And so it has begun: The innumerable “holiday” specials, holiday-themed product marketing, debates about whether it’s good to encourage the belief in Santa Claus, consumerism disguised as love, and calls for charitable giving in the spirit of the “true” meaning of the season. We also become host to endless cries of a “war” on Christianity and attacks on Christmas. Let’s set the record straight and I encourage you to look up Jon Stewart’s Daily Show monologue on this topic from last week, also.
First, the “holiday” being promoted is undeniably Christian. It’s all about Christmas – the birth of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us – even if it is a highly commercialized, deeply devoid of anything resembling the spiritual, let alone religious, meaning of the holy day (i.e., holiday).
There are, of course, feeble attempts to recognize other holy days and culturally significant commemorations happening during this same month. Local news stations in some parts of the country have begun Hanukkah greetings, starting this past Saturday evening. Kwanzaa will get a headline beginning December 26 through January 1 and there are even now “Kwanzaa cakes” being advertised on food shows (despite the fact that there is no such thing as a Kwanzaa cake in the traditional celebrations of Kwanzaa and I’m not even going to dignify it by posting a link to it).
The replacement of “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” is seen throughout marketing promotions and holiday parties. Nevermind that all of the accouterments used in decorations are still tied to Christmas and Christian symbolism, either in their creation or later adaptation: I encourage you to look up the origins of candy canes, for example.
All that’s happening though is merely an attempt to co-opt and assimilate other spiritual and cultural traditions as being “just like” Christmas, or other versions of Christmas, or another culture’s Christmas (e.g., “Hanukkah is like the Jewish Christmas” and Kwanzaa is African Americans’ version of Christmas). This is how we get Kwanzaa celebrations featuring gospel choirs and “holiday” trees with a menorah as a tree-topper. This does not represent religious pluralism or de-center Christianity and it’s certainly not a “war on Christmas.”
Making any other holy or cultural commemoration in December the same status as Christmas, regardless of its status in its own tradition, merely reproduces Christian privilege. It’s cultural exploitation and cultural imperialism, plain and simple.
Moreover, what is still in place is that there is a federal and banking holiday on December 25 (or an alternate weekday if the 25th falls on either Saturday or Sunday). Christian privilege is not in danger and neither is Christmas.
So, to those fearful of a “war” on Christmas, from one Christian to another: Stop whining. If we really cared about religious pluralism and learning about other religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions, we’d do so throughout the year, not just in December. And all of our traditions would have value.
Joy to you in any celebration this month and throughout the year!
(Hey, it doesn’t fit neatly on a card but it works.)