It is the Christmas topic people hate to hear about and like even less to discuss: The War on Christmas. And yet it persists — year after year.
This year it appears to be championed by presidential candidates. That means we could hear more about it than usual.
Before the roar of Christmas debate in the media threatens to snuff out all Christmas cheer, let’s get a few things straight. Regardless of which political side of the spectrum you adhere to there are some myths perpetuated by this constant conversation. And you can lessen the seasonal pain by understanding what is real and by NOT lending your voice to the errors of so many talking about the War on Christmas:
Myth #1 — There is a War on Christmas.
No, there is not. If there is Christmas won it long ago. There is no evidence that Christmas has dwindled in popularity or suffered from less exposure due to real or imagined controversies associated with Christmas. There are more Christmas trees, more Santas and more snowmen than ever.
The real war is not against Christmas — it is against religion.
When a politician talks about a “Holiday Tree” he or she is removing “Christ” by refusing to say “Christmas”. When a public school will not allow kids to sing “Silent Night” it is not because it is a Christmas song it is because it has religious messaging. When atheist associations put up Winter Solstice billboards in Times Square they aren’t mocking Christmas — they are mocking religion.
Christmas is a form of religious expression, observance, celebration and devotion. As such it will always cause controversy. But recognize the fight is always about the religion. Christmas is just the vehicle anti-religion forces use to promote their agenda. Once Christmas is over their objections seem to end.
Myth #2 — Nobody says Merry Christmas anymore.
Most Americans say “Merry Christmas”. Music on the radio is predominantly Christmas-heavy. People put up Christmas trees, eat Christmas turkey and wake up on Christmas morning. If anything, the word Christmas may in fact be overused for about two months of the year.
Surveys consistently show that at least 7 in 10 say “Merry Christmas” and that 95% of all people do NOT believe there is anything wrong with the word Christmas.
Some in the political arena claim that merchants are avoiding the use of the word Christmas in their advertisements so as not to offend non-Christian customers. And indeed, in the early 2000s that was a trend. But it ended in 2005 — a decade ago now — and since then “Merry Christmas” has not only returned but has been enthusiastically embraced by merchants as a selling strategy.
Myth #3 — “Happy Holidays” is political correctness run amok.
No, it is not. Saying “Happy Holidays” does not mean one disapproves of saying “Merry Christmas” or is anti-Christmas in any way.
Happy Holidays is a term that gained popularity in the 1970s mostly due to the hit song performed by Andy Williams titled Happy Holidays, a song that has long ago established its place in the great American songbook of Christmas classics. It takes its place next to Perry Como’s There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays and Vaughn Monroe’s Let it Snow as Christmas songs that don’t actually use the word Christmas.
Until the late 1990s and early 2000s “Happy Holidays” was cheerfully used as a companion to “Merry Christmas” in American society. But then the “War on Christmas” started and groups like the American Family Association began publishing lists of merchants who used “Happy Holidays” in their advertisements without mentioning the word “Christmas”. That campaign as well as prominent cable news channels promoting the War on Christmas as a political vehicle convinced people that using “Happy Holidays” was “politically correct” and thus “bad”.
Think about it: the word “holiday” is derived from the term “holy days”. It may be considered more religious than the term “Merry Christmas”. In fact, in England, where the King’s English is ever in style, it is rare to hear the use of the term “Merry Christmas”. They say “Happy Christmas” mostly in the UK. And that is because “Merry” can mean “drunken” — which is not exactly a term the religious-minded or socially responsible want to advance.
There is nothing wrong with saying “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. They are not anti-Christmas.
Myth #4 — Atheists hate Christmas.
Most do not. Surveys consistently show that the same percentage of those claiming atheism still celebrate Christmas as those who claim to be faithful. Most do it as a matter of tradition.
The works of large groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation or The American Humanist Association do more to advance false perceptions of atheists when it comes to Christmas. But according to their own numbers more than 80 percent of atheists put up Christmas trees and better than 95 percent exchange gifts at Christmastime. Atheists celebrate Christmas as much as anybody.
Myth #5 — You can’t celebrate Christmas in schools.
In multiple cases the Supreme Court has ruled that traditional Christmas music can be performed, that Christmas trees can be displayed and that folks can say “Merry Christmas” in a public school setting.
Some local school officials might feel differently about that. In fact, most of the time this ends up in the news is when a school teacher or administrator removes a Christmas tradition or when the FFRF or other outside group threatens to sue.
But the Constitution only says the government cannot mandate a state religion through an act of Congress. A public school is not Congress and kids signing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is not establishing a religion.
Most school boards and parents involved work to establish an even balance between the sacred and secular of Christmas in schools. There are always some who go to one extreme or another — and that’s what makes the news.
Christmas lovers of all religious and political stripes can get along and by all rights should. 95 percent of you agree there is no war on Christmas. If that is indeed true, here are simple ways you can help stop the “War on Christmas” entirely:
1. If someone wishes you a Happy Holidays, say thank you — and “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. Taking offense is a choice. Choose not to be offended.
2. Stop posting obnoxious memes on Facebook and other social media stating you will only say “Merry Christmas”.
3. Call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree.
4. Dr. Seuss had it right. Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Whether a merchant puts “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” on a sign doesn’t matter. Ignore it and go get what you want.
5. Any time you hear a news channel talking head mention “War on Christmas” change the channel.
6. If someone you know claims Christians stole Christmas from pagans ask them to read Isaiah in the Old Testament. That was written 500 years before Christ. “For unto us a Child is born…”.
7. If someone claims that Christmas is in stores too early tell them to stop buying swimsuits in February.
8. If someone complains about Christmas music on the radio in October, turn it up and drown them out.
9. If someone claims the Constitution forbids Christmas in public ask them to show you where in the Constitution the words “separation of Church and State” appear.
10. If someone claims there is a War on Christmas give them the first Christmas greeting ever uttered: “Peace on earth, goodwill to all men”.