One of the most popular right-wing conspiracies that resurfaces every holiday season is the “War on Christmas.” Those who think that this war on Christmas exists believe that a liberal campaign is actively attempting to take the “Christ” out of Christmas and, therefore, remove all religious meaning from the holiday. This theory arose in 2005 when Fox News promoted conservative political commentator John Gibson’s book, “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought,” and has retained relevance in the alt-right community to this day. Although there is no tangible evidence to support it, this theory has been used as a source of fearmongering.
The politicization of Christmas can occasionally make it uncomfortable to spread holiday cheer with others. One talking point that is often brought up when discussing the possibility of an organized attempt to destroy Christmas is the fact that many people and institutions are opting to say “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Many see “happy holidays” as a form of secularization and a replacement for a more Christian-centered greeting. However, in reality, the term “happy holidays” can be dated all the way back to 1863. The reason for the current rising popularity of the term stems from the intention to provide affirmation and inclusion for individuals of non-Christian faiths throughout the holiday season.
Moreover, it is a way of extending a sense of recognition to those who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, among other holiday traditions. But still, some Christians feel offended by the acknowledgment that Christmas is not the only December holiday. The people who are angered by phrases like “happy holidays” fail to see that the addition of other holiday greetings into the American vernacular is not an attack on Christmas specifically, but rather an attempt to make people of all faiths feel welcome. Likewise, the desire to place Christmas above other holidays when it comes to greetings is problematic in its own right. People who fear inclusion fear it because they thrive in a system of exclusion. Instead of looking at “happy holidays” as an attack, it should be looked at as an effort to honor different cultures and religions, which should be exciting instead of scary.
Another war on Christmas allegation is that the meaning of Christmas is being demeaned because of the increase of non-Christians celebrating the holiday. While Christmas represents the birth of Christ, the way it is celebrated in a modern and cultural sense is not necessarily religious. The actual day when Jesus was born is not recorded, and Dec. 25 is thought to have been influenced by Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a pre-Christian Roman holiday from Dec. 17 to 23 on the Julian calendar, which was meant to prepare for the winter solstice on Dec. 25. It was created to honor the agricultural god Saturn and celebrate the promise of a successful spring harvest. Saturnalia was celebrated by decorating homes with wreaths and other greenery, feasting, giving gifts and lighting candles — all of which are standard practices in Christmas celebrations today. There was also a temporary overturning of social norms, such as enslaved people and enslavers dining together, similar to the effort many modern Christmas celebrators make to be more kind. As Rome became Christianized, the modern holiday of Christmas began to be celebrated in Rome on Dec. 25. Although Christmas is a different holiday with a completely different meaning, the way its festivities have been historically celebrated can be traced back to Saturnalia. Furthermore, Christians should not be angry at non-Christians for celebrating Christmas from a cultural perspective rather than a religious one, as the traditions associated with Christmas predate its religious origins.
It would be problematic for people to try and remove the religious meaning of Christmas from those who celebrate, but spreading jolliness, merriment and kindness can be observed by non-Christians during the holiday season. Getting a Christmas tree or hanging a wreath on your door is not directly connected to the Bible or Christianity, so these practices and practices like them are not an attempt to appropriate Christian tradition but rather foster a sense of community.
I am not Jewish, but as a child, I was often invited to spend Hanukkah with my friends who were. Despite not being a part of it, I enjoyed learning about their culture and sharing their holiday practices with them. I wish the people who believe Christmas should only be for hardcore Christians could see the beauty of sharing cultures. The holiday season should be a source of joy and inclusion, rather than one of religious and political turmoil.
Jordan Ori is an undeclared sophomore.