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No, Johnny, There is No War on Christmas

I’m getting a little tired of conservative Christians whining that Christmas is under attack. It is not. From anyone. If anything, it is stronger than ever, and really gives no indications whatsoever of that changing.

For those who haven’t noticed, Christianity is the only religion in the United States of America to have its very own federally sponsored official holiday, despite our Constitutionally mandated requirement for separation of church and state (1).This means that it is the only religion wherein, one day a year, just for it, no federal services are available except emergency services. This means no post, no schools, no road work, nothing. It is the only religious holiday that all businesses are REQUIRED to cease operations or pay their non-exempt employees additional pay should they continue operations on that day (time and a half for part-time employees and double-time and a half for full-time workers).

Christmas is the only religious holiday that is almost universally recognized and celebrated. One cannot escape it. Christmas displays are everywhere, the music is everywhere. For more than a month every year, it is everywhere you look, and retail employees everywhere are inundated with tunes that inevitably get stuck in their heads (as I write, stuck in my head is one of the most atrocious songs ever, which happens to be a Christmas song whose sole lyrics are “White Christmas” repeated over and over for a full 5 minutes”). Celebrated throughout Africa (2) (3) (4), South America (5), and Asia (6) (7). Even the world’s largest Muslim country (Indonesia) (8), and the officially secular nation of China, where practicing Christianity can and has been punishable by law, celebrates Christmas (9).

Christmas market in Shanghai

An Indonesian mall’s home-made Christmas display

Christmas in Raju, India

Christmas time at the Wafi Mall in Dubai

Taksim Square in Istanbul

Typical Ugandan Christmas tree in front of Masindi Hotel, Uganda

Celebration of Christmas grows ever larger and larger. There was once a time, not long ago, when one wouldn’t see a single Christmas decoration before December 1st. It was just uncouth to begin displaying them before then, even in shops. Yet, at some point, merchants began putting up their displays earlier and earlier, and soon people put up their home displays earlier and earlier. Now, in the U.S., you can see Christmas decorations on people’s homes and in shops as early as October, before Halloween. It has even taken over our national holiday of Thanksgiving as Black Friday sales have now begun to open on Thanksgiving day itself (Walmart and Target both started those at 8pm and 9pm respectively on Thanksgiving Day in 2012). In the Philippines, celebrations even begin in September!

Perhaps the biggest argument that can be provided for justifying perceptions of a non-existent “attack” on Christmas could be the attempts to have nativity scenes removed from Federal property. This isn’t so much an attack on Christmas, as an attempt to remove the perception of state sponsorship of any one religion. Christmastime is also Yule time, a holiday that far predates Christianity, and yet, beyond the Christmas Tree (which was an admixture of ancient Egyptian practices, a nod to the Christian Tree of Wisdom, and the druidic practice of placing evergreen boughs and mistletoe upon the walls) and the occasional Menorah, one will not see even so much as a nod that other religions may exist or have their own holidays around this time of year. No Thor hammers, no Freya phalli, no Islamic crescent and star, no statues of Buddha (Hey, what about Bodhi Day (10)), no depictions of Genesha on Pancha Ganapati(11), and no Pithaila vilakku during Karthigai Deepam (12). The First Amendment requires that the government not tacitly establish any religion above another. So long as other religions do not enjoy the same privileges as Christianity in having their holidays honored with displays on federal property, neither should Christianity.

Pithaila vilakku

Now, mind you, don’t get me wrong – I’m not arguing against Christmas celebrations. Even as an atheist, I love Christmastime (read my other articles on Christmas). My point is, no, Christmas is not under any form of attack. Calling it such is just one other cry by conservative pundits and politicians to distract their audience and constituency away from the real issues and set themselves up as martyrs and champions of a non-existent cause for attention seeking purposes. How about this. Open your eyes, look around, see that your religion and your holiday is alive, well, fully allowed to prosper as it will, and under no form of attack or repression by the government or atheists (or anyone) whatsoever. And while you’re at it, let us believe however we might like as well. We’ll all be happier that way.

Merry Christmas.

1. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America

2. http://www.sendacow.org.uk/east-african-christmas

3. http://www.santas.net/africanchristmas.htm

4. http://www.one.org/us/2011/12/10/how-africa-celebrates-christmas/

5. http://www.worldofchristmas.net/christmas-world/south-america.html

6. http://eytanuliel.com/2012/11/12/meri-kurisumasu-an-early-christmas-in-asia/

7. http://travel.mapsofworld.com/asia/christmas-in-asia.html

8. http://www.rumahspabali.com/detail-news.html?id=35

9. http://www.jackiechankids.com/files/Christmas_in_China.htm

10. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lewis-richmond/celebrating-bodhi-day-for-the-21st-century_b_2254289.html

11. http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5071

12. http://www.karthigaideepam.com/

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