Wednesday, 24 December 2014
The War on Christmas
It's that time of year again. The holidays. The end of the calendar year is so overwhelming that it's hard to really talk about it in a global sense. We're all so immersed in the world of festivities that it can be tricky to take a step back and talk about the season more generally. That is, of course, unless you are levying the charge that there is a "War on Christmas".
It's a term I remember distinctly arguing about during the holidays in 2008. So I performed a Google Trends search and discovered that the use of this term peaked in 2007. That said, it's made a marked appearance, of roughly the same intensity, every year since.
And why shouldn't it? It has all the elements to make for a great story. There's nothing black and white about it and everyone can weigh in. Depending on where your values are regarding religious expression, community, identity, or respect for diversity has a massive impact on how we approach this so-called controversy.
The notions of Christmas as ubiquitous or monolithic are pervasive and harmful. Christmas, and the holidays in general, are multi-faceted cultural institutions and they aren't going away. Despite the fact that I am not a Christian, Christmas has always been important to me. And this will continue because I can define it for myself. It's a cultural holiday that I associate with family, the celebration of winter, good food, taking a break from work, and giving. I also get a say in the traditions that I choose to support, critique, or reject. I won't force them on others, and in my position (teacher in a public board) I know that I need to be careful how I talk about the holidays. I've managed to get by without wishing anyone I don't know very well "Merry Christmas" and it hasn't been difficult. When people say "happy holidays", "seasons greetings", or anything else to me, I give them my best wishes in return. Shouldn't that goodwill be at the heart of the holidays?
When it comes down to it, I don't perceive Christmas as a holiday to be under attack. What I do notice, though, is how the meaning of Christmas has changed dramatically. The holidays have sadly become more about money, transforming the holiday season into a cultural festival revolving around economics. If there's a War on Christmas, it's my belief that it has manifested itself by way of co-opting the spirit of Christmas in order to advance the interests of the economy
To be fair, that's just my read of the holidays. But it's controversial and there's no right answer. However you slice it, the holidays will continue to be a great mixed bag: a time of love, hope, wonder, hostility, stress, and controversy. I wish everyone the best during the holidays, however you intend to spend them. Seasons greetings!