Sometimes, I know my opinions are going to be unpopular. After my Thanksgiving post, plenty of people approached me defending their green bean casseroles and canned cranberry sauce, and that’s fine. Similarly, last year when I wrote my Christmas letter post, I ended up receiving Christmas letters from people with little personal notes sarcastically suggesting that knowing I didn’t like reading their Christmas letter just made them want to send me one even more because they knew I’d feel both obligated and annoyed to read it. And they happened to like their Christmas letters…thank you very much!
This, is not that kind of unpopular opinion. I’m actually not at all sure how many people will agree or disagree with me. This might be a widely agreeable post. Or,maybe it’s the most unpopular opinion I’ve ever written. In fact, I hesitated to even categorize the post along with the other unpopular opinions just because I wasn’t sure how it would land. However, as it’s likely that at least one person (let alone a pitchfork waving mob!) comes at me for saying it outloud, I’ll frame it that way in hopes that if you disagree, we can at least agree to disagree politely.
So here it goes. There is no “War on Christmas”…
If your immediate reaction to this statement is to wonder aloud what the “War on Christmas” even is, then congratulations…you’re not one of the many fighting in its imaginary trenches. Chances are, however, that you’ve been exposed to its supposed battles. The eleged “War on Christmas” comes up every time a town decides not to put up a nativity scene. It comes up every time someone with a big enough and loud enough platform gets their tinsel in a twist over Happy Holidays being used in place of Merry Christmas. It’s extended into debate over Starbucks coffee cups, with the annual unveiling of the “red holiday cup” making national news headlines for not being Christmassy enough or representative of America’s Christian values. (For more on the 2019 controversy of Starbucks writing “Merry Coffee” on their labels instead of “Merry Christmas, click here.) It is, in essence, the belief that “society” is intent on dismantling the meaning of Christmas.
And, I mean, from a purely theological perspective, this makes very little sense as it’s unlikely that the actual meaning of Christ’s birth is going to be undone by a coffee cup. But nevertheless, the perception that there is a “War on Christmas” persists.
But there’s not. Really. It’s not a thing!
I was recently standing in a long line at a large department store on a Saturday afternoon, all to buy an single item that I wasn’t really buying, but rather acquiring for free through a surreptitious combination of coupons. It was the height of Christmas consumerism. Every checkout lane was open, the checkers were working steadily, and all seemed to be friendly and in high spirits despite the obvious demands for efficiency, energy, and customer service. As I approached the cashiers, I noticed that three of the women working were wearing hijabs, which only had a moment to register with me before I overheard the woman behind me tell her daughter, “Well, if we end up in lane two, three, or six, don’t expect them to wish you a Merry Christmas!”
That, right there, is the fear of the so “War on Christmas.” But let me reiterate, the “War on Christmas” doesn’t exist!
The perception that the traditions of the Christian faith or, depending on who you listen to, our American values are somehow under attack because a store clerk does not wish you a Merry Christmas…is ludicrous. To believe that someone should HAVE to wish you a Merry Christmas because it’s the dominant holiday that a majority of people are celebrating…is absurd. Recognizing that people might be a different culture than you, may not be celebrating Christmas, and then judging them for it (or worse, insisting they say it anyway)…is xenophobic, culturally prejudiced, and an embarrassing display of your perceived privilege.
I love Christmas. Love it! Our Christmas tree was up the day we got home from celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, and my Christmas shopping was done the following weekend. I wake up to Christmas music on my alarm clock and I play it in my classroom. I watch the cheesy Christmas Netflix movies. When I check out in the store, I wish people a Merry Christmas, and I can do so without fear of persecution because…there is no “War on Christmas.” No alarms go off. No secret police show up to arrest me. I risk NOTHING in wishing someone a Merry Christmas.
If a store clerk wishes me a Merry Christmas, I happily accept and reciprocate it, but also realize that the only reason I do so is because that clerk made an assumption about me and happened to be correct. True, when an estimated 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas in some way, shape, or form, it’s a pretty safe assumption. But it’s an assumption nonetheless. You need only to mess that assumption up one time to immediately become more aware of width and breadth of the holiday season.
My mom’s office mate is Jewish, and despite always having known that, once when I called my Mom’s office, and she answered the phone instead, I wished her Merry Christmas before she passed the phone over. It came out completely automatically, but she wasn’t offended, wishing me a Happy Hanukkah in return.
My mistakenly wishing her a Merry Christmas, and her responding with the holiday she celebrates instead is not a “War on Christmas.”
In a perfect world, we might just all agree to wish people whatever our preferred holiday greeting was, and accept whatever holiday greeting they extended in return. I wish you Merry Christmas, you wish me Happy Kwanza, and we move on. You wish me a Happy Hanukkah, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and we’re good.
In our Capitalist society, the change over to “Happy Holidays,” driven by wanting to appeal to the widest base of consumers for the longest period of time, should not surprise us. And it doesn’t constitute a “War on Christmas.” How early is too early to run a “Christmas” sale? Doesn’t matter if it’s a “Holiday” sale instead. Unless the so called “War on Christmas” starts to affect the bottom lines of year end profits, don’t expect a massive shift in holiday marketing.
That I can listen to Christmas carols in my car over public radio, watch the Peanut’s gang recite Bible verses on public television, and decorate the outside of my home without fear of having identified myself as a Christmas celebrator, further proves there is no “War on Christmas.” Nobody is coming to take away your wreath and nativity scene. And if your town chooses not to display one this year…well…that’s not a “War on Christmas” either.
What you feel in this moment is important. As you read this unpopular opinion if it stirs some deep resentment or anger in you, while there might not be a “War on Christmas,” you might be at war in your own minds and hearts about something.
And my guess is that thing is rooted in fear. Because truth be told, there are places in the world where there is a war on Christmas. There are places where you can be arrested or executed for expressing Christian beliefs openly. And my guess is, if you believe the “War on Christmas” has come to America, that deep down you’re actually afraid that your values and beliefs are slowly becoming secondary to some other prevailing belief.
There is no cultural threat to Christmas. Coffee cups, “holiday” sales, etc…these are manifestations of consumerism…not manifestations of a society trying to take away Christmas. And if you disagree with them, you simply need not participate. But pretending they are part of a “War on Christmas” while simultaneously mounding your shopping cart with crap on sale and criticizing the sales clerk for not wishing you a Merry Christmas because, for you, Christmas is not about consumerism but about religious significance…that does not pass the say it out loud test!
So boycott Starbucks, but maybe think about donating that $4.50 to an organization that supports international Christian outreach.
Skip the “holiday” sales, but maybe think about taking the money you save and making a year end donation to a charity that aligns with a cause you believe in.
You won’t be winning the “War on Christmas”…because it doesn’t exist! But you will likely feel better as you spread peace and goodwill towards men…
And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.