November 18, 2013

No, Mom, There’s Not A ‘War On Christmas’

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What is the issue?
Yumi Ang
Yumi Ang

My mother wears a pin.

Every year, around November, she’ll affix 2 pins to her jacket: “KEEP THE ‘CHRIST’ IN ‘CHRISTMAS’” and “IT’S OKAY! YOU CAN SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME!”

Seeing these, I cannot help but roll my eyes. Why must my mom, a generally apolitical person, find herself sucked into the absurdity that is the “War on Christmas?”

Every year, I ask, “What does the ‘KEEP THE ‘CHRIST’ IN ‘CHRISTMAS’” pin mean? Why do you wear it?”

“Because people are going around saying ‘Xmas,’ and that’s them trying to take Jesus out of the holiday,” she responded.

Stunned, I’ll stand there, considering whether or not to yet again engage in this debate. After all, I knew that “Xmas” wasn’t a plot to take “Christ out of Christmas,” but rather that it was first used in the 1500s. I knew that the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of the Greek word “Χριστός,” which translates to English as “Christ.” I could point this out, but I highly doubt that these words would make it past the armor she’s layered on for the so-called “War on Christmas.”

I’ll skip that line of conversation, instead asking about her “IT’S OKAY! YOU CAN SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME!” pin.

“So, what’s the deal with that? Doesn’t that come off a little… passive-aggressive? Entitled?”

“It used to be, you walk into a store and they’re going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ when you go through the check-out line. Now, I’m lucky if I get a ‘Happy Holidays.’”

“Okay, but mom, how is saying ‘Happy Holidays,’ which does, in fact, include Christmas, at all taking away from your ability to enjoy Christmas? I mean, if anything, isn’t the fact that every year the ‘holiday season’ starts earlier and earlier a sign that Christmas is launching a ‘War on November’ or a ‘War on October?’ It’s a single-day holiday that takes up nearly 25% of the year. This isn’t just in my head, either, mom. ‘Christmas creep’ is a real thing.”

“Still, it used to be that wa-”

“Since when is ‘it used to be like this’ a good reason for anything? There are a lot of things that ‘used to be that way,’ that are no longer the norm for society. It ‘used to be’ that women couldn’t vote. It ‘used to be’ that you could smoke inside of buildings. It ‘used to be,’ well, you get the point.”

“Well, think about this: remember when the high school got in trouble because they said ‘Jesus’ in an event?”

“Mom. It’s a public school, and no, it wasn’t just that they said ‘Jesus.’ Students can say ‘Jesus’ all they want, and no one will stop them. Students can pray all they want. Students can carry around a Bible at all times if they feel like it. Now, the question is, should teachers at a public school be leading prayers or setting time aside for students to lead a large group of people in compulsory prayer? No. The Supreme Court has said as much, 50 years ago, no less.”

“But you used to be able to.”

“Again, this. Fine. Let’s think about it this way: what if you, as a Christian, sent me off to school, and I came back with news that I was told I needed to pray to Mecca at various points throughout the day? You’d be cool with that?”

“No, well, why should my taxpayer money go towards indoctrinating you into Islam? We’re Catholic.”

“Well, why should Muslim families fund the school with their tax dollars only to be force-fed Christian rituals?”

“Because that’s how it’s alw-”

“Mom. Come on. When someone says that there’s a ‘War on Christmas,’ what they’re really whining about is the fact that not everyone in society is exactly like them, that their belief system and religion is superior to that of others, and should treated as such by governmental and private organizations, alike. No one has ever actually suggested anything along the lines of banning Christmas or barring people from being able to celebrate their own religious holidays. When entire radio stations start exclusively playing Christmas music in early November, when you can buy a Peppermint Mocha at Starbucks on November 1st, you’d have to be out of your mind to believe that there’s any sort of ‘war’ going on. When Santa is in virtually every piece of marketing, when nativity scenes exist on public land, you cannot say there’s a ‘war.’ When most shows on TV have a ‘Christmas episode,’ there is no ‘war.’”

“Hmm. Well, I like wearing my pin.”

“Then wear it.”

“I guess I just don’t like that we have to call things ‘Holiday’ instead of ‘Christmas.’”

“What do you mean? You can say ‘Christmas’ all you want.”

“In the grade school, instead of having a ‘Christmas pageant,’ they’re having a ‘holiday pageant.’”

“So?”

“And when I went to the store, the clerk said, ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’”

“I thought we’d already covered thi-”

“Just… It’s different.”

“It’s really not. Is Christmas not a holiday? How is wishing someone a happy holiday, whatever their personal holiday might be, at all taking away from your ability to enjoy Christmas? You sort of sound like those people who claim that same sex marriage some how degrades their own heterosexual marriage. It just… it doesn’t.”

“They don’t even call the Chicago Christmas tree a Christmas tree anymore.”

“Actually, they do! And anyway, our mayor is Jewish. Our Jewish mayor is lighting the city’s Christmas tree. What more do you want?”

“Hrm. It’s just… it’s tradition.”

“No one is making you change that tradition! And again, anyway, what difference does it make? Like I keep saying, no one is trying to abolish Christmas. In fact, when America was first settled, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas! And George Washington launched an attack against the British on Christmas Day! Now THAT is a true ‘War on Christmas,’ quite literally. And after the U.S. became its own country, Christmas wasn’t typically celebrated as it was seen as being ‘too British.’ It wasn’t until the late 1800s before anyone started caring much about Christmas, and it didn’t start becoming the behemoth it is until the 1900s, when some marketing folks were looking for a way to boost sales towards the end of the year in order to clear out inventory. If anything, we’re deviating from the true ‘tradition’ of not celebrating Christmas.”

“Well, I don’t know.”

More or less, this is the same conversation she and I have had half a dozen times. I suppose this is more of a composite of our chats than verbatim conversation. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s good to brush up on the conversation we’re bound to have. I consider this talk our annual family Christmas pageant. TC mark

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