The Christmas Wars / Christmas Dilemma
More events during 2011. Part 2
This is a continuation from Part 1
2011-NOV-23: Liberty Counsel repeats its Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign.
They have many hundreds of lawyers across the U.S. standing by in case municipalities, schools, etc. attempt to limit Christians' celebration of Christmas.
Liberty Counsel Chairperson, Mat Staver, commented:
"We had one school in Metford, Massachusetts where the students were told they could not wear red and green because those were Christmas colors. We've had places where students were told they could not greet each other with the greeting, 'Merry Christmas.' Fortunately, in all those situations we were able to get involved and reverse those matters. ... [Some] Schools through misinformation censor anything related to Christmas from a religious perspective, thinking that they need to do so."1
2011-NOV-21: The American Family Association (AFA) has released its 2011 "Naughty or Nice" list:
This divides some of the major retailers in the U.S. into three categories: for Christmas, marginal on Christmas, and against Christmas, as judged by the AFA.
Companies are quite aware of the growing diversity of religions in America as well as the numerical rise of secularists. Many groups have seasonal days of celebration or observance during December. Of these, the most widespread is Christmas. But minority religions like Judaism celebrate Hanukah, a.k.a. Festival of Lights. Wiccans and other Neopagans celebrate Yule, a.k.a. the Winter Solstice. African Americans observe Kwanzaa, a cultural celebration. Some Atheists celebrate the Winter Solstice. There are many others.
The country is divided on the relative importance of Christmas and these other celebrations:
- Some Christians -- particularly in the conservative wing -- want to highlight Christmas as the only seasonal day of celebration to be acknowledged during December. Most would like to hear store clerks use the "Merry Christmas" greeting, and see many displays of merchandise identified as for Christmas.
- Many Americans who are non-Christians feel that their day of celebration is important as well. In addition, many Americans would like to see an acknowledgment of the diversity of religion by having store clerks say "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings."
The AFA divides retailers into three categories:
- "FOR Christmas or Christmas friendly:" the company identifies Christmas merchandise in displays and advertising; their employees use the Merry Christmas greeting only, thus giving the impression to customers that the company recognizes Christmas as the only celebration worth recognizing or observing. The AFA lists 58 companies, including Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, Hallmark, JC Penny, Kmart, Macy's, Office Max, Sears, Target, TJ Max, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, etc.
- "Marginal on Christmas:" "Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others." They include 1-800-Flowers.com, Dollar Tree, Safeway. Starbucks, Whole Foods, etc.
- "Against Christmas:" Company uses "Christmas" sparingly. They likely have their staff say Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings so that they give an inclusive greeting that recognizes the diversity of their customers. They list Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Gap stores, L.L. Bean, Old Navy, Radio Shack, Staples, and others.
To recap: stores that have an inclusive policy and want to express respect for the diversity of religious and secular days of celebration among their customers are labeled "Against Christmas" and "Naughty." Stores that promote the supremacy of Christmas and Christianity to the exclusion of all other religious and secular celebrations are labeled "FOR Christmas" and "Nice." 2 It is, of course, up to the consumer to decide which stores they would like to patronize.
Webmaster's personal comment:
Bias alert: Following a minority belief system -- Agnostics -- and being affiliated with a minority religion -- Unitarian Universalism -- I would prefer to deal with the inclusive "Naughty" stores. I thank the AFA for simplifying this task.
Posting on the Huffington Post about the "War on Christmas:"
Charity Sunshine Tillemann Dick posted an article on the Christmas Dilemma. She wrote about the origins of Christmas being traced back to Yule, the Norse winter holy day, and to Saturnalia and Sol Invictus (the unconquered Sun) in the Roman Empire. She wrote:
"... It has been suggested that Christmas was, in fact, a strategic act of tolerance, allowing harmless traditions to take on religious meaning and enable the conversion of Northern Europe to Christianity.
What Would a Real Christian Do?
I am not recommending you dumb down your celebration, but Jesus' whole thing was to love your neighbor as yourself. He didn't say to love your Christian neighbor as yourself. He said to love whatever neighbor you have. And I don't know where you live, but I have neighbors who celebrate all sorts of different things. And if they don't celebrate Christmas, it doesn't hurt my Christianity to wish them a happy holiday or a joyful season. Going to their iftar 3 doesn't encroach on my Christmas bash and spinning a dradle 4 doesn't dim the lights of my Christmas tree.
Call me crazy, but I don't think Jesus really cares about us celebrating His birthday. He cares about us following him every day through our thoughts and through our actions; he cares about us feeding the hungry; he cares about us tending to the sick; he cares about us doing good to those who don't seem to deserve it; he cares about us helping the poor, the depressed, the downtrodden and the weak.
As Christmas helps us to accomplish those goals, more power to it. But literally, for Christ's sake (or whoever else you may or may not be celebrating), let's make this holiday season about love and food, not war and conflict." 5
Canada: Federal Government bans Christmas decorations, then allows them:
During early 2011-NOV, a directive was circulated among the 118 Service Canada offices in Quebec. These are places where the Canadian public can go to access government services. The directive said that there was to be no Christmas decorations present in any of the offices. They cited health and safety concerns. Other commentators suggested that cheerful decorations might depress unemployment insurance recipients.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that once the directive became public:
"Within hours, the ban at about 120 federal offices in the province had been ridiculed on Twitter, derided on open-line shows, and criticized by the very religious minorities whose sensibilities the government was ostensibly trying to respect.
The storm reached the House of Commons, where opposition MPs from Quebec seized on the matter.
'Why do the Conservatives want to steal the magic of Christmas from employees of Service Canada?' said NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice." 6
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley was criticized for being a "grinch." When informed of the original directive asked that a revised directive be circulated saying that Service Canada employees can celebrate Christmas and the holidays in any way they please. She also said in the House of Commons on DEC-02 that "... there is no national directive on (decorating) and I encourage everyone to decorate and to celebrate Christmas." 7
This topic continues in Part 3.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Bob Kelologg, "Battling anti-Christmas humbug," OneNewsNow, 2011-NOV-23, at: http://onenewsnow.com/
- "Naughty or Nice?" American Family Association, 2011-NOV-21, at: http://action.afa.net/
- An iftar is the evening meal eaten during the month of Ramadan when the family breaks its fast.
- A dradle (a.k.a. DREIDEL) is a four-sided spinning top used during the Jewish holy days of Hanukkah.
- Charity Sunshine Tillemann Dick, "War on Christmas?" The Huffington Post, 2011-NOV-25, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- Ingrid Peritz, "Ban on Christmas decorations in Quebec quickly overturned," Globe and Mail, 2011-DEC-02, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
- Bradley Bouzane, "Deck the halls! Anti-decoration stance in Quebec Service Canada offices reversed," National Post, 2011-DEC-02, at: http://news.nationalpost.com/
Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2011-NOV-28
Latest update: 2011-DEC-08
Author: B.A. Robinson