the Non-Existent War On Christmas

The world’s longest-running and most imaginary conflict is with us once again.

As timeless as complaints about snow and the lack of snow, the War On Christmas is back with us. Not an actual war, you understand, but rather the fevered imaginings of people who have a paranoid terror that our multicultural society means that Christmas As We Know It will soon be a thing of the past, swept aside as we are instead pushed into some sort of Godless hellhole by Johnny Foreigners who are forcing us to abandon our beloved Christian festive traditions like Santa Claus, Morecambe and Wise repeats and angrily depressing soap operas in favour of appalling diversity and tolerance. Well, that certainly won’t do.

Samantha Smith – who you will probably be unsurprised to hear has form with the Daily Mail and GB News amongst others – posted this defiant warning on Twitter last week.

Well, that’s told them. We Brits will never ever be slaves to the whims of the infidel. Americans, you can keep your ‘happy holidays.’ It’s Merry fucking Christmas to you, regardless of your individual beliefs. Of course, Samatha seems a tad confused by it all – no matter how secular our world becomes, I have yet to wish someone a Merry Christmas and receive a stern ‘festive break’ or ‘winter closure period’ as a response because regardless of your religion, those phrases would be very odd things to say. I mean, I can see them being of use to describe when a business might be closed over the festive period – you know, from Christmas to New Year, that sort of thing. If someone asks when your office will be closed, bellowing ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ while pointing at your portrait of a Union Jack-clad Baby Jesus being suckled by Santa will not be very helpful. There are times and places for everything.

Still, that War On Christmas, eh? As wars go, this never-ending one doesn’t seem to be a great success for the aggressors. I turn on the TV and it’s Christmas this, Christmas that – supermarket ads glorying in dinner tables heaving with turkey and roasts, TV specials all awash with the C-word, the lot. The shops are full of Christmas tat – I couldn’t even find the veg section in M&S today (yes, I know…) because it had been replaced with festive food (if you want greens for the next couple of weeks, they damn well better be sprouts). And everyone seems to be saying ‘merry Christmas’ – even the people who don’t seem to really care about Christmas. Frankly, the Anti-Christmas Army needs to up its game.

But to hear some people, you’d think that this was like the fall of Saigon, with helicopters laden full of Christmas gifts being shoved into the sea by the retreating elves as the hordes of pagans reclaim the holidays for themselves and Santa is crucified in the public square. Well, we could wish. Even the mutterings that Christmas has lost its original meaning (which those pagans would doubtless nod in furious agreement to) seem a bit of a stretch – not only has Christmas been secularised for the last century or so, but there is still a lot of Christianity to be found – religious Christmas cards, religious movies, religious everything. No one can seriously say that the whole Christian message has been swept aside. In a vaguely free and secular society, you can’t frogmarch people into church on Christmas Day morning but it’s hardly as though that religious message isn’t otherwise rammed home continually over the festive season.

And you know what? While I hate to sound like some chin-stroking Guardian-reading liberal, I have to say that I have yet to encounter anyone who is not a Christian who gets remotely worked up about Christmas – not even the pagans who have a strong case to shout about cultural appropriation. Either they just ignore it or they get into the whole fun of it on a secular level. I’m pretty sure that if Samantha wished Mr Patel in her local convenience store ‘Merry Christmas’, he’d probably be pretty cool about it – that’s my experience anyway. I suppose that there’s a chance he’d be a card-carrying Islamic State member who would fly into a Jihadist rage at the imposition of an infidel’s religious beliefs – but it seems pretty unlikely. But perhaps she is too scared of dark-skinned people to ever speak to them and find out, and so clings to this idea of Christmas under threat that exists only in minds of the paranoid.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that in the more lunatic fringes of academia and attention-hungry members of social media there have been attempts to push the idea of Christmas as an example of western oppression and white privilege (I mean, look at all those problematic songs with their dreams of a white Christmas and so on). I’m aware that some of the nuttier white knights have pushed the idea of ‘Winterval’ or similarly ludicrous concepts in a misguided push for inclusivity. But let’s not pretend that this is anything more than a desperate cry for attention from self-important people that no one – not even the most intersectional of people – is taking very seriously and, more importantly, it has not been requested, instigated or even appreciated by the very groups on whose behalf it is supposedly done. Nobody but the most extremist cranks are claiming that Christmas is a racist/sexist/homophobic institution; there is no ‘Christmas Must Fall’ campaign (or if there is, it’s up there with the Flat Earth Society in terms of credibility, and probably has fewer adherents). As wars go, the War on Christmas is about as effective a conflict as the actions of the Tooting Popular Front.

I suspect that people like Samatha actually know this all too well. This is all performative outrage to push a political agenda that aims to demonise anyone who doesn’t fit into the perpetually angry world of ultra-conservative bigots who use tradition as a weapon with which to bash anyone who is in any way different to themselves. The irony is that these people are supposedly trying to defend a time of joy and giving when they themselves disapprove of anything that might bring people pleasure, so gripped are they in a dour world of Christian misery. To suggest that Christmas – in any way, shape or form – is under immediate threat is fear-mongering hysteria at its most transparent from people who are determined to feel victimised at every turn and seem so easily offended by anyone who is even slightly different that the mere suggestion of an alternative bit of terminology that is barely used anyway will send them into paroxysms of fury. What a bunch of Christmas snowflakes.


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  1. I find that a lot of dark-skinned people wish me Happy Christmas these days, including the owners and employees of the local curry house. They probably think I’m a miserable bastard because I don’t wish them a happy Mawlid an-Nabi. If I knew when it was, I would.

    Mea Culpa.

    I read the Guardian btw. I also read the Telegraph…

  2. In the late 1990s I worked for East Midlands Arts Board and had to produce the corporate Christmas card. I was given very clear instructions from the management team that not only must the card NOT say ‘Happy Christmas’ but it must also definitely NOT feature any Christmas-related imagery. Not just nothing Christian, but no Santa, presents, Christmas tree, robins, holly, snow etc. I was told that this was because it might be offensive to people of other faiths. No matter that anyone offended by Christmas (a) would be an intolerant bigot, and (b) would need to spend three months of the year indoors with radio and TV switched off. It was all I could do to make them change their original plan to feature artwork of Hindu gods on the cards. So yes, there are people out there (mostly white atheists) convinced that Christmas as a concept is somehow ‘offensive’.

    1. Well yes, as I suggested, the people who are pushing that concept are always doing so on behalf of others who they clearly feel superior to, given that they believe themselves to know better about any likely offence than the people who are supposedly being offended. The idea that they are having any sort of impact seems a bit of a stretch though – this movement seems to have peaked and fizzled quite a while ago because everyone else could see how pointless and counter-productive it was.

  3. I live in Canada, where people actually do say Happy Holidays, because it is a multicultural society and people are more respectful of diversity.

    And I am a Pagan (please note capital P) and actually it does annoy me that people think it’s OK to say Merry Christmas – if you are not sure what someone’s religious background is, which is the case for most people, it’s better to say Happy Holidays. If you know that they’re a Pagan, say Merry Yule; if you know that they are Jewish, say Happy Hanukkah. Not really sure why this is hard.

    I do realize that the UK is very much behind North America in this regard, as everyone in the UK still seems to say Merry Christmas (or at least they did when I still lived there, which is only 4 years ago). And be it noted that Muslims celebrate Christmas by and large, as they recognize Jesus as a prophet.

    As to Christians frothing at the mouth about the war on Christmas, it is because they cannot bear to see their hegemonic status taken away.

    1. I disagree. I am a pagan, too. I have a Abrahamic background, and my stepfather is Jewish. I say “Merry Christmas”, as that is what I was brought up in. As to to my stepfather, whom is married to my mother and her being a Christian; they compromise. I would also disagree with Christianity having a hegemonic status, as it seems, at least, with my generation (millennials) and below, it is passe to be a Christian as they are responsible for all the ills in the world because of reasons. It is now chic to be either an atheist (including atheistic satanism) or a pagan, because of reasons. But, then again, I don’t carry guilt for whatever the latest fad is because I am not responsible for how other’s feel and how they live their lives, and it is unfair to both me and the other person that they should give me such power over their life. So, if someone gets offended over someone else said, oh well.

  4. As you said, this is a synthetic argument, at least here in the UK. Merry Christmas to one and all!

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