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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Battle lines in ‘war on Christmas’ poorly drawn

    There are many things in this world worthy of being fought over. But Christmas is not one of them.

    Ideologues on both sides of the political fence have taken up arms in a “”war on Christmas,”” furthering a conflict which promises to provide continued stupidity for us all. But like a wrecked car – or, if you prefer, a demolished Christmas sled on the side of the road, you can’t help but slow down and watch in morbid fascination as you drive by.

    First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Either Christmas has a great deal to do with Christianity or it doesn’t.

    Christmas may be a sacred Christian holiday that exists solely to glorify the birth of Jesus Christ; in that case, it seems like people who aren’t Christians, and who therefore do not celebrate Christmas, have some right to be a little weirded out when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas, just as non-Jews have a right to be a little weirded out when someone wishes them a Happy Chanukah, and so on.

    On the other hand, maybe it’s a holiday that has basically nothing to do with Christianity except that a number of people have arbitrarily decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at this time, a tradition which is so pervasive that is has even seeped its way into the name of the season. In all other respects, Christmas is mostly a traditional Western holiday that has become completely secularized and commercialized over the years. Of course, since Christmas is secular, no one has any real right to be offended by its celebration.

    That the latter description of Christmas is the correct one should be obvious to anyone who studies the history of the holiday season. Celebrations near the start of winter originated in pagan societies long before Christianity. More importantly, pretty much every Biblical scholar agrees that the Gospels do not suggest that Christ was born in December.

    Jesus simply is not the reason for the season; some might argue that Jesus is a reason not to have the season at all. The Bible gives no warrant for the existence of any kind of Christmas celebration, much less one so commercial. At various times, religious leaders have even condemned Christmas celebrations and the hedonism and materialism associated with them.

    But that’s nitpicking. What is truly exciting about the war on Christmas is how haphazardly the battle lines have been drawn. Both of these above descriptions of Christmas are at least consistent, but they don’t reflect the views held by combatants in the war.

    Instead, defenders of Christmas argue that Christmas really is a Christian holiday, but no one has any right to be offended by it anyway, since this is a Christian nation and non-Christians should just suck it up and deal with it (which is patently false). Aggressors in the war seem to blindly accept that Christmas is a Christian holiday (which it isn’t) and, therefore, any attempt by the government or individuals to recognize Christmas is a civil rights issue, including benign holiday wishes or fir trees on city hall lawns.

    Since I’m part of a growing minority – a liberal atheist who celebrates Christmas with his family anyway and who is shocked at all the false leftist outrage about Christmas – I’ll pick on the liberals for a second.

    It is difficult to see how Christmas trees, mistletoe and other pieces of hijacked Germanic folklore could possibly have anything to do with Christianity. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is Santa Claus, the bearded philanthropist who might originally have been inspired by St. Nicholas, but who picked up a smattering of features from Odin, the Allfather of Norse mythology, before entering the commercial mainstream in the 19th and 20th centuries. We all know this, so why do we keep getting pissed off about it?

    Christmas attackers would do well to waste less time attacking phony symbols of religiosity in lieu of exposing real religious hypocrisy and attempts by the religious right to commandeer the government. In a free society, Thomas Jefferson’s “”wall of separation between church and state”” is critical, but innocent Christmas celebrations don’t breach this wall.

    This is because yule logs, candy canes and tree ornaments aren’t Christian symbols any more than fruitcakes, gift wrap or the gifts themselves are. They’re parts of our shared American cultural heritage. Even nativity scenes, which depict a pleasant little story that just happens to have religious significance for some people, have been successfully neutered by hundreds upon hundreds of Christmas specials, holiday songs and advent calendars.

    As the holiday season looms large, I’ll continue to relish in buying large quantities of cheap plastic crap, listening to overwrought Christmas songs and eating tacky Christmas foods. (Seriously. We all act like we hate it, but everyone loves it.) I’ll wish my Jewish friends a happy Chanukah, my Canadian friends a happy Boxing Day and everyone else a merry Christmas because that’s the name of the holiday I celebrate. It’ll offend people on both sides of the fence – but would I really have it any other way?


    – Taylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, math and physics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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