Over coffee, Joanne Brown, Linda Bennett, Judi Hanna, Laurie Kramer and Pat See, all of the Youngstown, Ohio, area — lamented Americans’ increasingly “politically correct” pressure to mumble “Happy Holidays” rather than risk offending someone by saying “Merry Christmas.” What could they do about it? They came up with the idea of billboards. Within weeks, they had raised enough money for two billboards reading, “I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas” and “Why have you stopped saying Merry Christmas?” Both were signed, “Jesus.”
The next year, they raised enough money for four billboards. Now
Three of the ladies and one of their billboards
“The friends, all Christians, think it’s important to send a simple but potent message with the wish of Merry Christmas,” writes Linda M. Linonis of the Youngstown News. ”They’re back in a bigger way than their initial foray. Their grassroots effort has gained momentum.”
They are delighted that they have copycats nationwide — folks with the same idea and message. That’s what drives the quintet, Brown explained on nationwide TV shows — that almost 150 years ago, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation making Dec. 25, “commonly known as Christmas Day,” an official federal holiday.
Another sign in Virginia
The ladies point out that Congress didn’t make it some undefined “happy holiday.”No, it was proudly proclaimed “Christmas.”
“’Holiday’ isn’t interchangeable with ‘Christmas,’” Brown said. “It’s Christmas tree, Christmas cookies, Christmas carols. If Christ were here, what would we say to
A sign near Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hanna says the point of the billboards is to “feed those poor in spirit.” She told Linonis that “people want the day off, want the gifts” but are missing the reason for the season — the birth of Jesus.
The idea is resonating across America — with similar billboards sponsored by similar groups of friends who want to proclaim Who’s birthday is being celebrated.
“It’s not a secular holiday,” Bennett added. “As Christians we have a calling to follow God’s example. He gave us his son. We need to take the Gospel message and help those less fortunate.”
“We’ve gotten beautiful letters from people saying they were inspired by the messages,” said See said. “The billboards remind people what Christmas is really about.”
A sign in Manhattan, NY
Most of their donations are small. Hanna said one person gave $1.50, which was what she could afford.
“People donate because they support the message,” said See.
This year, a group of sixth- through eighth-graders who are members of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at South Range Middle School in Greenford donated $150. “They had a candy sale and wanted the money to go to the billboard campaign,” said parent and club volunteer Janice Stephenson. “FCA focuses on helping the community and empowering students to serve Christ. The students thought the billboard idea was good.”
A billboard near Savannah, Ga.
The women say they will continue their project — gratified as they receive word of new billboards spotted all across America.
That’s great, say the five.
And, by the way, they add: “Merry Christmas!”