Ohio Billboards Urge 'Merry Christmas' Over 'Happy Holidays'

Joanne Brown and her friend, Linda Bennett, said they were doing their Christmas shopping last year when they noticed many people saying "Happy Holidays" to them instead of "Merry Christmas."

"Tired of hearing that greeting," they decided to do something about it, they told Fox News. The two brainstormed and finally decided to purchase a billboard as a way to spread the Christmas greeting.

The idea caught on and donations poured in, allowing the duo to post a total of four billboards last year.

This year, Brown and Bennett, along with some friends, have run red and white billboards saying, "It's OK to say 'Merry Christmas' and "I miss hearing you say 'Merry Christmas.'" Both were signed by Jesus.

"We feel that Jesus wants to be honored with 'Merry Christmas,'" said Bennett, according to Fox News.

The group was able to run ten billboards instead of their plan of six, thanks to contributions which exceeded their expectations.

"Comments in the letters we've received have been extremely supportive," said Pat See, who is involved with the group behind the billboards, according to Ohio News Network. "The money that's come in has told us that a lot of people agree with the message."

The ladies in the group believe they'll reach at least 135,000 people a day with the billboards.

Another group in Ohio has also put the messages on 3,000 buttons.

The Ohio groups represent a majority of Americans who prefer "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays." A recent survey by Rasmussen Reports found that 68 percent of respondents said they would rather see "Merry Christmas" used to describe Dec. 25. That figure went virtually unchanged from a survey the organization conducted around the same time, around Thanksgiving, last year.

Conservative Christian groups are also fighting what they consider a cultural war on Christmas by strongly advising their supporters to not give their Christmas business to retailers who censor or omit "Merry Christmas" from this season's advertising.

Groups which have launched such initiatives include Liberty Counsel, American Family Association, and Focus Action, the advocacy arm of Focus on the Family. They say the omission of "Merry Christmas" from retail stores is part of a cultural purging of God and Christmas from the public square.

But some Christians say critiquing culture for not talking about Jesus or saying "Merry Christmas" may not be the best approach when it comes to conveying the real Christmas message to the public.

Churches participating in the Advent Conspiracy say the best way to restore the scandal of Christmas is by substituting consumption with compassion.

"We're (Christians) upset because Christmas has lost its meaning, but then we get angry because they're saying 'happy holidays' at Best Buy and Circuit City and we want them to say 'Merry Christmas,'" Chris Seay of Ecclesia Church in Houston, one of the founders of Advent Conspiracy, told Collide magazine.

"My response is just the opposite," he said. "Best Buy and Circuit City do not represent what Christmas is about. That's maybe the worst place we can evoke the name of Christ. It has nothing do to with Christmas."

The group asks every church and organization involved to encourage its supporters to spend less on Christmas gifts and contribute more to global projects that benefit the world's poor. In the past two years, the group has raised $3.5 million for global projects, including clean water projects.

Contributing to "acts of love" is the best way to tell the story of Christ's birth, which is a "story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love," the Advent Conspiracy website states.

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