A Facebook "friend" of mine recently commented on her friend's post. Her children's public school has replaced a "Christmas" concert with a "Peace on Earth" concert. The parents in this American suburb have reacted like the school has cancelled Christmas all together. Forever. And ever. The outrage these good Christians feel is palpable.
Not only are they not calling it a Christmas concert ("which it so obviously is. I mean it's December, School Board. Get a clue!"*) but the school administration also had the audacity to demand the children wear formal black and white attire! Mrs. Smith whined, "but my little Timmy was SOOOOO looking forward to wearing his Santa hat!" Mrs. Jones sassed, "I've never followed rules before... not gonna start now. My kids are wearing all red and green! Who's with me?" And the comments went on and on. And on. Seriously. Like 800 comments all putting into words the spirit of the season: F$#% that!; How dare they!; I have Jewish friends who are not offended by Christmas carols!; I respect all religions, but me and my kids are going to walk in singing 'O Holy Night'!; Let's storm the Board of Ed meeting and give 'em hell!
Atta way, Christians.
Little Timmy can wear his Santa hat to school for the entire month if he wants but not wearing it for two hours one night is going to destroy him? If it means that much to hear your kid butcher 'Silent Night,' send them to Catholic school. And if your kid's happiness rests on one concert, perhaps you should rethink how you convey the meaning of Christmas.
Normally, I would probably chalk up this suburban brouhaha to Facebook ridiculousness but considering Starbuck's recent Red Cup Scandal of 2015 and having lived outside the U.S. for a few years now, I'm afraid there's a larger problem at play (and it's not a war on Christmas).
I live in Singapore (and previously Shanghai) where Christians are not the majority but you'd never know it this time of year. Singaporeans, like the Chinese, have embraced the glitz, glitter and materialism of Christmas in a way that would surely make the Chairman cringe. Storefronts are decorated with cheery "Merry Christmas" signs, malls have been transformed into Santa's den and Christmas trees abound.
These non-Christians are not bothered that this is, at its core, a Christian holiday; they LOVE it! They line up to take each other's pictures in front of Santa's sleigh. They stare happily into the twinkling lights. They point and chat about the garland hung up and down the escalators. No one is up in arms about merry Christmas greetings or a lack thereof; no one is questioning the "reason for the season"; no one is worried about their kids believing or not believing in Santa. But Singapore (and China) is still a largely totalitarian country. Perhaps this is the difference.
Perhaps, they can't freely criticize the government about welcoming a holiday very few of them actually celebrate so they go the other way and embrace it. They have been conditioned to happily accept whatever the government chooses to promote.
But I don't think that explanation is accurate nor does it account for the enthusiasm for Christmas here.
Part of the success of Christmas in Asia is that they have taken the religion out of the holiday. There are no images of baby Jesus; no mention of a cold manger. Carols that merrily proclaim a miracle birth are sung with seemingly little attention to the content of the lyrics. There is no Christ in an Asian Christmas.
In America, placing a nativity scene on public property can lead to a hearing. Nativity scenes sit side by side with Menorahs and Kwanzaa candles. Honoring freedom of religion has become a nuisance. A Christmas tree lighting up a town green can lead to controversy. All hell breaks loose if a school holiday concert can no longer be treated as a Christmas concert.
But despite parents raging about peace on earth, countless hours spent discussing red cups, and Fox News insisting we are a Christian nation, I'm not convinced there actually is a war on Christmas. According to a 2014 Pew research poll, 46% Americans said it doesn't matter if they are greeted with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. There are plenty of people who will have you know that the Red Cup Scandal, was in fact, entirely media driven. And, if you really look for evidence of this so-called war, there is none (beyond anecdotal Facebook stories).
Americans are not at war with Christmas; we're at war with wanting it all. Tis the season of materialism which only serves to highlights that Americans want everything without sacrificing anything.
We give thanks for all that we have on one day and literally, the very next day, buy all the things we (obviously) really need. We want people to freely cheer Merry Christmas (it's freedom of speech!) but we also want to uphold our freedom of religion. We want the freedom to express different points of view but we don't want to actually hear different points of view. They're offensive or too PC. We want lots of social services but we don't want to pay higher taxes. We want our kids to have great test scores but we don't want them to be overworked. We want to make a million dollars but we don't want to actually work for it!
We don't want any more innocent victims to die from gun violence but we won't change our gun laws. We believe in the Third Amendment but we don't want to let too many Muslims in. We believe all people should feel safe but we can't take in more refugees. We pray for peace as we threaten war. We don't want to keep up with the Kardashians but we can't stop keeping up with the Kardashians. We want to create a greener planet but we don't want to stop burning oil. We lament the filters through which social media presents our "real" lives but we continue to filter out reality for our 300 "friends." We want to be tolerant, but we're increasingly intolerant.
We can't have it both ways. Something's gotta give.
So, in this season of giving and getting -- give. Give into your fears and you may find they're not so scary. Give up your defensiveness and you may find more understanding. Give away that which you think you really need and you may find sacrifice feels a lot more like gratitude. Give up your anger and make changes instead. Give love.
*actual quote from outraged parent