With the economic crisis and a historic presidential election, it feels like we’ve forgotten something, some sort of time-honored media tradition… oh yeah! The war on Christmas.
Well, it’s been less of a story this year compared to previous ones. In fact, News Hounds reports that Bill O’Reilly has allegedly watered down his crusade against those waging the war on Christmas (although it was just, after all, temporarily) by referring to his “holiday reading” (note, not Christmas) on his own website. Indeed, that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to hatch plans to make money off the movement he spearheads annually. And he hasn’t, according to Keith Olbermann on the December 3 “Countdown.”
Still, the diehards always find a way to bring it back to this yearly battle between supposedly morally superior Christians and secular liberals. This year, they may have to scream a little louder to be heard over all the actual news going on in the world. For example, Daniel Henninger wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal actually suggesting that the reason we have a financial meltdown is because people refuse to say “Merry Christmas.”
“A nation whose people can’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ is a nation capable of ruining its own economy… Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.”
Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up. But in a way, Henninger might be onto something. There is a connection between Christmas and the economy. Too bad he — much like all the other “Save Christmas” reactionaries — had it all backwards.
The war on Christmas hasn’t gone anywhere. The boycott-happy American Family Association is still at it, organizing an e-mail campaign against warehouse retailer Costco for replacing “Christmas” with “holidays” in their stores and direct-mail advertising. Furthermore, they have a list of companies they identify as “for” or “against” Christmas.
I almost wonder, if BuzzFlash encouraged its readers to wage an e-mail/boycott campaign against the companies that refuse to use the term “Happy Holidays,” would our readers outnumber AFA devotees?
But I have a feeling our readers just aren’t that dogmatic. For example, I don’t personally feel the urge to lash out at someone who wishes me a happy Hanukkah because I look (though am not) Jewish. In fact, when out shopping this season, I will be simply be thankful if I’m not trampled to death or caught in a gunfight. Now that’s the true spirit of Christmas, isn’t it?
The origins of Christmas go back to pagan solstice celebrations. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, Christ’s birthday was moved to December as a way to co-opt the numerous different religious ceremonies that occurred around the winter solstice.
Christians themselves acknowledge that the well-known symbols of the holiday, including Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and even the mother-and-child imagery come from various other religions. Traditions from gift-giving and feasting to mistletoe and Yule logs were appropriated by early Christians. And these practices come from such varied religious traditions — everything from Norse to Egyptian to Druidic legends — that it’s only appropriate to say “Happy Holidays.”
Not only did early Christians appropriate the traditions and imagery of these disparate local religions, but also in many cases they outlawed, sometimes at penalty of death, the expression of non-Christian beliefs. When you consider such ghosts of Christmas past, the whining about the “war on Christmas” takes on a particularly grating tone. When their religious hegemony is attacked, Christians go on an immediate offense, but they conveniently forget all the religious practices they mercilessly stamped out on their way to cementing Christmas as their own.
The true war on Christmas is not being waged by politically correct liberals or retail stores afraid of offending. If there is a war on Christmas at all, it comes from a more sinister demon just recently acknowledged: the recession. Whether a store greeter says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” won’t make the American people spend any more of their disappearing funds on gifts this season.
The notion that our country is attacking a national holiday that lasts well over a month and generates billions of dollars each year by simply being as inclusive as possible is laughably delusional at best.
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