So it’s the Christmas season again, which means we get to hear all this debate about the supposed “War On Christmas” all over again. I have to admit I kind of sympathize with the people that claim that Christmas is being attacked. I don’t think it’s right to suppress people or businesses from saying “Merry Christmas” if they want to. Repressing speech out of some kind of notion of “tolerance” or “sensitivity” is still repression, as I see it. I remember hearing last year from a friend about attending their kid’s school’s “Winter Program” musical performance, that featured lots of traditional music and things about Hanukkah and other wintertime religious holidays, but was devoid of reference to Christmas. I appreciate diversity as much as the next guy, and I think it’s important to teach children about a variety of cultures, but it seems unfair to me not to give Christmas and/or Christianity its equal time. It does seem as if in recent years there has been a movement to remove anything Christian from the public square, which to me feels like just ganging up on something simply because it’s big and popular. I fail to see how that’s being fair to everyone, if that’s what the professed intent is.
On the other hand, just because the checker at the supermarket doesn’t say “Merry Christmas” any more shouldn’t deter you from celebrating Christmas in any way. People who want to celebrate the birth of Christ shouldn’t allow their ability or desire to do so lessened just because mass culture isn’t playing along. Jewish persons in this country have dealt with it just fine for many years. Just because the whole popular culture would go gaga over Christmas every year didn’t mean they had to give up Hanukkah and/or switch to Christmas.
I recently hit upon the idea that the perception of a “War on Christmas” actually stems from a confusion between two different Christmases. I recently saw an opinion e-mailed in by a viewer on Fox News, to the effect of “There’s no War on Christmas. I’m a Christian, but I see Christmas as mostly a commercial holiday.” Secondly, it’s widely known that many Americans who do not identify as Christian still celebrate the holiday with many of the same traditions and rites we’ve associated with Christmas – decorations, gifts, Santa Claus, family gatherings, those kinds of things.
We’ve heard people complain for decades that Christmas was getting too “commercialized.” This commercialization seems to have been something that has gone on primarily in the United States. I agree that most of us celebrate a commercialized version of Christmas these days, but I don’t see it as something to complain about.
So I came up with the idea that there are in fact two Christmases going on. One is a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The other one is the “commercial” holiday, which I see as an American national holiday rather than a religious one. I think commerce is something to celebrate; the free market is one of the great qualities of our country. By gathering family and friends together to give each other gifts that we purchased for each other in the course of our annual burst of commerce, we celebrate other things that Americans (though not exclusively Americans, of course) tend to value. What could be more wonderfully American than a national holiday celebrating commerce, family, and generosity?
I think what is being seen as a “War on Christmas” in the popular culture is in fact an attempt to disambiguate these two holidays, by removing the name “Christmas” from the latter one, and instead calling it “Holidays” or whatever. That’s not a “War On Christmas,” that’s an attempt to give the word “Christmas” back to the religious holiday, so that the term is no longer diluted by referring to two different things. That seems to me like a good thing.