JESUS, we are constantly being reminded around this time of the year, is “the Reason for the Season.” In reality it’s a period when I start my annual hunt for reports of attempts by godless killjoys to ruin birthday parties across the land for the baby Jesus.
My first port of call today was Liberty Counsel, which publishes an annual “Naughty and Nice” list which identifies stores that “recognise and celebrate” Christmas and those that don’t.
Christians are encouraged to support the “nice” ones flogging all manner of garbage, ironically mainly sourced from a country that attaches no religious significance whatsoever to Christmas: The People’s Republic of China.
Ponder on this: millions of tacky nativity ornaments, artificial trees and lights are created by communists, and not a single televangelist, as far as I know, has brought this to the attention of their intellectually challeged followers.
Among those on the “naughty” step this year for not doing a good enough job of emphasising the true meaning of Christmas in their holiday-themed branding is Target, Gap and the pharmacy chain Walgreens.
All told there are 24 “nice” outlets, including the faith-based, thieving Hobby Lobby, and 13 “naughty” enterprises.
Notably missing from “naughty” list is The Trump Store (motto “Experience the World of Trump.”
Given that the former President made such a big deal of Christmas – vowing to end a trend that saw an increasing number of stores wishing customers a “happy holiday” instead of “Happy Christmas” – I decided to visit his on-line store to see how what Christmassy tchotchkes he has to offer this year. This is what I found in his “Holiday Gift Guide Stocking Stuffer section” (note, not a single mention of Christmas appears anywhere his site):
According to CNN, throughout his presidential campaign – and during his first year in office – Trump emphasised he would “make Christmas great again” by ending the “War on Christmas”
“If I become president, we’re going to be saying Merry Christmas at every store,” he promised supporters in 2015. He repeated his yuletide pledge many times after.
In October 2017 Trump told the Values Voter Summit.
Guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.
Trump had jumped on a bandwagon that had been bumping along for decades. Back in the 1920s industrialist Henry Ford, above, one of a handful of non-Germans to earn Adolf Hitler’s praise, claimed that “someone – or more precisely, some group” – was waging a war on Christmas.
In “A Short History of the War on Christmas,” Politico‘s Daniel Denvir referred to a piece published in Ford’s “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.” The article claimed
Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth …
People sometimes ask why 3,000,000 Jews can control the affairs of 100,000,000 Americans. In the same way that ten Jewish students can abolish the mention of Christmas and Easter out of schools containing 3,000 Christian pupils.
There was a half-hearted attempt by Jews to boycott Ford products. Ford was later persuaded to stop publishing antisemitic material but never apologised.
Hitler, too, weaponised Christmas to incite hatred Jews. According to The Conversation, in 1921, in a Munich beer hall, the newly appointed Nazi party leader gave a Christmas speech “to an excited crowd.”
According to undercover police observers, 4,000 supporters cheered when Hitler condemned “the cowardly Jews for breaking the world-liberator on the cross” and swore “not to rest until the Jews … lay shattered on the ground.”
Later, the crowd sang holiday carols and nationalist hymns around a Christmas tree. Working-class attendees received charitable gifts.
In 1959 the far-right John Birch Society published a pamphlet alerting the nation to an “assault on Christmas” carried out by:
UN fanatics … What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.
Since then War on Christmas reports have simply become a silly a festive season tradition, generating more mirth than fury. All are intended to reinforce the belief of Christian fundamentalists that they really are being persecuted by a coalition of atheists, secularists, freethinkers, abortionists – and those who identify as LGBTQ. Seriously!
Back in 2012 US right-wing radio host Bernard McGuirk, above, said:
The war on Christmas is very, very real, and if you ask me, in addition to some grouchy misanthropic heathen atheists it has to do – at the root of it – with two things – abortion and the gay rights agenda, because Christianity is against those things. It’s subtle but that’s why it’s so pronounced in recent years.
The real War on Christmas
What’s missing in all of these reports of bleating Christians is one vital historical fact. Once there really was a War on Christmas, and it was waged by … Christians. The Puritans to be precise.
Writing last year for The Conversation, Peter C Mancall pointed out that their aversion to celebrating Christmas dates back to 1621, when Yorkshire-born William Bradford of the Plymouth Settlement castigated some of the newcomers who chose to take the day off rather than work.
Bradford, wrote Mancall, had a lingering anxiety about the ways that Christmas had been celebrated in England. For generations, the holiday had been an occasion for riotous, sometimes violent behavior.
The moralist pamphleteer Phillip Stubbes believed that Christmastime celebrations gave celebrants licence:
To do what they lust, and to folow what vanitie they will.
He complained about rampant “fooleries” like playing dice and cards and wearing masks.
The Puritans in Plymouth and Massachusetts used their authority to punish or banish those who did not share their views. For example, they exiled an Anglican lawyer named Thomas Morton who rejected Puritan theology, befriended local Indigenous people, danced around a maypole and sold guns to the Natives. He was, Bradford wrote, “the Lord of Misrule”
Mancall ended his piece with these words:
By comparison to their treatment of Natives and fellow colonists who rebuffed their unbending vision, the Puritan campaign against Christmas seems tame. But it is a reminder of what can happen when the self-righteous control the levers of power in a society and seek to mold a world in their image.