It’s the most wonderful time of the year: hot chocolate is being consumed by the gallons, stockings are being hung by the chimney with care, Target looks like Santa’s workshop after a robbery, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Actually, maybe not snow, I don’t think the Red Line can take much more. The holidays are drawing closer, and it’s not just the season for wearing matching sweaters with your siblings and grimacing while your Mom takes a million photos of you. It’s time for the yearly War on Christmas.
For those unfamiliar, the War on Christmas is the idea that we, as a country, are becoming so secular that anything to do with Christmas is considered offensive. This, of course, is not true. Walk down literally any street in any town in the U.S.A., and you’ll see that.
The War on Christmas first came to my attention in 2015, when Starbucks unveiled a minimalist design for their yearly holiday cups. A pastor from Arizona, Joshua Feurstein, went viral on Facebook when he posted a video ranting about the new cups.
“I think in the age of political correctness we have become so open-minded that our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” Feurstein said in the video. “Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ, and Christmas, out of their brand new cups?”
To me, it seemed ridiculous to get this fired up about a red cup. A Starbucks barista named Aaron Dean commented on the video, saying “I work at Starbucks and there hasn’t been anything innately Christmas on the cups in years. Sure there have been snowflakes, scarves, and snowmen, but they haven’t said the word Christmas on them since I’ve worked here. We even have a Christmas blend coffee.”
As it so happens, people agreed with Feurstein. A lot of people. The War on Christmas was a regular topic on the now-disgraced Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s show The O’Reilly Factor. In 2016, Fox News tweeted an article about how President Obama’s Christmas card didn’t mention Christmas for the 8th year in a row.
Donald Trump, at a rally in 2016, even commented on the alleged war.
“When I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here someday and we are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again, Merry Christmas. So, Merry Christmas everyone. Happy New Year, but Merry Christmas.”
All of this attention made me wonder why this non-controversial controversy even started. After all, Christmas is a federally recognized holiday. How is it under attack?
I think NYT writer Liam Slate put it best in his 2016 article “How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created.”
The war is “a sometimes histrionic yuletide debate over whether the United States is a country that respects Christianity.” In other words, The War on Christmas has become a catch-all concept for the anxieties felt by a once-majority population that is seeing the landscape of our country changing. No longer are we a country that is ruled by a single type of person; we have a long way to go, but we are slowly becoming a country whose government reflects its people.
Thanks to public social media forums like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, activists are able to reach a wider audience than ever before, and discourse that would have been unavailable without the Internet has blossomed. I myself have learned so much from just the social media platforms I interact with on a daily basis– I’m able to follow people and learn things I would have never even known existed otherwise.
In the Constitution, (a wicked old piece of paper conservatives love,) religious tolerance is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say we are a Christian country, nor that the holiday season belongs to Christians. And on that note, nobody is attacking Christmas.
This, in essence, is the War on Christmas. We are in a moment of reckoning as a country, and some people just can’t deal. It makes me think of the quote: “When you are used to privilege, equality seems like oppression.”