradition of this season as twinkly lights and gingerbread men.
Of course, Starbucks has drawn ire not for wishing its customers “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas,” but by seeking to sidestep the issue altogether. Neutrality is no excuse for folks like Joshua “Merry Christmas” Feuerstein, who take scripture passages such as Matthew 12:30 just as literally as they don’t take ones like 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and Romans 12:18.
The thing is, I support the right of people to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” (or in this case, “Here’s your coffee, have a great day.”) This is America, after all, the land of religious freedom. No one should be forced to say or hear a word that derives from a faith tradition they don’t personally adhere to.
The only problem I have with the movement is that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The political correctness police have rightly targeted “Merry Christmas” and the traditional labels for years according to the Gregorian calendar, BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”), replacing them with BCE (“Before Common Era”) and CE (“Common Era”).
But we have a long way to go. Because Christians are not the worst offenders when it comes to religious overreach into the ways in which we tell time. The real trouble-makers are the ancient Romans (and, also, the Vikings).
Let me explain.
Let’s start with the days of the week. Monday comes from the Old English for “moon’s day.” Sunday derives from a similar tradition (three guesses as to what celestial body it’s named after). Both names are relics from ancient times when the sun and moon were worshiped as gods.
Pretty much all the rest of the days are named for Norse deities. Tuesday equals “Týr’s day,” after the Norse god of law and war. Wednesday, “Wōden’s Day,” after the Old English for Odin. Thursday is named for Thor, god of thunder and hunky Marvel superhero. Friday is named for Frigg, a Norse goddess who either gave birth to Thor or was murdered by him, depending on which tradition your Germanic tribe happened to follow.
The name for Saturday, however, does not come from a Norse god. It comes from a Roman one: Saturn. Which is handy, since we’ll be sticking with that particular mythos for the remainder of our discussion.
February is named after Februa, a Roman festival of ritualistic purification. March comes from Mars — not the planet or the candy bar — but the pagan war deity from whom all three derive their epithet.
April’s etymology is less clear, but is probably owed to some form of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty (she was Roman, too, but they called her Venus). June is almost certainly named for Juno, Roman queen of the gods.
However, not all the months are named after deities. July is in honor of Julius Caesar (though the Romans did think he was a god). Same with Augustus, and his namesake, August. And the names of September, October, November and December come from Latin numbers — probably because the Romans ran out of good god names.
So those four can stay the same, but the rest of the months need to be tossed out, along with all the days of the week.
The days would be easy to rename; we can mostly do it numerically. Monday, Oneday (it even rhymes!). Tuesday, Twoday (no real difference there). Wednesday, Thirdday — not to be confused with Thursday, which shall henceforth be known as Fourday. Friday, Fiveday, naturally. Saturday could be rechristened Sixday, but I’m going to push for Funday. And Sunday? Footballday. Obviously.
The months would be a little bit trickier, but I’m sure we can figure something out.
The need for such changes should be clear and persuasive to even the most Hellenistically influenced observers. The only real question is why the PC crowd hasn’t started pushing for such amendments before now.
My guess is they’re just waiting to beef up their investments in the calendar industry first.
Adapted from an op-ed originally published in the Woodburn Independent.