What is this war on Christmas I keep hearing about? Is it real? And if so, how will it lead to the downfall of the United States? My feeling is that both sides of the argument are both a bunch of scrooges, so let’s take a look.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
I am not going to spend a lot of time going into the detail of the origin of Christmas. And when I say origin I don’t mean the birth of
Christ. Scholars agree that he was not born in December. Using December was classic early Christianity. A time when many already celebrated the solstice, Christianity took the day to celebrate the birth of Christ to make it appear as though everyone was celebrating it. A celebration in December goes far back into human history.
Moving closer to the present we see the celebration of St. Nicholas’ day in Early December where gifts are given starts to overtake Christmas as a popular holiday. Martin Luther, hero of the reformation and part-time door abuser, decided that the celebration of St. Nick be moved to Christmas eve, and even suggested that instead of St. Nick bringing presents it was the Christ Child (ChristKindl). I find it interesting that Santa has been usurping Christ for some time. The attempt to have a cherub-like Christ Child deliver gifts didn’t really work. Unknowingly many North Americans mock Martin Luther’s attempt to keep the focus on Christ by calling Santa, Kris Kringle.
It’s important to remember that historically, wishing someone a Merry Christmas was only done on Christmas day and not in the weeks preceding.
Fast forward to the recent past what was life like in America before this war on Christmas? Well anybody who has been around long enough can tell you that corporate America and marketing has been taking over Christmas for some time, and this trend has only continued. The way Black Friday has become so ridiculous in terms of now trumping Thanksgiving is a good example of what I mean. Jesus Christ and St. Nicholas would be turning over in their grave (or heavenly cloud shelter) knowing that the kindness, compassion, and generosity they tried to live their lives in accordance with has been replaced by the stress and greed. So if you haven’t noticed Christ disappearing from Christmas slowly over the past 50 years you haven’t been paying attention.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
So we now live in this age of political correctness and people being easily offended. We also live in a country that has been dominated by
Christianity for some time and has been used to justify slavery, segregation, preventing interracial couples from marrying, and most recently homosexual couples. We’ve never had a non-Christian President, nor does one appear to be electable in the near future. So it’s perhaps not completely out of the question that people might be worried about Christmas being shoved in their face.
That being said, should wishing someone a Merry Christmas really be offensive? In India, even many Muslims celebrate Diwali (the festival of lights) and wishing people a happy Diwali is not a national debate even though there are certainly a diversity of people in that country who may celebrate different holidays. As the American population grows it makes sense that businesses should try to not be exclusionary around this time of year. Hanukah and Kwanza are around this time and you are likely getting time off from work for so this does represent the holiday season. So if you don’t know exactly who you are addressing as a business why not try to be more inclusive in your marketing and advertising.
As individuals though should we really be that offended if someone wishes us a Merry Christmas and we aren’t Christian? Should we call the emergency number at Fox News because our favorite department store now says Happy Holidays and not Merry Christmas? Perhaps I know all the wrong people but any time someone has wished me a Merry Christmas I never got the impression that the subtext was apparently “convert to Christianity you heathen pond scum”. People seem sort of friendly when they say it and have good intentions. I am an atheist but I grew up in Canada and my mom celebrated Christmas so we all did. My memories of Christmas are filled with warmth, togetherness, lots of cookies and chocolates, presents, and decorations. There wasn’t a lot Christ mentioning at Christmas for me but my parents were charitable people, and we often had wayward international students who couldn’t go home for the holidays at our Christmas dinner. I’m pretty sure Christ would be pleased at the way we celebrated his day. One of Jesus’ big things was tolerance. Perhaps getting easily offended isn’t the best way to keep Christ in Christmas.
And here’s the thing war on Christmasers©, how is your Christmas going to change in anyway? Is the day going to be less fun? Are you going to love Jesus less on that day? Are you going to give or get less presents? Are you going to have to drink even more now to tell your sister she is too fat and that’s what she gets for getting knocked up when she was 16? You can still have the best Christmas ever without nativity scenes on your capitol building lawn. And since it tends to be Fox news and other conservatives carrying the banner of this war on Christmas you might also take a look at your own hypocrisy because you also support corporations, capitalism, intolerance towards minorities and other religions, and turn away from the plight of the poor. These are some very non-Jesus-like qualities.
Holidays are about relaxing. This is something we desperately need to do in a society that doesn’t value leisure time in favor of the pursuit of money. This is a shame because the pursuit of happiness is far more fulfilling.
The Ghost of Christmas Not Yet To Come
So there are two possible futures my dear Scrooges. One involves many angry atheists and other minorities being wished a Merry
Christmas by well meaning people. The years of offense that these poor souls who have been wished a Merry Christmas endured will lead to aneurisms causing us to marvel at the power of two simple words. The angry secular battle will win out in the media, business and government. Everywhere you go there will be signs that say Happy Holidays and you will look up in despair because you know that even though it is the holidays, Jesus has all been forgotten by everybody, except for all the millions upon millions of families who will still be celebrating Christmas in this future which still makes calendars available to the general population. These will not be happy Christmases though because you won’t get to hear about Christ because whenever you turn on the TV it’s just filled with advertisements, trying to convince you to spend your money on presents you don’t really need by a rotund man with a beard that has got to make it difficult to drink a bowl of soup. People in need of help around Christmas won’t get it because after all it’s only the holidays and not Christmas. And since there is no love for Jesus anymore (except for about half of the American population) what is really the point of being nice anybody anymore? What day is it today? The 25th? Oh whatever.
The second choice is to remember that Jesus was a good human regardless about how you feel towards his divinity. He cared for the poor, showed tolerance towards others, and was kind. We should be like this all year, but these qualities are worth celebrating at least once a year. Peace on Earth and good will towards men (and women). What more can summarize the Christmas spirit better? What could honor Jesus better if that is what you believe? Shouldn’t such words be the central tenet of everyone regardless of race or religion? If Christmas is to have any meaning on the 25th or on any day of the year it is in what you do to make things merry for your fellow human and not just saying the words.
So I wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Take time to rest. Spend it with family and loved ones if you have them. Help people as your time and budget allows. If you are feeling sad during the holidays, giving is a great way to fill any emptiness you might feel. Try to spend your time around joyful people, because in this cold and flu season joy is the best contagion worth catching. 🙂