Every year, as December inches near, I am overjoyed with excitement about the soon to be celebration of Christmas festivities. Christmas, by far, is my favorite holiday. The joy and holiday spirit that seem to fill the air along Manhattan streets and within local households lifts my mood, and makes me feel cozy and warm on a freezing winter day. Although Christmas has always been an electrifying time of the year for me, others are not so delighted by the celebration of this popularly celebrated festivity. The “War on Christmas” is something that has reached its peak recently, and it is rendering questionable displays of holiday cheer nationwide.
The War on Christmas is a controversy regarding the magnification or acknowledgement of the Christmas holiday within the media, government, advertising, retail, and other secular environments. Generally, many people believe that Christmas has turned into an opportunity for upper class citizens to boast about how much wealth they have by putting it on display with the amount and quality of “gifts” that they purchase for friends and loved ones.
Richard M. Salsman of Forbes states in his article on Forbes.com that “commercialism and mirth undermine and desecrate the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas.” Historically, for many centuries, Christmas wasn’t celebrated at all in colonial America because it was considered sacrilegious to do so. Now, Christmas represents the ability of the wealthy to kick back, have a couple drinks, and reflect on their success in work and in life over the prior fiscal year (with an annual holiday bonus). While we believe we owe the celebration of Christmas to the birth of Jesus Christ, the true origin of these decadent festivities is the celebration of winter solstice of Greco-Roman tradition, who feasted, sang, danced, and fornicated to celebrate the return of a vibrant and fruitful springtime. They focused in on the guilty pleasures of life and celebrated until the sun came down. This is what the modest, minimalist holiday of Christmas has turned into, and these abundances are what come to mind when the word Christmas is uttered in popular culture.
However, although Christmas traditions have certain luxurious precepts, classic Christmas films occasionally give way to exposure of working class lives. For example, Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer can be seen as a commentary on working class discrimination. Hermey the elf is now seen as a “gay” voice, who is cast out by all the other elves in Santa’s workshop. Rudolph is similarly cheated out of a “working” opportunity because of his red nose.
There is also a bit of gender discrimination within the film as well. When Rudolph’s mother and his girlfriend Clarice want to look for him after he goes missing, Donner and Santa tell them that searching for Rudolph is inherently “man’s work.” The misfit toys represent those who are casted out of working opportunities because they are different or disfigured. Christmas has become a time that highlights the negatives of a working class lifestyle, as upper class citizens shower their families with lavish gifts, the working class is forced to toil over their duties without being able to provide for their loved ones in the same respect. Even further, as we look at these classic Christmas films, we can see that there are those even lower than the working class, whose biggest worry is not picking out the “perfect gift” for Grandma Elsie, but finding any opportunity to work and make money to simply keep themselves alive.
The “hullabaloo” surrounding Christmas festivities not only stems from class tension, but from individuals who feel that the day’s association with Christianity is too multiculturally sensitive to be glorified by public services and governmental corporations. Retail locations such as Walmart, Macy’s, and Sears have begun to welcome customers with a more vague “Happy Holidays” rather than a possibly controversial “Merry Christmas”—further commercializing the festivities. If Christmas means anything it should be about others. It should be about caring about those less fortunate than ourselves, as a Christian holiday.
In Prosper, Texas, elementary school children spent an entire day creating Christmas cards to send to bedridden veterans stuck spending their holidays at the VA hospital located in Texas. The children were excited to make the holiday season of people with such troublesome lives just a bit more cheery. A fourth grader named Gracie Brown gushed that “[she’d] like them to know they’ve not been forgotten and that somebody wanted to say thank you.” Her card, simply but sweetly, stated “Merry Christmas. Thank you for your service.” The Christmas card that Gracie made, along with about fifty others, were never distributed to veterans living in the hospital. VA hospital’s administration stated that the cards “violated” the hospital’s policy. When the students’ teacher called the hospital to make plans about hand delivering the cards that the children had made, a hospital employee explained to her that it was a no-can-do. The VA hospital seemingly does not accept anything with the phrases “Merry Christmas” or “God bless you,” or anything of scriptural reference. Targeting the kindhearted work of innocent children is revolting. It is dumbfounding that the VA hospital staff believes that our courageous and strong minded veterans need protection and censorship of the well wishes of joyful children wishing them a “Merry Christmas” and a happy holiday season.
Although some people clearly seem to be insulted by the more specified greeting of “Merry Christmas,” others are wildly angered by the omission of this century old seasonal habit. Anonymous protesters have been continuously posting placards that read “It’s OK to say Merry CHRISTMAS.” This annual mystery has continued in Redmond, Washington, where these signs are appearing for the third time in a row, hammered in front of the library, police department, and a local church. Not only do the signs read “Merry Christmas,” but they also contain certain Bible verses from the Romans and Luke. Supporters of the “War on Christmas” complain endlessly about these signs being posted, believing that they are a direct attack on them and the message that they are trying to impose. The Redwood mayor John Marchione, fired back,statingthat the signs are “a form of free speech, much like political signs,” and that he has no intentions of taking them down.
Quite the contrary, another group deemed the Satanists have recently won the right to post a highly offensive display in Florida’s State Capitol in Tallahassee. This display features an image of an angel falling into flames, along with several Bible verses, and a “Happy Holidays” message. While officials in the state initially refused the display, deeming it highly offensive, the Satanists were allowed to post it after Americans United for Separation of Church and State threatened to file a lawsuit against the state of Florida on behalf of the religious sect. Perhaps, instead of fighting head to head against the holiday, certain anti-Christmas groups should promote the holiday to consider workers rights. At least in this case they would be working towards a good cause.
This back and forth, dog-eat-dog fighting between different religious systems over Christmas traditions is quite infuriating. What has the innocent, joyous and and exuberant atmosphere of Christmas cheer turned into? Why has it become an opportunity for opposing religious groups to put up their dukes and spar it out throughout the entire holiday season? For Christians, and for the majority of differing religious sectors, this attitude goes against all of the ethics and morals that are commonly encouraged throughout various Bible verses and sermons. Peace and caring for others is the ultimate goal of nearly every religion, yet differing sectors have resorted to the use of violence to preach their ideas and beliefs. The battle that has ensued is altogether contradictory to each and every value system that these diverse doctrines evangelize. It is highly ironic that a holiday put into practice to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of sinners, has seemingly led to the most concentrated amount of “sinning” that the nation has seen all year. Christmas needs to be thought of as working for others. The commercialization of Christmas has skewed the ways that people regard the holiday. If Christians (wealthy or otherwise), return to focusing on caring about others on this holy day, then perhaps other groups would be less apt to fight against it.