There is no War on Christmas
First snow hasn’t fallen, Halloween isn’t even here yet, and already I am starting to see Christmas and other relevant holiday decorations and themes in stores. While this brings the inevitable shouts of, “Why are there Christmas and other winter holiday items being sold already,” it also brings another familiar and equally loud and outrageous shout and that’s the “war on Christmas” battle cry. People make complaints about cashiers saying happy holidays instead of merry Christmas and the lack of Christian iconography in public (thus government owned) buildings. Conservative pundits will be on the television waxing poetic about the good old days and all of our racist relatives will start posting memes on their Facebook walls and banging the war drums in time with the cadence that Bill O’Reilly dictates.
I never understand this; it feels like as big a problem in Canada as it is in the United States, with the exception that it doesn’t get the same kind of television news coverage here. It’s usually restricted to AM radio, along with shows that cover all sorts of conspiracy theories and the like, but the pro-Christmas message always there on social media and U.S. television news. I wish people a happy holidays even though most of the people I know are white and Christian I use this for the simple reason that most of these people I won’t see before or after Christmas and the phrase covers happy New Year, too. In fact, for all those that complain about saying happy holidays, let’s not forget that the song “Happy Holidays” was first sung by Bing Crosby in the movie “Holiday Inn” back in 1942, where I’m pretty sure that the percentage of other religions living in North America was even lower than it is right now In fact here’s a breakdown from 1948 the earliest numbers I could find. I do remember that a war was being fought in 1942, but it wasn’t over Christmas.
Let’s me be clear: I have no problem with Christians practicing Christmas rituals, displays of nativity scenes, going to church, singing carols door to door, whatever makes you happy, go with it. But remember, just because a retail outlet that it dependant on sales to everyone decides not to put up Christian-only themes, or say merry Christmas, it isn’t an attack on you. While Christianity remains the majority in Canada and the United States, stores sell to everyone. Just look around; while “Christmas” may not be on display in flashing neon lights, you will find plenty of it on the shelves. So there may be some Hanukkah or Kwanzaa themed things there too, but is that really so horrible? Really, most of what you are going to see is Santa Claus and other non-Christian idols there specifically created for Christmas. Last time I checked, Santa and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer weren’t mentioned in Luke 2:1-20.
So where exactly is the war on Christmas? The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States provides that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Walmart, JC Penny, Macy’s, Target, Best Buy, Sears and Amazon aren’t stopping your ability to exercise your Christianity by taking the word Christmas out of their stores when trying to sell you products. The government hasn’t passed any laws that are stopping you from celebrating Christmas, thus infringing on your First Amendment rights, and not displaying Christian iconography in or at public buildings that everyone uses isn’t either. It’s just the government doing its job.
The “War on Christmas” also revolves around Christmas trees. Trees aren’t Christian, they are everywhere, and Christmas trees find their roots (no pun intended) in pagan traditions throughout central Europe. They didn’t become commonplace until the 19th century, when they were placed in German military barracks and hospitals during the Franco-Prussian war. Even then it was considered a Protestant tradition and not a Catholic one. Again, there weren’t too many coniferous trees in Jerusalem, and certainly not ones decorated with colored balls, candles, or tinsel so calling it a “Holiday Tree” over a “Christmas Tree” doesn’t make much difference.
So what do we get out of the war on Christmas? I look for a payoff or an end game and I just don’t see one. No one is losing anything, no one is prevented from going to church or praying, giving gifts, shopping or anything else that they could do five, ten, even 50 years ago. Why all of a sudden are we bombarded with messages that we are under attack? That the Grinch is out to steal Christmas, or that suddenly, because language around holiday seasons are becoming generalized, Christians are lesser than they were before? I don’t have a good answer, I don’t see why anyone should get angry about any of this. It’s a distraction from what is common about the season for everyone: Family, togetherness, promises of a better future and new life. So take a break from the war on Christmas” and maybe focus on how horrible the winter months can be for the homeless and the hungry and fight a war on poverty instead.