Things have been quiet on the “war on Christmas” front this year, possibly because many of those who feel that the reason for the season is under threat are pleased that president-elect Donald Trump has their backs. In September Trump spoke at the Values Voters Summit and said “Other people can have their holidays, but Christmas is Christmas. I want to see ‘Merry Christmas.’ Remember the expression ‘Merry Christmas’? You don’t see it anymore! You’re going to see it if I get elected, I can tell you right now.” He reiterated this stance in early December, just to make sure he had made himself clear.
In case you don’t know about the war on Christmas, it started in the 1990s (or the 1950s, depending on your source), and is all about taking Christ out of Christmas by secularizing the season. It’s the reason why stores tell their employees to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”; why schools call Christmas trees “holiday trees” and ban any mention of religion during “holiday pageants”; why town halls ban the erection of nativity scenes; why you cannot find Christmas cards with religious motifs and messages; and why Christmas has slowly but surely become a commercial venture that is all about material goods.
Except that this isn’t true. Yes, there have been isolated instances of some of the above, but a little research usually shows that it was in response to a complaint from a customer, parent, or constituent who presumably had too much time on his or her hands and a propensity for riding hobby-horses, with panicked management, school staff, and municipal staff overreacting. In many cases these decisions have subsequently been reversed.
Christmas cards with religious themes are readily available, even here in little Ashcroft. The commercialisation of Christmas? Well, complaints about that go back a very long way. How far back? “This festival teaches even the little children, artless and simple, to be greedy. The tender minds of the young begin to be impressed by that which is commercial and sordid,” wrote the Cappadocian Bishop Asterius of Amasea about Christmas, in 400 AD.
In the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy tells Charlie Brown “We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate.” Later, Charlie Brown is appalled by his sister Sally’s lengthy list of gifts she wants Santa to bring, which concludes “If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself. How about tens and twenties?”
Later in the show, however, when a distraught Charlie Brown begs someone to tell him the true meaning of Christmas, Linus takes centre stage and speaks the words from Luke 2: 8–14. When he finishes—with the words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”—he turns to his friend and says simply “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Whether you choose to emphasize the religious aspects of the season or not, peace on earth and good will toward men are things that I suspect almost everyone can get behind. So to everyone reading this: Merry Christmas to you all!