Opinion: Let’s drop the arguing about a War on Christmas
Every year Halloween decorations and soft poppies fall for Remembrance Day, and then there comes – the holiday season. Shops start playing Christmas carols early and decorations adorn the shop windows. People are beginning to scale back their schedules as many prepare to spend time with loved ones. We begin to become familiar with another season that descends with the final bugle call of November 11th: the “War on Christmas.”
Or maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s the time to argue whether it’s there or not is War on Christmas. The guard made one Parody of the annual hostility during FoxNews is accused of explaining it. Whether or not you believe there is a war over Christmas, it’s hard to deny that December brings out the worst in some people.
Every year online mobs claim that any non-Christian decoration or celebration without a Christmas-themed iconography goes with it the fight. Just as the first notes of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” blast through the mall’s speakers, the sudden arrival of Starbucks Holiday Cups (an annual goal for right-wing keyboard warriors) are recorded as shots.
And while excitement has been high in the US, we’re not immune to the problem here. Just this year in Edmonton, Racists pounced on a decision by the Edmonton Downtown Business Association to move the large tree they erected in Churchill Square to a business district on Rice Howard Way, blaming Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, who was not even involved in the decision. It reminds of FoxNews‘ Christmas tree fire last year, which was dubbed a by several network people hate crime.
Christmas is as annual as the World Junior Hockey Championships, but the way it’s celebrated is always changing. Gerry Bowler, alias dr ChristmasShe pointed out that it was Christmas in the crosshairs since the beginning of Christianity. There have always been attempts to withhold, alter, downplay, resist, and contain celebrations of Jesus’ birth. And yet Christmas remains. There have always been voices calling for a central position for Christianity in our society. And yet, Christmas has been remarkably adaptable to both its followers and those outside the faith.
A unique feature of this current controversy is its connection with the general push for the privatization of religion. Our own tree debacle here in Edmonton is one example in a long line of religious conflicts over Christmas that show their political dimensions.
A 1956 New York case had to decide whether an interfaith nativity scene could be set up in front of a high school (bear v Kolmorgen). An atheist parent in South Dakota turned to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which took the school board to court in 1971 after their child was forced to sing Christmas carols at school (Florey vs. Sioux Falls School District). What we see in these and many other cases is how the removal of Christmas from a more dominant cultural position can be seen as a secular step towards descent All religious holidays to the fringes of society equally.
Is there a way to recognize Christmas as a religious yet public holiday without insisting on the cultural supremacy of Christianity? One option would be to not let the issue become as divisive as it has become. The narrative of the War on Christmas reflects already entrenched political divisions. It is no exaggeration to attribute the disagreements to stereotypes: liberals claim there is no war; Conservatives claim it is constant.
The left doesn’t want Christianity at Christmas; the Right everywhere only wants Christianity. We have the Guardian vs. Fox News; Jon Stewart against Tucker Carlson. Both sides are thinking of total opposition rather than an opportunity for sensible, charitable talks. Christmas can be a brief, fleeting moment of liberation from our divisions, rather than cementing them – much like the famous Christmas Truce on the Western Front in 1914.
However, this requires a very different focus of conversation, one that isn’t trying to win an argument. This is an opportunity to have a different political dialogue, one that negotiates how to celebrate a religious holiday in a pluralistic society.
Christmas is going nowhere; but what it looks like and how it is publicly celebrated will always vary. Without Christmas, especially here in the Great White North, we would lose a time of celebration and conviviality during the cold, dark winter months. Without some We would have restraint in public exhibitions and what it communicates beyond holiday cheer Ku Klux Klan places crosses on government property.
Christians point this out consumerism has already made the essence of Christmas unrecognizable in his celebration. worldly people keep celebrating Christmas with a large majority. So let’s have a multi-religious, cross-political conversation, not about what we should be doing, but about what we are already doing to celebrate this time of year.
From this type of conversation, we can learn from sources we might not expect. For example, Christians can rely on religious minorities to live their best religious lives through community service and caring. When your vacation isn’t the norm, you really need to rethink what the time means to you and how you can still express your values.
Non-Christian religious groups still participate in the season, not in spite of their religion but through it. we see Sikh groups offer free food and Muslim mosques offering shelter to the homeless this season. If we can drop the obsession with proving whether or not there is a war on Christmas and instead go outside to partake in unfamiliar traditions and publicly acknowledge the diverse religious communities of those traditions, then perhaps we can have a calmer return to the best Elements of the holiday season can be found beyond these distracting struggles: charity, kindness, and family.
Joseph Wiebe is Associate Professor of Religion and Ecology at the University of Alberta Augustana and Interim Director of the Chester Ronning Center for the Study of Religion and Public Life.