Starting last month with Starbucks' plain red holiday cup sporting only their green logo, and culminating in a resolution against the "War on Christmas" introduced by House Republicans just before they blew town for the rest of the year, the annual hysteria over that so-called war is at its height this week.
Militant Christians and the politicians like Donald Trump who pander to them say the Christmas tree is a Christian symbol for a Christian holiday, and any attempts to ban it are not only anti-religion, but political correctness gone mad. Saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in certain circles just might get you branded a terrorist to boot.
On the other side, actions like the banning of a teddy bear tree to benefit needy kids at an Albuquerque school when a Rabbi complained are fanning the flames. The Rabbi says the Christmas tree leaves out celebrations by other faiths that also take place in December.
Turns out, both sides are wrong.
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans. The practice survived their conversion to Christianity through the Scandinavian customs of decorating with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil.
In Poland, the pagans suspended evergreen branches from the ceiling as part of an ancient pre-Christian winter festival called Koliada., where people believed the tree had magical powers linked to the harvest and success in the next year. In Norse mythology, the original sacred tree was an oak associated with the pagan thunder god Thor. Legend holds that St. Boniface cut down the oak and replaced it with a fir to prove the supremacy of the Christian faith over Thor and local religion.
Wreaths didn't originate with the Christians either.
In the Greco-Roman world, they were used as an adornment that could represent a person's occupation, rank, achievements, and status. The laurel wreath was associated with the Greek god Apollo, who embodied bravery and victory. Wreaths later became one of the most commonly used symbols to denote achievement throughout ancient Greece and Rome.
Wreaths weren't associated with Christmas until much later. In 1839, Johann Hinrich Wichern used a wreath made from a cart wheel to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them count the days of Advent.
So celebrate as you will -- Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, something else or nothing at all. But to paraphrase Bernie Sanders, "enough with your damn war on Christmas." Can we just have some peace on earth and lay this phony war to rest in peace?
Listen to the 2 minute radio commentary here: