Debunking the ‘war’ on Christmas

Each year, without fail, the posts on social media come. People who wear their faith as if it were their clothing – always in the open, apparent, and visible – who are well-meaning, posting about the war on Christmas. The posts are often about how the world is taking away the meaning of Christmas, forcing their progressive beliefs, or other religious beliefs, to be accepted above Christianity.

While Canada was not actually founded on Christian beliefs, Christianity was still the main belief system amidst early settlers. At the time, there were not many other religious beliefs present to contest the celebration of Christmas and other Christian holidays alone, and so, as time went on, they became the basis for designated holidays.

Christmas, however, was never the only holiday to lay claim to this time of year.

In fact, several holidays from other religions and streams of belief actually had their celebrations during this time first. The Winter Solstice and Hanukkah are two examples.

Now, whether Christmas was selected in order to ‘wipe out’ these holidays, or because it made sense to have it at the same time, isn’t exactly known. It is known that there was a lot done to try to wipe out pagan beliefs and replace it with Christian beliefs, particularly under the rule of Constantine (the first Christian Roman Emperor). At times, pagan beliefs and Christian ones were combined to try to woo pagans to change their beliefs.  Some of these were more subtle, while others may have been more obvious.

Regardless of the history behind this specific decision, in modern day 2016, there are a number of different holiday celebrations that occur on or around December 25th.

These celebrations are not held to destroy Christmas or bury the reason Christians celebrate under piles of holiday trees and commercialism.

To be quite honest, we’ve done a good enough job of burying it under commercialism ourselves.

Rather, as discussed earlier, some were already in existence, while others (such as Kwanzaa) were developed to be inclusive. These newer ones allowed for others to celebrate their heritage and their faiths at the same time.

The transition to companies using the phrasing ‘holiday’ instead of Christmas isn’t to eradicate the holiday or attack the Christian belief it was founded on. Instead, this transition has come into play to let all know that they are acknowledged and welcome – that there is something for them. Though some workplaces do require their employees to say ‘Happy Holidays’ for fear of alienating customers, many do not.

In my personal experiences, I’ve never met anyone who has been offended by a ‘Merry Christmas’, just as I have never been offended by being wished a Happy Hanukkah or a Joyous Kwanzaa, or even a Happy Holiday.  Many times, when I wish someone a Merry Christmas who celebrates something else, they wish me a happy whatever they celebrate.

I believe a large part of this concept of a war on Christmas is rooted in privilege.

Christians have had the privilege of being one of the most popular religions, particularly in North America, for much of our country’s existence.

This year was the first year I have heard the quote ‘when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression,’ and I believe it summarises what is going on quite well.

As our country has become more multi-cultural and more open to other belief systems, our experiences have changed to match.  The Starbucks’ red cup issue from last year is such an example. Opting for a more inclusive design triggered a backlash from the Christian community, causing outrage over Starbucks’ assault on Christmas.

One key part of this all has been missed – equality and inclusion are not about eliminating something or eradicating it, but rather making sure all feel noticed and welcome.

With Christmas around the corner, there is one man I can think of who encompassed that idea in its entirety – Jesus. While Jesus’ time on earth was meant to show the world the love and power of God, and introduce them to a powerful relationship with Jesus, it was also spent loving those who did not know or believe in him. He dined with the gentiles, praised the Samaritans, and hung out with prostitutes and thieves.

His message of love, of hope, of celebration, was open to all.

For those who believe in Christ, Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth, the moment that changed the trajectory of our paths and our afterlife. But it is also about so much more. It is about celebrating love, celebrating family, celebrating people.

If Jesus’ message was of love and hope, then would it not make more sense to be inclusionary of all in our celebration, rather than assuming those who believe differently are affronting an attack?

Just as celebrating Christmas does not attack nor discredit the reasons anyone may celebrate something differently, the option to be inclusive of all does not attack, discredit, or remove the reason so many who follow Christ celebrate Christmas.

This column appeared in the December 21, 2016 edition of the Orangeville Citizen.

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