The So-Called War on Xmas. Uh… I Mean Christmas.

I get irked by the idiots on the airwaves and in print that go on and on about how there’s a “war on Christmas” as if there exists some secret Cabal of atheists seeking to destroy Christianity. That’s just stupid. We’re not secret! Some of us have made the best seller list (Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, Harris, Sagan, et al).

Joking aside, they aren’t fighting the war on irrationalism through Christmas. I’ve yet to see a single one of the rationalists mentioned above come out against Christmas. I’m sure they don’t send out religious Christmas cards or put nativity scenes in their front yards, but I’d be willing to bet each of them enjoys the holidays for what they are: a time to reflect on family, friends, and community; a time for giving to others and planning for the new year to come.

So what’s this so-called “war on Christmas” then? It’s a lie. Pure and simple. The religious are always very good at inventing out-right lies or finding themselves deluded into believing the lies of others (that’s why they’re called “religious”) and the “war on Christmas” is one of these lies.
Their main argument is that secular society (whoever that is) is out to destroy their superstitions by not including the world “Christmas” in everything from adverts to greeting cards. They object to “secular” representations of Christmas by retailers, private citizens, employers, governments, etc., regardless of the fact that there are several holidays celebrated by several cultures during the same period of months.

So, not only are these relatively few Christians liars, but they’re greedy and selfish as well. You see, they (like all extremists) perceive their own cult as the right one and all others as the wrong one. They believe that the United States was founded on Christian theology and not a nation with the purpose of providing religious freedom. Religious freedom to extremists is fine as long as you hold to their opinions on what religion is the right one.

Some of the Christian extremists that claim there is a “war” on Christmas go on to claim that secular society (whoever that is) is taking the “Christ” out of Christmas. But they really have it wrong. These extremists seek to take the “mass” out of Christmas. It really is about mass after all. Indeed, there were a whole series of masses that begin at November 1 through the New Year. Which brings to mind another of their silly complaints: that secular society (whoever that is) has started celebrating the “Holiday season” at Halloween, marketing to consumers Christmas trees, ornaments, lights, gifts, music, etc. While retailers are all too happy to cash in on the willingness to buy that this “secular society” has established, it really isn’t the retail industry that set this date.

November 1 was originally Hallowmas. Hallows translates to “saints” and it was All Saints Day, a feast that commemorated the deaths of Christian martyrs. There was even a Michaelmas, which celebrated St. Michael’s defeat over Satan, and it occurred on September 28. So, one could argue that we don’t celebrate the holiday season early enough. Please don’t tell my wife. It’s all I can do to keep her from putting the tree up before Thanksgiving. And there are a host of other masses and celebrations that roll on through the winter. Most of these replaced pagan celebrations that are of similar nature (what better way to convert followers of other superstitions than to demonstrate that your own superstitions include their beliefs?) such as Samhain, which coincided with the Christian Halloween (Hallowmas), but celebrated the end of the harvest season. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to see how the two celebrations have merged to create the modern Halloween: a Christian preoccupation with death and spirits and the pumpkins, corn stalks, hay rides, and apple treats. I am, of course, describing New World interpretations since pumpkins and corn didn’t exist on the British Isles until the settling of the New World.

But what of the argument that Christmas was originally a religious celebration and that’s what it should be? To that I say balderdash. If this were true, it would be dominated by Christian iconography only. True, there are nativity scenes, angelic tree toppers, and other things that simply don’t come to my secular mind (Hey! Maybe I’m that secular society!), but the most iconic images of Christmas are the evergreen tree, the Yule log, snowflakes, holly, mistletoe, snowmen, icicles, children playing, elves, and Coca Cola. Sure, Santa Clause is derived from Saint Nicholas of Myra, who was renowned for his generosity and gift giving. But before the introduction of Christianity to the Germanic people, there existed Wodan and a tradition of placing straw-filled boots or shoes next to the hearth before bed on Yule. The straw was for Wodan’s (a.k.a. Odin) stead to eat. In exchange for their kindness, Wodan replaced the straw in the children’s footwear with small gifts or candy. Did I mention that Wodan’s horse, Sleipnir could fly? Again, there isn’t much imagination required to make the leap from Wodan and a flying horse filling footwear by the fireplace to Santa Clause and flying reindeer doing the same.

Christian extremists that whine and cry about this so-called war on Christmas are nuts! There is no war on Christmas. There is a consumer society that enjoys the holiday season and happily calls it Christmas. I have no problem saying Merry Christmas to anyone. I have no religious superstitions and do not mean it in any way to carry a religious message. Christmas is no longer a religious holiday except in the minds of the superstitious. Perhaps the amount of superstition one has is proportional to the amount of religious significance Christmas carries. I have several friends that are only moderately religious and they only moderately decorate with religious decorations. I think I’ve noticed an angel on a tree topper.

Christmas is a cultural holiday, not a religious one. If it’s important to you to celebrate a religious significance to the holidays, there is no one stopping you. You are free to imbibe in whatever superstitious rituals and beliefs you wish. Having said that, I think I’ve revealed the real reason that religious extremists are bitching so much about the non-existent “war on Christmas:” they want you to believe their nonsense as well. They aren’t satisfied being deluded by themselves, they don’t want others to abandon their delusions in favor of something that isn’t superstitious and silly.

Incidentally, while shopping in Wal-mart recently (now there’s something to be embarrassed about), my daughter pointed to a nativity scene for sale and said, “look, a barn… that’s nasty.” You know what? She was right. Nativity scenes are ugly. Maybe that’s why people prefer the “secular” icons like snowflakes, holly, and mistletoe. And evergreens just smell better than an un-mucked stall.

About Ylooshi

An anthropologist who is an atheist. My blog at concerns itself with breaking the spells of superstition and religious belief through examining human superstitions and religions scientifically and rationally. Breaking Spells, the blog, also focuses on atheist and secular concerns such as the separation of church and state as well as the negative influences of Islamo-Judeo-Christian religious cults on society.
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