This seems like an opportune moment to write about “The War on Christmas™” and to present a perspective from a non-Christian point of view. The War on Christmas has been an ongoing rebellion of Christian indignation at the overly political correctness of rebranding Christmas as the more inclusive “Happy Holidays.” This was most recently in the news for Sen. Inhofe’s boycott of the Oklahoma Holiday Parade. Republican Congressional members also used it (unsuccessfully) as political cover in a last ditch attempt to block any legislation from passing in the lame duck session of the 111th Congress.
What people fail to understand is that Madison Avenue won the rebranding war a while back. Retailers realized that it was economically efficient to adopt a more inclusive base in order to lock their death grip on the concept of November 23rd to December 25th (and beyond if you count the after
Christmas holiday sales) as national blow-your-savings month. Madison Avenue is quite adept at guilting the public into showing your love by promoting pointless holiday spending. They’ve managed to monetize Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day; the list keeps growing.
Christians have every right to dread the loss of meaning in their holiest celebration. Christianity is becoming a shrinking ideology in the face of dwindling numbers and the growth of Islam. It is little wonder that Christians are feeling the need to take a principled stand in order to preserve the foundations of their religion.
But why the resistance to including others into the holiday season? I mean, after all, doesn’t the holiday have the meaning we imbue it with? I grew up being told that Christmas was Jesus’s birthday; December 25th, year zero. But that isn’t actually true.
Christmas was somewhat arbitrarily moved to that date to quash competition with several pagan holidays (which were often fraught with debauchery, drinking, and other sinful pursuits). There is some question as to when the person/deity known as Jesus of Nazareth actually lived. All of the accounts of the person we now know as Jesus Christ were written several decades after his death. We’re not even sure how old he was (speculation says he was 33 at time of crucifixion).
Other mythology has also been explained. Scientists believe the Star of Bethlehem described in the book of Matthew was a comet or a supernova that created what we now know as the Crab Nebula. We imported St. Nicholas and Christmas trees from other cultures and changed their original meaning. We do this with Easter as well; somehow we wound up equating Christ’s ascension with bunnies and painted eggs, three things that ordinarily have little in common.
So what’s wrong with making Christmas an all inclusive holiday? I would argue that many of the world’s religions have the same tenets. And isn’t Christianity supposed to be a welcoming religion?
In actuality, American culture has often been careful not to push the Christian element upon the public in its storytelling. In an excellent article, Jeffrey Weiss points out that it is usually the Christians who are the aggressors in the War on Christmas. Think about all the Christmas shows you have seen in your life. How many of them explicitly pointed out the connection with the birth of Jesus? How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Nope, no Jesus. A Christmas Carol? Plenty of spirits but no son of God. It’s a Wonderful Life? An angel, yes, but no JC. Miracle on 34th Street? Magical jolly off-shoot of a German myth, still no Virgin Mary. A Christmas Story? A really cool lamp and BB gun but no King of Kings. The list is fairly comprehensive. No, the ones who fear the War on Christmas the most are the Christians; particularly the evangelicals. In fact, I daresay they are the only ones with a problem. And it belies a deep insecurity.
In a non-Christmas article from last year, Valerie Tarico gives several reasons why this might be the case. Her article dealt with an Albuquerque Church that sent 600 solar powered bibles to post earthquake Haiti instead of desperately needed survival supplies. Many people (myself among them) found this to be deeply offensive. While I’m sure these folks were well meaning, it speaks less about a selfless act of compassion to Haitians and more towards a selfish need to increase the flock and justify their own religious beliefs.
It is these same motivations that drive evangelicals to constantly remind us that they are fighting an imaginary War on X-mas™. They need for the rest of the world to accept that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus Christ when in fact that this is a relatively recent religious construct.
As a non-Christian (but not an atheist) I actually have no problems with anyone associating Christmas with a particular religious ideal. It’s a big tent and I’m happy to share the holiday with Christians. What I have a problem with is being told that any other interpretation is wrong. Just as when my babysitter told me and my sister we were going to hell because we didn’t attend church regularly, I resent the intolerance of evangelicals trying to shoehorn their beliefs onto a holiday that should celebrate the things that we share in common; peace, goodwill, philanthropy, and family to name a few.
So to the evangelical Christians and Senator Inhofe, lighten up. And Merry Christmas. The war, like visions of sugar plums, is all in your heads. Oh, and Happy Holidays, too.
- Solar Powered Bibles for Haiti: Why Some Christians Feel Compelled to Exploit Disaster (Huffington Post)
- The War on Christmas is Over … And Christmas Lost (Huffington Post)
- The War on Christmas: When ‘Merry Christmas’ Isn’t Very Merry (Huffington Post)
- Who’s the Grinch? Christians Usually the Aggressors in ‘Christmas Wars’ (Politics Daily)
- Merry Unitarian Christmas [Dispatches from the Culture Wars] (scienceblogs.com)
- Christmas has always belonged to other traditions – Max Carter (gatheringinlight.com)
- Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (socyberty.com)
- Keeping CHRIST in Christmas (thislittlechristiangoestomarket.wordpress.com)
- A War on Christmas? (aphilosopher.wordpress.com)
- Americans split over ‘War on Christmas’ (rt.com)
- Happy Saturnalia (themoderatevoice.com)
- Michal Shapiro: For the Holidays: Saxophones, Carols and Pagans… Oh My! (huffingtonpost.com)