How Walgreens Stole Christmas, and Got Off Looking Like Snow White

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  • 09/21/2022

One of the most disconcerting aspects of the political arena is when the players expect forgiveness, and credit, when they do the right thing only when prompted by public outcry.  So often a politician is caught in a misdeed (legal or illegal), and expects forgiveness and continued support as a reward for admitting it.
There are dozens of examples in the political world, but a recent move by one of the country’s leading drug stores instantly reminded me of politicians behaving badly.  In the Walgreens flyer the Sunday before Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the company highlighted “Holiday Gift Wrap” and “Holiday Stockings,” among other items.  One conservative organization called for a boycott of Walgreens, and counted 36 uses of the term “Holiday” and no mentions of “Christmas.”  In other words, bring your money, but leave your icky Jesus-talk at the door.  After receiving phone calls in response to the omission of Christmas, Walgreens released a statement explaining its choice of “holiday” over “Christmas”:
During the months of October and November, we make greater use of the word "holiday'"to include celebrations such as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.  But as Christmas Day draws closer, you’ll see more references to the word "Christmas."  That includes the message, "Merry Christmas," which will be on the front of our newspaper sales insert on Dec. 25.
(Like many Americans, I’ll always have those fond memories of hanging my Thanksgiving stockings.)

We fully agree with you that—while we're helping customers celebrate a variety of holidays during this time of year—we should continue and increase the use of the word "Christmas" when referring to items specifically for the Christmas holiday.
In other words, “Our bad, but not really.”  Walgreens tries to justify their exclusion of “Christmas” based on proximity to Dec. 25.  By that logic, shouldn’t menorahs before Dec. 20 be called “holiday candelabras”?
Like misbehaving politicians, Walgreens expects a reward for admitting wrongdoing after being prompted to do so.  When a bank robber pleads guilty, he doesn’t get the money.  Why doesn’t CVS, one of Walgreens’ biggest competitors, get credit for using “Christmas” in their flyers?  After receiving the statement from Walgreens, the conservative organization called off its boycott.  While boycotts generally don’t have much success, folding so quickly to a weak statement of excuses reminds me of the scorned wife who attends the apology press conference.
Omitting “Christmas” isn’t a new phenomenon.  In 2007, Lowe’s came under fire after their flyers advertised “family trees.”  In 2006, Best Buy echoed Walgreens’ sentiments and said, “We are going to continue to use the term holiday, because there are several holidays throughout that time period, and we certainly need to be respectful of all of them.”
In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee has announced that the decorated public tree will be called the “holiday tree.”  Again, we never hear of a public menorah being called a “holiday candelabra.”  The effort to water down celebrations always seems to be against Christmas and Christians.
For me, the central issue is respecting customers.  A new Rasmussen poll found that 62% of Americans plan to spend less this Christmas than they did last year.  Why employ politically correct language that alienates your customers in such a competitive market?  Furthermore, another recent Rasmussen poll found that 70% of Americans prefer “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays” on store signs.
It’s insulting to bow down to the PC gods while holding your hand out to the people who are spending money in your stores to celebrate Christmas.  Walgreens is confusing being inclusive with embracing PC marketing.  Personally, I can deal with “Happy Holidays,” even though it’s nice to hear “Merry Christmas” because that’s the December holiday I celebrate.  However, sanitizing traditional Christmas items such as trees, stockings and gift wrap in order to please the PC police is ridiculous.  Wishing all your customers “Happy Holidays” is at least more palatable than renaming the items you’re selling them to keep the censors at bay.  Besides, once the PC police realizes that “holiday” is derived from “holy day,” that will probably be off-limits too.