The phrase “war on Christmas” has become so tiresome in the ongoing dialogue about Christmas that it tends to trigger instant eye-rolling disdain. The media attention to it all just makes one weary at the mere mention of it.
Gerry Bowler’s new book, Christmas in the Crosshairs, settles rather emphatically the question of whether or not the modern “war on Christmas” is unique – or even worthy of all the eye-rolling.
It’s not. It has been around forever and will be around forever. So stop the eye-rolling.
In fact, as Bowler almost gleefully notes in his new book, it is as entertaining as can be.
Bowler – a Canadian historian – has quite the fascination on the topic of Christmas. This is his third book about it, the first two being The World Encyclopedia of Christmas and Santa Claus: A Biography.
In this book Bowler points out the ongoing tug-of-war about Christmas and how it has been used by nearly every side in all parts of the world to advance anything but peace on earth and goodwill towards all men.
He painstakingly makes this case over a history of two thousand years and does not limit the discussion to American or English cultures.
Christmas is everywhere and everyone has an opinion.
As Bowler notes, Christmas has been used, abused, twisted, corrupted, and exploited for everything from political agendas to religious causes. From Adolph Hitler to Jesse Jackson, from Muslims to Christians, and from Puritans to politicians, Christmas has been shunned, denounced, abolished, and declared a nuisance.
And yet Christmas survives as the single largest human-celebrated event annually.
This almost makes it sound as if Bowler skewers everyone in his look at Christmas of the past 2000 years. That’s unfair. His review is clearly neutral as story upon story of Christmas history is told in this book without judgment. Just the facts, ma’am.
It makes for a wildly entertaining read, one that could at times see you laughing out loud, so be careful where you read it. The humor does not come from any kind of sarcasm or witty retorts on Bowler’s part. It comes from the absurdity of history.
If there is one lone criticism of Bowler’s work it is that he only went back 2000 years. As a academic he has to stick to the fact and those are hard to find beyond a certain point in time. He most certainly does a fine job with the history that is available.
But if he could I’m certain Mr. Bowler would find an even more extended history of the contentious Christmas. In fact, the Bible and religious theology supports the idea and prophesies of it.
But 2000 years is enough. And it is plenty to give you an alternative and entertaining read.