Sunday, December 6, 2015
Hide Your Presents, The Liberals Are Coming!
It's once again the most hallowed time of the year for many people. All across the United States, furtive groups will be meeting in secret under cover of darkness. These brave souls are risking persecution; nay, even death, to observe the forbidden holiday of Christmas.
Jackbooted thought police are out in droves to ensure the birthday of Christ is a topic that crosses nary a lip. They're stomping on manger displays, setting afire Christmas trees in public places, and hanging generic "Happy Holidays" banners everywhere that bear the image of Big Brother.
Well, that's what many people would have you believe, at any rate. Every year, conservative and religious types dust off the War on Christmas and drag it out for like-minded people to get riled up over.
Those darned liberals don't only want to ruin Christmas for those who wish to celebrate it, they want to make it impossible to even practice the Christian faith.
Not really, as most reasonable people know, but that doesn't stop the right wing from obsessing year after year over this imaginary effort to obliterate Christmas and all it stands for.
Interestingly enough, it took about 300 years for the Holy Roman Empire to decide upon December 25 as the "official" day to celebrate the birth of Christ. The goal was to give pagans scattered throughout the Empire a holiday similar to their customary solstice celebrations held in latter December, and thus help to ease them into the Christian faith.
Decorated trees, sacred songs, candles? All carryovers from pagan tradition. Even the custom of exchanging gifts on Christmas Day was a hallmark of many winter festivals. Over the centuries, bits and pieces of practices from other faiths were added to the mix, and Christmas as we know it came to be.
Christmas has become an inalienable symbol of Christianity, entangled very much with many peoples' very idea of who they are. And this is where the idea of a war on Christmas and the oppression of Christians comes in. It's the old us versus them mentality wrapped in swaddling clothes.
To truly be oppressed you must belong to a group that lacks power and privilege in society. Christians don't fit the bill; they have actually been the dominant group in this country since its founding, despite the United States ostensibly being a secular nation.
Christians are not a demographic, social, or cultural minority in the United States. Many occupy positions of considerable power and privilege. Christianity is considered to be the default; if someone’s religion is unknown, that individual is presumed to be Christian.
During the pre-Christian Roman Empire, early Christians indeed had to meet and practice their faith in secret, risking imprisonment, torture and death in doing so. This is unfortunately true in some parts of the world today. There is indeed a real war on Christmas in many countries. But in the United States. where the War on Christmas rhetoric is the loudest? Absolutely not.
Christmas in fact is the most accommodated holiday season in this country. Christmas Day has been deemed a Federal holiday. People usually get multiple days off from work. Businesses often hand out bonuses to employees. Christmas music inundates our radio airwaves; Christmas shows are all over television. The holiday dominates commercial advertising for weeks on end. Everything around us is covered with lights, tinsel, garland and ornaments.
Considering it's the symbol of a supposedly embattled minority, Christmas seems to be very much alive and well.