How the Left Stole Christmas

Merry Birth of Guru Gobind Singh Day!

The American Conservative
January 19, 2004

"I am sure I have always
thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart
from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin,
if anything can be apart from that—as a good time: a
kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only
time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when
men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up
hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if
they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not
another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

These words of

Scrooge`s nephew
describe Christmas in the America
of my youth. Christmas was a special and wonderful time
of year, marked by kindness and good cheer, with its
myriad celebrations all viewed as ultimately stemming
from the birth of the One who, in

Dickens` words
, "made lame beggars walk and blind
men see."

Today`s consensus is different. In last year`s
made-for-cable movie "Christmas
one character wishes another
"Merry Christmas,"
only to be told, "Gee, that is
politically incorrect."
And so it is. In one
generation—I was born in 1964—Christmas has gone from
being a widespread and joyous public celebration to the
holiday that dare not speak its name. We now have
"holiday trees,"
"holiday cards," "holiday
"holiday songs," and even, in one
particularly egregious advertisement, a "child`s
first holiday."
Simply put, there is now raging a
Against Christmas
in author Peter Brimelow`s
trenchant phrase.

A hallmark of this war is an aggressive
multiculturalism that has elevated a variety of formerly
obscure or even non-existent festivals into
faux-Christmases, principally Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and now
Ramadan, but also Diwali, Bodhi Day, the Birth of Guru
Gobind Singh, Dongji, and Chinese New Year. The reason
for the elevation of these holidays is their proximity
to Christmas, not their cultural significance or
intrinsic worth. Indeed, Kwanzaa was invented in 1966,
Hanukkah is traditionally a minor holiday (with no basis
in the canonical Hebrew Bible), and Ramadan was
virtually unknown in America until a few short years
ago. Despite their recent provenance—at least as
pseudo-Christmases—these holidays are now treated as
coequals of Christmas, with public figures sure to
pepper any of the increasingly rare mentions of
Christmas with references to at least some of these

The desire to efface Christmas that lies behind the
elevation of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all the rest is
illustrated by recent developments in the New York City
public schools. The Thomas More Law Center is now suing
the school system, which bans Nativity scenes but
regularly display menorahs and Muslim crescents. Nor are
the schools trying to rectify this now that their
hostility to Christianity has been put in the spotlight.
Instead, they are vigorously defending the ban, claiming
that the

"suggestion that a crèche is a historically accurate
representation of an event with secular significance is
wholly disingenuous."
The birth of the most
important figure in history carries no weight in New
York City, nor does the fact that the birth was

first depicted in a crèche
by another seminal
historical figure, an itinerant friar from Assisi named
Francis. It does not take a belief in the divinity of
Christ or the sanctity of Francis to recognize their
tremendous impact on the history and culture of the
West. Apparently, though, the multiculturalists are
eager to promote every culture but our own.

That the war against Christmas is part of a broader
war against Western culture is shown by last year`s
winner of`s invaluable War Against Christmas
competition. The Columbus, Ohio, schools banned a
performance of Handel`s Messiah, which for the
previous nine years had been the highlight of the year
at a specialized school for the arts. The performance
would have violated the district`s religious-music
policy, which came into being as the result of an ACLU
lawsuit. According to the

Columbus Dispatch
, the policy stipulated that
the proportion of religious music performed in concert
be no more than 30 percent and that the performance of
religious music be "based on sound curricular
and not "manifest a preference for
religion or particular religious beliefs."
educational bureaucrats who devised the policy, trying
to be helpful, suggested the students perform "Frosty
the Snowman"
or "Jingle Bells" instead of
Handel. Their ignorance and philistinism is appalling,
though characteristic of those waging the War Against
Christmas. After hearing Messiah performed in
London, Haydn was moved to exclaim,

"Handel is the master of us all!"
and to write
his own great oratorio, The Creation. But, in
today`s climate of "sensitivity" and
beauty and artistic merit are scarcely
a sufficient warrant for exposing delicate ears to the
name of Christ.

The transformation of Christmas to "holiday"
and the attendant impoverishment of our culture was
brought about to accommodate not the small minority of
Americans who do not celebrate Christmas but the far
smaller minority—comprising those of all faiths and of
none—who resent the overwhelming majority who do
celebrate Christmas. In my experience, most
non-Christians do not resent Christmas and generally
enjoy some aspects of its celebration. This sentiment
was well expressed by Philadelphia Inquirer
editor Jane Eisner`s thoughtful and generous essay of

December 2002,
in which she explained why, as a Jew,
she was bothered by the

suppression of Christmas
and "[t]he conflation of
Christmas, Hanukkah, and now Kwanzaa … into one big, fat
indistinguishable holiday."

But the transformation of Christmas into "holiday"
would not have occurred without a dedicated, active
minority who resented and despised it. An upcoming film
on the art-house circuit, called "The Hebrew Hammer,"
a spoof of

films, features the film`s eponymous
hero and his sidekick, the head of the Kwanzaa
Liberation Front, battling the film`s villains, the sons
of Santa Claus and Tiny Tim. Among the villains` acts of
treachery: distributing videos of "It`s A
Wonderful Life,"
one of the

greatest of all American movies
and the favorite
picture of both Frank Capra and

Jimmy Stewart
. Judging from the film`s Web site, it
appears that "The Hebrew Hammer" at least has the
potential to be funny. But the

for its making are not. As the film`s
director, Jonathan Kesselman, told the

LA Jewish Journal
"I asked myself, `What as
a Jew really pisses me off?` It hit me when I was
walking around a mall in December: I hate

This Christmas, though, you won`t have to go to an
art house to see a film inspired by disdain for
Christmas. Disney is observing the holiday by releasing
(through its Miramax subsidiary) another alleged comedy,
This movie`s Santa figure is shown
being a drunk and having sex, is heard by other
characters having anal sex, and repeatedly swears in
front of children. According to the Chicago Tribune`s
John Kass, Disney is promoting this charming film with
advertisements on TV featuring "a veiled reference to
oral sex and an unmistakable reference to feminine
at times—such as during Sunday afternoon
football games—when it would be reasonable to expect
children to watch them. As Kass archly observes,
"About the only thing that Santa is forbidden to do
these days is mention the real reason that gifts are
given in late December."

The whole point of "Bad Santa" is to mock and
demean Christmas. The film`s boosters say as much.
George Thomas, of the Akron Beacon Journal, wrote
in early November, "The trailer shows this as an
anti-holiday film and it could be the much needed
antidote to that good-will-to-man feeling that permeates
the season."
It goes without saying that the great
Walt Disney would never have made such a film, but
neither would any of the other major studios in
Hollywood`s golden age. They were busy instead making
such delightful films as "It`s
a Wonderful Life
Bells of St. Mary`s
" (the film
playing in Bedford Falls
as George Bailey
runs down its snowy streets on Christmas Eve), "The
Bishop`s Wife,"
and "Miracle on 34th Street."
The journey from "Miracle on 34th Street" to
"Bad Santa"
is downhill all the way.

Kesselman has the same right to "hate
as the rest of us do to love it, but
it makes no sense to transform our culture and jettison
beloved and popular traditions to appease such hatred.
The malcontents and misfits who have litigated and
complained to prevent such horrors as children learning
how to sing "Silent Night" should not be allowed
to set our course. What is needed, instead, is true
tolerance, a recognition that the point of celebrating a
holiday is just that—celebration—and the intent of those
doing the celebrating is not to demean those who don`t.
As Jane Eisner wrote,


 "Somehow we have to
learn to coexist without calling in lawyers and
initiating merger talks. We have to recognize the
strength and distinctiveness of each celebration, and
not force equality by pretending `I Had a Little
Dreidel` is on par with the heavenly melodies of
Christmas carols."

I first began thinking about this while driving to my
parents` in Michigan several years ago to celebrate
Christmas. Even though I was driving on Dec. 23, I could
not find Christmas music on any American radio station.
Then I came across CBC 2, which was carrying nothing but
Christmas music and whose announcers were regularly
wishing their listeners a Merry Christmas. Their
programming featured both familiar Christmas music and
some gems in the seemingly inexhaustible treasury of
beautiful Christmas music I had not heard before: Anne
Sofie von Otter singing lovely Swedish carols,
Charpentier`s beautiful Mass for Midnight, with
its generous borrowing from French carols, and
Praetorius`s stunning Mass for Christmas Morning.
The sheer beauty of the music brought home what we are
in danger of losing. And that the proudly tolerant
Canadians were playing such music led me to wonder why
we are, instead, sanitizing our culture of any reference
to Christmas.

Rather than strip the altars, we used to try to add
to all the beauty surrounding Christmas, the work done
earlier by Giotto, Bach, Dickens, Charpentier,
Praetorius, and the village priest and organist who
collaborated to give us "Silent Night." Although
not quite on this level, Hollywood`s classic Christmas
films have stood the test of time and are still being
watched and enjoyed nearly 60 years after they were
made. More recently, carols such as "The Little
Drummer Boy"
and cartoons such as

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"
have enchanted us,
and they still do, nearly 40 years later. We no longer
make such contributions, as the focus of the Christmas
season is no longer the positive one of celebrating a
shared tradition but the negative one of pretending that
tradition does not exist, so as not to offend those who
do not share it.

The result of sanitizing Christmas is now within
sight: an undistinguished, uninspiring public
celebration, devoid of religious or cultural
significance or indeed of beauty, with nothing left but
multiculturalist pap and tawdry commercialism. I do not
believe that grim fate is inevitable. But that future
will indeed be ours if we remain so unnerved by the
thought of giving offense to those looking for a reason
to be offended that we are afraid to celebrate our own
culture, tradition, and religion.  

Tom Piatak

him) writes from Cleveland, Ohio.