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War Against Christmas 2012: A Twelfth Night Roundup
Peter Brimelow writes: Sunday January 6th is The Feast of Epiphany, which means tonight or tomorrow night (there’s a dispute) is Twelfth night—traditionally, the end of Christmas. We are hedging our bets by running Tom Piatak’s wrap-up survey of the War Against Christmas tonight and announcing the winner of our annual War Against Christmas competition tomorrow. For Tom’s earlier coverage of the Kristmaskampf, see here and here etc.
On December 6, 2012, the feast of St. Nicholas, I had the good fortune to give a speech on the War on Christmas to an intelligent and engaging audience at the Rockford Institute, publishers of Chronicles Magazine. It was a distillation of what I have written over the past decade on what VDARE.com calls the Kristmaskampf—the drive to strip our culture of references to Christmas. [The War On Christmas | Audio]
I was interviewed at length by Matt Mershon [email him], an earnest reporter for the Rockford FOX affiliate. His report gave a fair summary of my speech, but also contained a twist in War on Christmas Denial I had not encountered before. He used an interview with the organizer of Rockford’s “Festival of Lights”, Joe Marino,[Email him] to suggest to viewers that I was the one waging an unwanted war—not the people who have managed to get displays of Christmas decorations across the country renamed such things as the “Festival of Lights:”
"Talk to the kids that drive through here with their parents and when they see the lights and they get to talk to Santa Claus," remarks Marino. "Talk to them about a 'War on Christmas.' You'll get a pretty different attitude”.... Marino says, although he may prefer to be wished a 'Merry Christmas', he says Christmastime is a time to celebrate and not wage a "war".
Of course, in Main Stream Media outlets far more august than FOX affiliates, the 2012 consensus was overwhelming that those of us resisting the War on Christmas were bad, 1) because we were causing needless strife by imagining this non-existent War; and that anyway 2) the suppression of Christmas is good because that is what “diversity” and “inclusion” require.
Newsweek’s David Sessions led the charge, declaring that “The War on Christmas is Over” and sneering at Bill O’Reilly for being “virtually the last person to continue to fight.” Sessions also wrote that
some Americans say that anger over the perceived purging of Christmas from society was simply absorbed into the right’s more general resentment toward the forces of multicultural inclusion.
Similarly, the Washington Post ran an op-ed piece by Herb Silverman, [Email him] founder of the Secular Coalition for America, arguing first that the War on Christmas was “manufactured,” and then that “Atheists . . . use this seasonal opportunity to join the war by supporting diversity” and that those resisting the War on Christmas are waging a “war against religious diversity.”
Silverman also argued that “Christmas has its origins in the winter solstice festivals that most ancient civilizations observed” and that, since Puritans in both England and America banned Christmas, “Christians initiated the first war on Christmas.”
The New York Times also invoked the Puritans in a rare appeal to tradition: an an op-ed by Rachel Schnepper [email her]arguing that the Puritans were right to conclude that “Christmas represented nothing more than a thin Christian veneer slapped on a pagan celebration” and that “In America, our oldest Christmas tradition is, in fact, the War on Christmas.”
(In contrast, Andrew McGowan of Trinity College in Melbourne had a piece this December at Bible History Daily setting forth the case that the dating of Christmas had nothing to do with pagan influences. And blogger and scholar Taylor Marshall made a spirited and intelligent argument that December 25 is the actual date of Christ’s birth).
These attempts to debunk Christmas are standard fare in the MSM and an integral part of the War on Christmas. Indeed, as Tim Graham pointed out for the Media Research Center, the same issue of Newsweek that declared the War on Christmas “over” featured a cover story by anti-Christian biblical scholar Bart Ehrman [Email him ]titled "The Myths of Jesus" and arguing, among other things, that most of what we think we know about the first Christmas is a “myth.”
(The version of the Newsweek story that I printed out, appearing online at The Daily Beast, also came emblazoned with “Happy Holidays!” at the top of the page).
Needless to say, this is not how the MSM treats Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the other faux-Christmases, nor how they treat other holidays they actually care about: newspapers in January do not fill up with essays about Martin Luther King’s plagiarism, adultery, and Communist associates.
Less prestigious MSM outlets and assorted leftists followed the same line, just with more vitriol. Jon Stewart continued his own War on Christmas, asserting that those who think there is a War on Christmas are “nuts,” and blogger Jeff Sorenson wrote at the Huffington Post that “there’s no war on Christmas. It’s a made up thing to scare white people.”
Penn Jillette [Twitter] the atheist magician who fancies himself a libertarian thinker, popped up online to declare that “I would love to take the Christ out of Christmas,” that he wants a celebration that “really includes all Americans,” and that “doing ‘holiday’ instead of Christmas brings everybody in.” [YouTube]
Actually, of course, “doing ‘holiday’ instead of Christmas” excludes Christmas and all of us who are Christians (or merely attached to the traditions of the West). But that is exactly the point—as shown by Jillette’s desire to “take the Christ out of Christmas” and his argument, advanced in his new book, Every Day Is An Atheist Holiday, that Christmas carols are “full of North Korea sh--t,” because celebrating the birth of Christ is akin to honoring North Korean dictators.
The essence of Jillette’s “inclusion” argument is this: because some people don’t celebrate Christmas, therefore no-one should—at least publicly.
(Another book appeared this year advancing a similar argument: Joshua Plaut’s A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to be Jewish. According to the book’s product description at Amazon: “This book, the first on the subject of Jews and Christmas in the United States, portrays how Jews are shaping the public and private character of Christmas by transforming December into a joyous holiday season belonging to all Americans.”)
A particularly interesting aspect of this year’s War on Christmas was the MSM attempt to enlist Pope Benedict XVI on the side of those seeking to debunk Christmas. Immediately after the appearance of the Pope’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, there were breathless reports that the Pope was against crèches and carols, because there were no animals when Jesus was born and the angels did not sing on the first Christmas. The Catholic left was especially excited by this development: Michael O’Laughlin wrote at America about “the Pope’s War on Christmas” and criticized “oversensitive Christians…raging on about the supposed War on Christmas.”
But, despite what O’Laughlin wanted his readers to believe, Benedict is one of those “oversensitive Christians” himself: in a speech at Westminster Hall during his visit to Britain, he specifically criticized
those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.
Far from debunking Christmas in his book, the Pope wrote:
What Matthew and Luke set out to do, each in his own way, was not to tell “stories,” but to write history, real history that had actually happened, admittedly interpreted and understood in the context of the word of God.”
Pope Benedict wrote of the manger:
The manger, as we have seen, indicates animals, who come to it for food. In the Gospel, there is no reference to animals at this point. But prayerful reflection, reading Old and New Testaments in the light of one another, filled this lacuna at a very early stage by pointing to Is: 1:3: ‘The ox knows its owner, and the ass its masters’ crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand’ . . . .Christian iconography adopted this motif at an early stage. No representation of the crib is complete without the ox and the ass.
With respect to angelic singing, he wrote:
According to the evangelist, the angels “said” this. But Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song, in which all the glory of the great joy they proclaim becomes tangibly present. And so, from that moment, the angels’ song of praise has not gone silent. It continues down the centuries in constantly new forms and it resounds ever anew at the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It is only natural that simple believers would then hear the shepherds singing too, and to this day they join in their caroling on the Holy Night, proclaiming in song the great joy that, from then until the end of time, is bestowed on all people.”
For me, the most interesting of the War on Christmas skirmishes that got MSM attention this year occurred in Arkansas, where a group of school students was going to see a production of A Charlie Brown Christmas at a local church, until an atheist group objected and the church cancelled the performance.
Of course, the television show on which the play is based was instantly recognized as a classic, winning both an Emmy and a Peabody Award in 1965. It has since become a part of American culture, even adding a new phrase—a Charlie Brown Christmas tree—to our vocabulary.
Thus attempt to prevent children from enjoying a delightful part of American culture was both unjustified and mean-spirited.
But I can’t say it was misguided—because A Charlie Brown Christmas does stand in the way of everything those waging War on Christmas aim to achieve: it mentions no holiday except Christmas, it features students in a public school putting on a play about the first Christmas, it includes Linus reciting Luke’s account of that first Christmas, and it ends with all the Peanuts singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
I argued in my Rockford speech that more retailers are acknowledging Christmas as a result of Americans’ pushing back against the Khristmaskampf.
But far more significant is the situation in schools, where culture is formed and transmitted. And that remains dismal.
Rather than learn about the first Christmas and sing Christmas carols, as Charles Schulz’s Peanuts did, today’s students are far more likely to experience what my nephew did this year at his first grade class’s “winter pageant.” There was no mention of Jesus, Christmas, or even Santa Claus. Instead, the children sang about mittens and my nephew participated as a “sky bear,” whatever that is.
(I wonder if children in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Miami feel “included” now that schools have gone from celebrating Christmas to celebrating winter?)
Matt Mershon, the Fox reporter in Rockford who interviewed me, told me that he knew of one parent who succeeded in eliminating any celebration of Christmas in the schools in his hometown in Massachusetts. And an attendee at my speech told me how one parent was similarly able to end the celebration of Christmas in Rockford’s schools.
Another attendee told me how he had taught children to sing “Silent Night” in German and how popular that had been—but that school district, too, had now been stripped of any mention of Christmas.
This year also brought a portent of the War on Christmas Future. Jonah Goldberg of National Review blamed Romney’s loss among Asian voters on references to Christianity at Republican events. And Dan McCarthy of The American Conservative wrote:
What does the [Republican] party have to say to the increasing number of non-Christian . . .Americans—other than, quite literally, ‘go to hell.’
It is easy to see the same argument being made to further the suppression of Christmas. Indeed, McCarthy sent out a fundraising email for his magazine wishing readers a “wonderful holiday.”
It’s important to remember that none of this hostility toward Christmas is the result of popular demand. Thus in December 2012, a Rasmussen poll asked Americans which holiday they would celebrate. 83% answered Christmas, 2% Hanukkah, 0% Kwanzaa, 2% the winter solstice or Yule, 1% some other religious observance, and 3% some personal milestone, with 5% saying they won’t be celebrating anything and 3% saying they weren’t sure.
In other words, the Rasmussen poll showed that those celebrating Christmas outnumber those celebrating any single alternative holiday by over forty to one.
It also confirmed my belief that Kwanzaa is a completely phony holiday, kept alive only by public school bureaucrats looking for alternatives to Christmas.
Also, some 76% told Rasmussen that Christmas should be more about Christ than Santa Claus. Thus, the overwhelming majority of Americans both celebrates Christmas and believes that the celebration should focus on the birth of Christ.
That this reality is recognized even by those who wish it might be otherwise was shown by an event widely commented on in the MSM: Saturday Night Live’s opening following the horrific school shooting in Connecticut with a children’s choir singing “Silent Night.”
As VDARE.com correspondent Kathlene Miller pointed out, the choir sang the famous first verse and then the rarely performed fourth verse, substituting the refrain of the first verse, “sleep in heavenly peace,” for the refrain of the fourth verse, “Christ the Savior is born.” Perhaps this substitution was intended to focus (albeit without hope of redemption) on the victims of the shooting, or perhaps it stemmed from a desire to make this most famous of carols less Christian. Still, it showed that when the producers of the show were looking for something with beauty and emotional depth, they chose a song about the true meaning of Christmas, not a secular Christmas song or an ersatz “holiday” song.
But the War Against Christmas is all about stripping our culture of such things as “Silent Night”—so that 50 or 100 years from now, when people are confronted with a tragedy, they will have nothing to fall back on except the detritus of our own debased times.
This is why those of us who appreciate what Christianity and the culture it created has bequeathed have no alternative but to fight back—and to win.
Tom Piatak (email him) writes from Cleveland, Ohio.