War on Christmas is Over (If You Want It)

It’s time to pull out of the War on Christmas. It’s a quagmire. There are no winners, the victories are fleeting and the effort could be spent in better places.

Christmas hasn’t always been a battleground. President Ulysses S. Grant made Christmas an official holiday in 1870. So for a holiday whose literal meaning is the mass of Christ, a 2000-year-old religion, Christmas is a relatively new “most sacred day of the year now under attack by secularists and the ACLU.” The “traditional” holiday, was a celebration of the winter solstice. The customs were combined into a Christmas pudding with a very American brand on it. These days the holiday has evolved into an across the board economic mainstay. Two-thirds of our economy is consumer spending and Christmas in a tax calendar type of way, is all about waiting until the last minute to shop.

But in the last decade there’s been a war on Christmas. Those who have been fighting it the hardest, Christian leaders, are also the ones who claim the other side, the omnipotent “fundamentalist secularists” declared it by use of euphemism: “Season’s Greetings.”

Religious leaders decided the only way to mark the Christian significance of Christmas was to urge retail establishments to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” So when Christians seeking the true spirit of Christmas, crowded on a shelf at the mega-mall, they wouldn’t have their religion of personifying a poor Jewish prophet mocked by hearing the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

It’s like insisting all pizzas be referred to as “air pockets” so you’ll be safe from ever blowing your diet.

There was a movement (hippies mostly) at one time who didn’t appreciate business co-opting their religion to turn a profit. The denounced the commercialization of Christmas. But that kind of sentiment clearly doesn’t sell well and it was dropped by the bullying buying power of the “Merry Christmas” insistent.

The War on Christmas is a weird hybrid of requesting only the proper kind of exploitation of a sacred holy day. The threat of not adhering to the request isn’t one of spiritual punishment, it’s of economic condemnation. And while the latter could be more effective in winning battles, its use as a strategy is clearly cynical. And in a major recession it’s ten-fold.

But let’s not look at who’s right and whose First Amendment rights are being trampled on. Scorekeeping is for games – this is war. It’s an exploration of what being offended actually entitles you to. I would call the conflict a “debate” but that seems a little too generous even for the Season of Giving. What has it gotten us? The only thing the War on Christmas has managed to accomplish is terrorizing a couple of seasonal workers out of muttering “Happy Holidays” as they stuff yuletide savings into America’s shopping carts.

Our winter celebration it’s not a fully Christian tradition. It’s not a purely secular one either. It’s surely an economic one. And it’s always been a way to boost morale during the thin months. Bronze-age man marked the shortest day of the year with a festival, a way of noting if they collaborate they could survive the darkness. And they did. Their offspring survived long enough to have a holy war about a corporate-sanctioned greeting at Wal-Mart.

Totally worth it.

The worst thing about the War on Christmas has become its own holiday pageant of misdirection. The American Family Association currently has up on their website a Naughty and Nice list consisting of companies for “Christmas,” companies marginalizing “Christmas” and companies against “Christmas.” There are no companies against Christmas. That’s like claiming an auto company is against tires because they don’t say otherwise. The effort spent on badgering the Gap for saying “Happy Holidays” in their first ads of the season couldn’t be spent elsewhere? Are resources being funneled to the War on Christmas distracting from more important Christian ventures like – feeding the hungry or helping the poor? Being you know, Christ-like on Christ-mass?

It’s time to withdraw the troops. Declare it a draw. Cut and run. Peace on Earth. Peace on wishing someone “happy holidays” because you include New Years in there too. Peace on Christmas. Peace to those who have less this year. We as a nation have to start ending wars that are pointless.