Shots Fired in “The War on Christmas”

Several secular attempts have already been made thus far to strip advertisements, entertainment, slogans, etc. of anything overtly Christmas related, so as to keep the shopping season culturally inclusive.

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Recently, I volunteered at an elementary school on the Upper West Side. My job was simple; I was to help set up, and subsequently staff an arts-and-crafts stand at the school’s annual holiday party. To tell the truth, I was pretty excited—decorating gingerbread houses and stockings didn’t sound like a bad way to spend an afternoon. But upon arriving, it became apparent that the school had instead opted for a more politically correct approach to greeting the holidays. The entire place was emoji-themed instead of Santa-themed and, besides being a little cringy, the arts-and-crafts weren’t really reminiscent of anything Christmas-y. It was disappointing. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even celebrate the holiday.

“The War on Christmas” has become a Republican mantra, denoting Christmas-related controversies from the last several decades. A significant portion of the conservative population in America feels that, for a long time, political correctness has served to hinder celebration of the holiday. Their opposition argues that lessening the prominence of the Christian holiday will ensure that others of different faiths don’t feel left out. Several secular attempts have already been made thus far to strip advertisements, entertainment, slogans, etc. of anything overtly Christmas related, so as to keep the shopping season culturally inclusive.

But according to religious folks, the casualties of “The War on Christmas” are rarely discernible. The forces of political correctness have already obliterated greetings such as “Merry Christmas” and replaced them with the more ambiguous “Happy Holidays.” Television personality Bill O’Reilly declared “The War on Christmas” a national crisis in 2004 and inspired the formation of “The Committee to Save Merry Christmas.” Their self-proclaimed purpose “to protest the fact that big retailers profit from Christmas shopping dollars but refuse to mention the holiday by name” was supplemented with boycotts of major retail outlets, such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

Even more recently, it seems Starbucks has also entered the no-man zone. Their holiday cups have been the subject of much controversy for the past couple of holiday seasons, starting from their 2015 unveiling of a red ombre design in place of a more festive one. Shots were fired when Facebook user Joshua Feuerstein posted a video of himself trashing the brand and claiming that the coffee brand tried to “take Christ and Christmas off of their cups.” It eventually went viral, even going so far as to garner the attention of then presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In fact, Trump often championed the conservative side of “The War on Christmas” while campaigning. He’s been known to bash political correctness during his rallies, eventually making the eradication of ambiguous holiday greetings a part of his agenda. Maintaining that, under his presidency, “we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” Trump has repeatedly found himself fighting on the frontline over the controversy.

However, America is not caught amidst a “War on Christmas.” The nature of the conflict is much less explicit, manifesting itself in sayings instead of soldiers and commercials instead of cannons. Much to the dismay of Fox News, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with being asked to grant equal respect to cultures and traditions that differ from one’s own. Understandably, any amount of spotlight being taken away from Christmas during the holiday season can seem like oppression since its been there for so long.

Embracing multiculturalism is certainly a noble intention, but one that progressives have done a shoddy job of achieving. American values haven’t been entirely Christian for decades; it simply isn’t realistic to assume that an overwhelming conservative presence has been stifling the observance of other traditions. The answer is to emphasize the richness of different cultures and the way they mark the holiday season instead of diluting the holidays for everyone. Allowing typical liberal paranoia concerning exclusion is counterproductive to making everyone feel welcome. Instead of purging the holiday season of any references to Christmas, we should focus on adding references to holidays such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.

The reality is Christmas no longer denotes a religious celebration, but instead, an overtly secular one. Its commercialization has established it as a national holiday, with elements such as welcoming Santa Claus instead of Saint Nick and spending time with the family as opposed to doing so in a church. Stores profit from this newfound flexibility of meaning, and most ads/items are already geared toward all Americans. So maybe it’s high time for Republicans and Democrats alike to wave their white flags and face the (jolly Christmas) music—the War on Christmas has ended faster than it has been won.

Growing up, December 25 didn’t really mean much to my family. Regardless, the grandeur of the annual window displays on Saks Fifth Avenue, the enormous tree on Rockefeller, and the overwhelming toy advertisements never ceased to amaze me. The holiday season wouldn’t feel the same if not for my mom bringing me presents on Christmas Eve even though we didn’t celebrate it or without my family crowding around our Christmas tree (or our Hanukkah Bush). Inclusion doesn’t mean the dilution of a single, popular holiday, but instead, the meshing of cultures to make something even more meaningful than it had been before.