Also see: War Against Christmas 2001
It has been over a year since Chronicles Magazine published my essay "Happy Holidays? Bah! Humbug!" and VDARE.COM used it to announce its 2001 War Against Christmas Competition. I am still receiving mail, and I thought I'd use the 2002 Competition to give VDARE.COM's readers an idea of how the War Against Christmas is going.
Some of the critical letters have been especially illuminating - though not always in the way their authors intended.
One correspondent informed me that "Actually, December 25th is the birthday of Mithras" and that "December 25th is Saturnalia." Although profoundly silly, this line of argument is surprisingly common, as aspiring deconstructionists routinely claim that Christmas is "really" a celebration of the winter solstice. Of course, none of the ever growing number of faux Christmases now being fostered by the multiculturalists – Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Diwali, Bodhi Day, the Birth of Guru Gobind Singh, Dongji, Chinese New Year, and the rest – is ever subjected to this sort of critical analysis. (This list of holidays can be found at the description of Bodhi Day here.)
It is probably true that December 25th was chosen as the date to commemorate Christ's birth to coincide with (and supplant) the pagan festival of Natalis Invicti. But the holiday that has been the major festival in the West for centuries is Christmas, not some extinct pagan celebration. Over centuries, Christmas has become an integral part of our culture, incorporating and transforming some pre-Christian customs and inspiring a wealth of new ones. The end result was a reflection of the genius of Western culture and a splendid, multifaceted celebration.
Christmas has inspired beauty wherever it has been observed. The treasury of Christmas music, for example, is unmatched by that of any other holiday. It is the result of both famous composers and inspired folk artists working in every corner of Christendom. The lesson to be learned from the defunct pagan festivals that preceded Christmas is not that Christmas ought to be abolished, but that we risk losing Christmas if we allow the multiculturalists to replace Christmas with "holiday."
Another correspondent told me that he had come across my essay while looking for an "inclusive holiday e-card." Unsurprisingly, he was shocked by what he found, telling me that "[t]he position you had in the article seems to be in line with the thinking behind the Iranian Revolution." He also offered an instructive history lesson, making the obligatory reference to America's dark past when "most slaves [were] converted to Protestantism," "most American Indians perished," and when "Americans chose [marginalization and isolation] and passed restrictive immigration laws," but cheerfully noting that "by the 1960s, the U.S. changed course and chose recognition and inclusion." And that's not all: "what's more, we opened the borders to allow Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, pagans, and people from around the world to join our society." Because of this change in direction, we "would not allow Christianity to dominate the public arena" and we now have a "free society, one that is ever-changing and permissive, not static or oppressive."
It may come as news to the multiculturalists, but America began in 1776, not 1965. For most of our history, Americans have enjoyed a spirited public celebration of Christmas, because there is no contradiction between Christmas and American ideals. And I was inspired to write my essay not by the Iranian Revolution, but by memories of the Christmases I experienced growing up in America.
There was nothing un-American about the effusive public celebrations of Christmas I recalled - unless kindness, generosity, and joy have suddenly fallen out of favor.
Nor were the celebrations of Christmas I remembered "static or oppressive." I think they are well represented by "A Charlie Brown Christmas," the wonderful program that premiered the year after I was born and has continued to be popular ever since. Its popularity remains, even though it mentions no holiday other than Christmas, centers around the production of a religious Christmas play in a public school, features Linus quoting from St. Luke's Gospel, and ends with the Peanuts singing a religious Christmas carol. The show remains popular because it is rooted in the real celebration of a real holiday, not the contrived celebration of a politically correct alternative. And because it embodies, not just Charles Schulz's genius, but also the spirit we all associate with Christmas. Only an imagination twisted by ideology could look at such a program, and the celebrations of Christmas it recalled, and see "oppression." (Indeed, one of the biggest fans I know of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is Jewish.)
The most measured of my critical correspondents was a Buddhist chaplain. He may have noticed the essay because it mentioned Bodhi Day, the day of the Buddha's enlightenment, generally observed in early December and now being promoted as a faux Christmas by some multiculturalists.
The way I learned of Bodhi Day is a perfect example of how the War against Christmas is being waged. A friend of mine works as an engineer for NASA. The NASA facility he works at traditionally played Christmas music over the PA system, a custom enjoyed by my friend and most of his co-workers. Then, one day, the music stopped. Shortly thereafter, NASA sent out a memo informing its employees of Bodhi Day and asking them to be sensitive toward it.
This is the War against Christmas in a nutshell: the suppression of a tradition enjoyed by the majority and the elevation of a holiday virtually no one had ever heard of before.
To his credit, my Buddhist correspondent did not complain that Bodhi Day was being given short shrift. He informed me that "I don't celebrate Christmas, unless you count the exchanging of presents with friends and family, which is more of a cultural tradition in America than a religious one." And he defended the displacement of "Merry Christmas" by "Happy Holidays:" "As the employees in retail stores, etc. have no way of knowing what religion (if any) their customers adhere to, they are using a phrase that is neutral, so that they can wish a generic season of happiness to all, regardless of religion."
Actually, employees in retail stores do have a pretty good way of determining what holiday is being celebrated by the customers who mysteriously arrive after every Thanksgiving to buy presents. Since the overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, and an even higher percentage of those flocking to the malls after Thanksgiving are doing so to buy Christmas presents, a retail employee can rely on probability to conclude that most of his customers would appreciate being wished a Merry Christmas.
Indeed, it seems churlish that the retailers of America, whose well-being depends in large measure on Christmas, are increasingly afraid to even mention the holiday to which they owe their good fortune.
Of course, there are some non-Christians, like the Buddhist chaplain, who have decided to exchange gifts during the Christmas season. But persons deciding to adopt Christmas customs can hardly complain about others concluding that they celebrate Christmas.
And I do not understand why wishing a stranger "Merry Christmas" is now considered singularly offensive - so offensive that the phrase is heard less often these days in public than the profanity that has come to characterize much of our entertainment and conversation. (Indeed, in my experience, television stations generally have announcements wishing their viewers "Happy Hanukkah" and "Happy Kwanzaa" but offering only a bland "Happy Holidays" to their Christian viewers, even on December 25th.) Anyone wishing a stranger "Merry Christmas" is not only acting on the statistically well-justified assumption that the other person does celebrate Christmas, but is also offering the greeting as an expression of good will.
It's absurd that "Merry Christmas" is disappearing from our public vocabulary to accommodate the tiny minority of Americans who not only do not celebrate Christmas but are offended by others who do. Most non-Christians are not multiculturalist zealots and understand this.
All the news on the Christmas front is not bad. I have continued to receive many favorable comments on my essay. A Catholic parish in Pennsylvania distributed a copy of the essay as part of its Advent package, and several parishioners wrote to express their gratitude. Another correspondent wrote that "even though it seems a daunting task, I don't intend to give up Christmas without a fight." And there are signs that more people are beginning to join this fight. I have noticed more columnists bemoaning the assault on Christmas, and even articles carrying the bad news that The Gap discourages its employees from mentioning Christmas question the dubious thinking behind such pronouncements. [VDARE.COM NOTE: The Gap has retracted. More or less.] Some New York Catholics have filed suit against the New York City schools, which allow the display of menorahs and the Muslim star and crescent but forbid nativity scenes.
I remain confident that the great majority of Americans resent the assault on Christmas.
And as long as these Americans can be coaxed out of silence to fight for our traditions, this is one assault we can repulse.
Tom Piatak writes from Cleveland, Ohio.
December 17, 2002