A Christmas Non-Controversy

John Ferrannini, Editor in Chief

I love Christmas traditions. I love the tree, the food, the presents, the music, the decorations, the stockings. But there is one Christmas tradition I think we all could do without – the annual wall to wall coverage of the supposed ‘War on Christmas.’ Every Christmas season, conservative groups and the Fox News Channel spend copious amounts of time discussing what they term the ‘War on Christmas’ being waged by secular, atheist, and civil libertarian groups. The front lines of this ‘war’ are cities and towns all over the country where these groups are challenging the constitutionality of nativity scenes and other religious displays on public property or where corporations exhort their employees to wish customers a ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of a ‘Merry Christmas.’ This ‘war’ is apparently so severe that last year, between December 1 and 21, conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly spent a total of 41 minutes of his program discussing it while only 13 minutes were spent discussing actual wars such as that which our soldiers are currently fighting in Afghanistan.

When one takes out the soapboxes and inflated rhetoric, it is clear what is going on here. It is certainly true that there are groups of people in society who, for whatever reason, want to see references to Christianity, God, or religion eliminated from public life and discourse. To these people, religion is more of a hobby that one indulges themselves in during their spare time than something one would actually live out their daily life by. As a believer myself, I would disagree that public expression of religion should be eliminated. However, the role of religion in public life is something that two people can legitimately and in good faith disagree on. There is no ‘war’ here. But saying that groups in society disagree on the role of religion in public life is far less attention grabbing than proclaiming that there is a “War on Christmas.”

It is also worth noting that if there was a War on Christmas, Christmas would be winning the war big time. Last year alone, according to the research company IBIS World, Americans spend $3.4 Billion on Christmas trees. According to Business Insider, the average shopper spent $704.18 on Christmas gifts and other seasonal items in 2011. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, it is almost impossible to go anywhere without being bombarded by Christmas. Any casual surveyor of a suburban neighborhood this time of year will see a Christmas tree in a majority of homes. If there is a threat to Christmas in our society, it is not coming from a small but vocal minority of atheists or civil libertarians. Rather, it would be coming from the over commercialization and over exposure of the holiday that at times can obscure the values that Christmas is all about.