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Religious Tolerance logo

The Christmas wars / December dilemma


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We ask again:

What is this?

A Christmas tree? (Christianity)
A Hanukkah bush? (Judaism)
A Yule tree? (Wicca)
A Winter Solstice tree (Atheist, Agnostic, Neo pagan)
An excessively-decorated Festivus tree (Secular)
or all of the above, plus many more by followers of other religions?

Some Muslims believe that displaying Christmas/Yule trees in one's house is haraam (forbidden) for Muslims, because it involves showing respect to a religious symbol of the kuffars. Kuffars has historically referred to all non-Muslims. However Tariq Fatah, a Canadian Muslim commentator, has suggested that the term has taken on a negative, racist connotation among some people. 1,8


bullet[Christmas]..."now involves lawyers and complaining liberal and conservative ministers who either demand that people not celebrate Christmas or want everyone to celebrate it as they do." Conservative columnist Cal Thomas' "On the Right Side" column. 2

bullet"Who are we fooling? The Jews don't put up a tree for Hanukkah; the Muslims don't put up a tree for Ramadan. It doesn't take away from my celebration of my holiday for other people to celebrate their holiday." Karen Dabdoub, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). 3

bullet"Why not simply require stores owned by Jews to put a gold star in their ads and on their storefronts?" Rev. Jim Melnyk, apparently drawing a parallel between a Christian boycott of non-Christian stores in Raleigh, NC and anti-semitic laws of Nazi Germany. 4

bullet"There is an anti-Christian bias in this country, and it is more on display at Christmas season than any other time." Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News Channel. 5

bullet"Merry Christmas" is much more discriminatory then "Happy Holidays." What about the Jewish people who celebrate Hanukah, should they be left out? Please explain to me WHY they should be left out because once again I am confused beyond belief at another one of your ridiculous ideas. Jesus was Jewish, wouldn't he have celebrated Hanukah? Thus, aren't you discriminating again JESUS? your own SAVIOR? think about it --- long and hard -- before your ridiculous scandals lead you to even more evil." Angry posting to The Curt Jester forum. 6


"Christmas wars" surface each year in December. They are variously defined as:


Anti-Christian attacks,


Political correctness run amok, and


An honest desire to recognize the country's increasing religious diversity.

With the decline in the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians by about one percentage point per year, the increase in the membership of minority religions, and the drift towards increasing secularism, the U.S. and Canada are becoming much more religiously diverse.

The U.S. is already regarded by many as the most religiously diverse country in the world. 7 What was once a culture based almost exclusively on Judeo-Christianity, is now featuring significant numbers of persons identifying themselves as everything from an Agnostic to a Zoroastrian. A growing percentage do not identify with any religion. Such a major change is not easily accommodated without pain. The Christmas Wars (a.k.a. December Dilemma) are a symptom of this change:


Many Christians feel that Christmas should be exclusively recognized at this time of year as a celebration of Jesus Christ to the exclusion of the celebrations by members of other religions and by secularists. Not being able to convince some retail chains of the legitimacy of their position, some conservative Protestant para-church groups have resorted to economic boycotts.


Other Christians, members of other religions, and secularists feel that we should recognize the existence of other celebrations in addition to Christmas, including:


Bodhi Day by Buddhists;


The Day of the Return of the Wandering Goddess, by Kemetic Orthodoxy;


Hanukkah (a.k.a. Chanukah, Festival of Lights, & Festival of Rededication) by Jews;


Id al-Adha (a.k.a. the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice) or another holy day by Muslims; 1


The Winter Solstice by some Native Americans, Aboriginals elsewhere, Neo pagans, and Atheists;


Saturnalia by Nova Romans (a.k.a. Romana), a Neo-pagan group that has revived ancient Roman Pagan religion;


Yule by Wiccans and many other Pagans;


Kwanzaa by African Americans;


Festivus (a.k.a. the "the festival for the rest of us") inspired by the Jerry Seinfeld TV show;


Omisoka (a end-of-year celebration in Japan);


Shabe-Yalda, an Iranian inter-faith celebration;



This conflict surfaces at this time of year in retail outlets where some employees wish people a "Merry Christmas" and thus risk alienating some non-Christians, while others wish people "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" and risk alienating many conservative Christians. Fortunately, a shrinking minority of North Americans do not consider the matter particularly important.

horizontal rule

Note about holy days in Islam:

Muslim holy days are scheduled according to a lunar calendar. Thus, the date on which they occur is about 11 days earlier each year according to the Gregorian calendar. For example, Muslims celebrated Id al-Adha (a.k.a. the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice) on DEC-31 in 2006, and on DEC-20 in 2007. The celebrated Al-Hijra/Muharram as the Muslim New Year, the first day of the first lunar month on DEC-29 in 2008 and on DEC-18 in 2009. All dates are approximate, because they depend upon the method of determining the timing of a new moon -- by physical sighting or by astronomical calculation.

Text from a comic strip:

From "Tina's Groove" by Rina Poccolo for 2005-DEC-25. the conversation takes place in Pepper's restaurant:

bulletRob: "Tina, it's politically incorrect to say 'Merry Christmas' to our customers because it has religious connotations."
bulletTina: "OK Rob, I'll say 'Happy Holidays'."
bulletRob: "Well...I wouldn't say 'happy' because that would be insensitive to people who are unhappy."
bulletTina: "Okay, how 'bout 'have an adjective-of-your-choice' holiday"?
bulletRob: "You know, maybe the word "holiday" is bad -- it may be deemed unfair to people who have to work."
bulletTina: "Geez!  I won't say anything at all, then!"
bulletRob: "Oh Tina! You can't be like that on Christmas Day!"
bulletTina (to departing customers): "Extending acknowledgement of December 25th to you!"
bulletCustomers " Yeah, er...you too"

References used: (The hyperlinks are not necessarily still currently active.)

  1. "The meaning of "kuffaar," Vancouver Sun, 2009-OCT-26, at: https://vancouversun.com/
  2. Cal Thomas, "Let the rest of us take back Christmas," 'On the Right Side' syndicated column, 2004-DEC-15.
  3. John McCaslin, "Leave it alone," Inside the Beltway, 2005-DEC-09, Washington Times, at: http://washingtontimes.com/ (No longer online)
  4. Jim Melnyk, "Why not simply require stores owned by Jews to put a gold star in their ads and on their storefronts?" Religious Lefties, 2005-DEC-17, at: http://religiouslefties.blogspot.com/
  5. "O'Reilly Factor Flash," 2005-NOV-15, at: http://www.billoreilly.com/
  6. Robert Wuthnow, "America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity," Princeton University Press, (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  7. Ellen Barry, "This Season, Greetings Are at Issue," Los Angeles Times, 2004-DEC-18, at: http://www.truthout.org/
  8. Holy days in Islam are scheduled according to a lunar calendar which is based on the phases of the moon. In some countries, the day is dependent on the actual sighting of the new moon. The lunar calendar loses 11 days each year, when compared to the more widely used Gregorian calendar. Thus, each successive Muslim yearly observation will come at different seasons of the year, and repeat the sequence every 33 lunar years. The Gregorian Calendar is a solar calendar, which is based on a year lasting 365 days during most years, and 366 days every fourth year -- called a leap year. Sometimes there is an adjustment at the first year of each century.

Site navigation:

Home > Religious information > Christmas >  here

Home > Christianity > Beliefs, practices, etc > Holy days > Christmas >  here

Home > Religious hatred & conflicts > Specific conflicts >  here

 Home page > Religious tolerance > Cooperation > here

 Home page > Spirituality menu > Religious tolerance > Cooperation > here

Copyright © 2004 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted as part of this section's menu: 2004-DEC-04
Latest update and review: 2018-DEC-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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