Conservative commentators like Bill O’Reilly have claimed over the past decade that there is a concerted ‘war on christmas’ waged by liberals, government departments, and corporations. Their gripe is that the term ‘Christmas’ is increasingly being replaced by the term ‘holidays’, and that this holiday ought to be reserved exclusively by Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ.
O’Reilly likes to claim that the term ‘Christmas’ is increasingly being censored within this society, which they love to claim is a Christian nation. They claim that the Founding Fathers were Christians that celebrated Christmas and worshipped regularly, as did the population of America at the time. This, despite the fact that the Founding fathers were mostly deist, not explicitly Christian, and some, such as Thomas Paine, not even that.
They are also targeting retailers for not using the term “Christmas’ in their advertising, and for using the generic term ‘holiday’ in its stead. Secular organisations and governments, too, are increasingly referring to the ‘holidays’, and not Christmas.
The federal government certainly does recognise Christmas as a federal holiday. However, certain secular groups and groups like the ACLU argue that any government-funded displays explicitly endorse religion, which is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.
It is only fair that the government not endorse or fund any displays of a religious nature. Given the diversity of the American population, it is discriminatory by the government to single out any particular religion for special treatment. Placing nativity scenes in schools, government offices, courthouses really is an endorsement of religion.
Nothing prevents any private person from creating displays celebrating their religious beliefs on their privately owned property. That is, within reason. If the person were to play loud music over a speaker system, or put up lights that keep the neighbors up at night, people would have legitimate reason for complaint. As with any public displays, it is always best to consider other people’s sensibilities.
The use of the term ‘holiday’ rather than Christmas, acknowledges the diversity of society and the fact that the person to whom the term ‘happy holidays’ is directed may not be of the same faith as you are. It really comes down to common decency. Christians ought to consider the beliefs of others and be respectful towards them, in the same way that others should be respectful towards Christianity.
One of the primary problems with Christmas is the length of time before the day that people have Christmas symbols imposed upon them. Immediately after Halloween, which is on the last day of October, Christmas ornaments start filling the shelves in the big retail stores, and decorations start appearing in malls.
On TV, Christmas movies bump everything else off the airwaves, and we are subjected to sickly sweet, and poorly produced productions extolling the virtues of Christmas. All of them make much of Santa Claus and the fact that children should believe in Santa Claus, and even adults will achieve everlasting happiness if they just believe.
It is pseudo-religious nonsense to extend the mythology of Santa and the North Pole, reindeer and elves and sliding down chimneys. I grew up waiting for Christmas with bated breath, and the day before Christmas I was allowed one or two mince pies (a tradition in some English-speaking countries).
Christmas was a one-day affair, that began on the afternoon of Christmas eve, when everything closed down. My father and brothers would often visit the public swimming pool for a swim, and lying around enjoying the African sun (Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is in summer). The pool normally closed early in the afternoon, and we would make our way home.
Christmas day itself was often quiet, just the immediate family, although occasionally we would join some of our extended family for a formal dinner somewhere. Gifts were limited to a book if I was lucky and one or two other gifts. It was both a wonderful time and a disquieting one, since everything was closed and deserted.
I enjoyed the day in my youth, despite the fact that my parents could not afford anything expensive, and there were some Christmas’ that I was disappointed, but I understood that my parents could not afford much. I was content with a book and a jersey or two.
In the United States, Christmas has become a chore, an exercise in commercial propaganda, when Christmas is no longer something to be enjoyed. It is a time for spending more than people earn, for standing in long lines waiting for cheap (and they are cheap and shoddy) electronic items instead of being with family.
The war is no longer on Christmas, Christmas now wages war on the population. The almost two-month long drudge of carols and Christmas trees and decorations and movies that are shown a half-dozen times every Christmas just makes people want to curl up under a tree somewhere. It is just too much.
To the best of my knowledge and understanding, Christ was born on a single day, not an entire month. Poor Mary would have been in traction if that had been the case. It would be far better for all concerned if Christmas remained one day of the year, not spread out for a month or more.
It feels as though Christmas is being pounded into us, and that is no way to endear yourself to anyone. Any philosophy must win over adherents by the power of its message, not by being hammered into someone by brute force. If a philosophy is no longer valid, if it does not have as its primary focus, people and the community, it will ultimately whither.
By forcing Christmas on people, adherents are doing themselves no favors. They will ultimately lose congregants and the faithful who begin to discern its failures and move on to ideologies or philosophies that embrace them as people.
People of other faiths, beliefs or non-believers will increasingly feel ostracised from society if there is this continual hammering on a single faith. In a multicultural, diverse society, it is far better for the harmony in society that all beliefs are embraced as part of a diverse culture. That way everyone feels part of the whole rather than its periphery.
When you impose nativity scenes, or Christmas movies, Santa Claus and Christmas trees on people, they become resentful, and turn away from the continual battering. No-one likes to have beliefs rammed down their throats.
What of those people who are Jewish? Should we not complain that there is a war on Hanukkah because their symbols are not advertised by government and retailers? Should the adherents of Kwanzaa complain because their belief is never mentioned? What of those of Islāmic traditions, or Buddhist? What of those that are secular, humanists, atheists, agnostics? Should we not include them in our revelry without imposing religion on them?
Some Christian groups boycott retailers that refuse to use the term Christmas in their advertising, preferring the term holiday. Some retailers feel so pressured that they have swapped back, pushing other beliefs from the public square. Christian groups do themselves no favors with this stance. I really is just an unnecessary form of bigotry.
Perhaps it is time to leave people alone, respect others, realise that in a diverse society we need to respect the right of others to believe peacefully. Imposing our beliefs on them is not pleasant. There is a time and a place for certain beliefs. Religious beliefs for the most part should be confined to churches and homes as far as possible. Government buildings, courthouses and schools are not the place to impose religious beliefs on young minds.
This continual harping on the term “Christmas” just makes people sick and tired of the holiday, and really makes a farce of the idea. Conservatives really should just let people get on with having a pleasant time at this time of year. If they want to use it as a religious holiday, go right ahead, just stop forcing it on others.
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