There’s a movement happening, but to limit it to Christmas is missing the point. It’s a broader ideological war on ignorance, racism, misplaced power, and white supremacy in a time when hate is often amplified.
If you own a TV or have internet access, then there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the “War on Christmas,” a phenomenon that has received a growing amount of attention since 2004 with Bill O’Reilly and Fox News.
Essentially, in his now cancelled show, The O'Reilly Factor, O’Reilly conveyed the sentiment that Christmas was being attacked “all over the country,” citing factors such as parades not including holiday floats or public schools not permitting Christian symbols in classrooms. As others have previously noted, it’s important to put this into context: specifically that O’Reilly announced this “war” just three years after September 11th and 20 months after the United States invaded Iraq. This was a time of fear and uncertainty.
There’s no question that Fox News took advantage of these events to fearmonger, divide, and encourage tribalism. And what better way to do so than announcing that there’s a full-fledged attack on one of America’s most cherished days: Christmas.
But the War on Christmas didn’t end with Fox News in 2004
Remember the outcry when Starbucks first changed their coffee cups from Christmas-themed to holiday-themed? Or perhaps more recently when Donald Trump vowed to make Americans say ‘Merry Christmas’ again?
By the way, there was plenty of Christmas before Trump...
The facade of a war on Christmas continues today despite the majority of citizens classifying themselves as Christians, and Christmas itself making up nearly 20% of annual sales for the retail industry. There’s even an increasing number of non-Christians participating in Christmas activities. As a Jew, I certainly participate in Christmas-related activities, from listening to music to decorating trees. In terms of economic impact and cultural presence, no other religion even comes close in America.
So, why do some conservatives still insist that there’s a war on Christmas?
Turns out they’re not totally wrong
There is a movement happening, but to limit it to Christmas is missing the point completely. Describing it as a “War on Christmas” is a cop-out, a dismissal, an excuse, a way to disguise hazardous nationalism as religious freedom.
It’s not a war on Christmas, it’s a broader war on ignorance, racism, abuses of power, and white supremacy.
It’s also a fight for something — for inclusivity, equality, and empathy — an ideological fight for a fairer, more diverse future. Not a future where we toss around the term “American Dream,” or where the top 1% holds nearly half the national wealth, or where critical voices are silenced.
While bigotry, racism, and hate have always existed, it seems that these points of views have only been amplified since the 2016 Presidential Election. Hate crimes have increased. White supremacists have been more vocal. A travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority countries was approved. You can’t go on social media without seeing anti-semitism. Some are even using religion as an excuse to vote Roy Moore, an ‘alleged’ pedophile, into the Senate.
So, I’m sorry about your coffee cups, but when I hear that there’s a “War on Christmas,” what I really hear is ignorance, or worse, that there’s a group who is afraid of those who are different — who look different, who hold different beliefs, who observe different traditions.
Here’s the thing, and it’s non-debatable: It’s these differences that make America what it is. We should be acknowledging and celebrating them every chance we get, not trying to reduce or silence them. The need to actively support inclusivity at all levels feels, and is, important. Declaring that there’s a “War on Christmas” in 2017 further emphasizes a dangerous, and real, concept — an “us vs them” mentality — and only makes this need more urgent.
It’s easy to be cynical, but there’s hope
Danica Roem, Virginia’s first transgender legislator, was elected in November. Democrat Phil Murphy replaced Chris Christie in New Jersey. Organizations such as Run for Something and Swing Left are helping to empower the next generation of candidates while driving progressive ideals. What’s more, political engagement is reaching new heights, especially among younger citizens. TIME's Person of the Year" was awarded to the 'Silence Breakers' — those who stood up to abusers and harassers.
As demoralizing as this year has been, there have been instances that suggest a turning point on the horizon.
Let me be clear: I’m not asking anyone to stop saying ‘Merry Christmas.” I’m not asking anyone to stop singing carols or stop decorating trees. You can have your Starbucks coffee cups back for all I care. Like many Non-Christians, I have grown to enjoy the charm of Christmas time.
I’m simply reminding us all to practice empathy, regardless of the season, and to be sensitive to the fact that our neighbors hold many different beliefs and come from many different backgrounds. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING. As we move into 2018, I’m echoing others and asking us to choose hope over fear as we push for an America that we can all be proud of. Remember, those proclaiming that there’s a “War on Christmas” are not the victims.
This isn’t about Christmas. It’s about progress.