Every year, I receive little e-mail rants from people who claim to be offended by the use of the word

holidays

instead of

Christmas

. These mini-diatribes berate the "anti-Christian" retail culture, which has indeed created a holiday shopping season beginning in early November and extending until sometime after Jan. 1.

Interestingly, this time of year includes quite a few wonderful holidays. Most are near and dear to various national, ethnic and religious groups, and most are based in a sincere spirituality. They include Thanksgiving, of course, Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucy Day, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Diwali, Kwanzaa, New Year's Day (known in the Catholic Church as the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Prayer for Peace), and Epiphany or Three Kings' Day. And, of course, there is the Christmas season, which, at least for mainstream Christian churches, does not officially begin until the evening of Dec. 24.

Some say they are offended by this broad view of the season, and they advocate for retailers to use the word Christmas in their print ads and at the cash register. My response, however, is not to be offended by the absence of this word in the marketplace, but rather to be grateful.

I am offended by the commercialization of the birth of Jesus Christ. I am offended by connecting a holy celebration to Chia Pets, plastic yard kitsch, electronics, booze, diamonds, and piles of "must-have" toys, rather than to feeding the poor, working for justice, and making peace on earth.

I am offended that what should be a family and community time of reflection on the love and care we have from God and for one another, symbolized by the simple exchange of gifts, has been blown out of proportion into a capitalist frenzy aimed at the bottom line. In my view, we should separate the sacred feast of Christmas from the world of profit, greed and materialism.

For those who celebrate Christmas, may it be merry and bright, or at least holy and peace-filled. For everyone, may all your days be celebrations of life and love. Happy holidays!

Helen Jauregui

Philadelphia