It’s finally the holiday season. Warm drinks, cozy movie nights, huddling around the fire to talk about the War on Christmas. Ah, tradition.
For those who are fortunate enough to not know about this spectacle — first of all, I am so jealous. I’ve also provided an extremely brief primer below.
*If you are familiar, please save yourself from having to take Advil and move on.
[takes a deep breath]
Essentially, the modern day “War on Christmas” began in 2004 with Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. If you don’t know Bill O’R*illy, well, think of an evil human-sized thumb. Like from “Spy Kids.” On his show “The O’Reilly Factor” (note: I can’t believe I have to think about “The O’Reilly Factor” right now) O’Reilly conveyed his belief that America’s most cherished day — Christmas, not Timothée Chalamet’s birthday — was under attack, citing factors such as parades not including Christmas floats, public schools not allowing Christianity in classrooms, etc. etc. You get it. While this “us vs. them” phenomenon is a tale as old as racism, Fox News somehow out-foxed themselves with this declaration.
Let’s fast forward a bit. Despite the majority of U.S. citizens still classifying themselves as Christian and celebrating the holiday, the War on Christmas mentality is alive and kicking. Remember the Starbucks cup incident? Or when Trump announced that people were “saying Merry Christmas again” (as if people ever stopped)? Right on cue, President Biden is already being accused of leaving Christmas behind.
There’s only one problem: Saying there’s a War on Christmas is like saying that Rihanna isn’t successful. It’s just not true.
As part of an American Jewish population of less than 3%, I’ve been hyper aware of Christmas my whole life — especially as it relates to Hanukkah, the holiday closest in time. I remember when I was a kid asking my parents where the Hanukkah section was in Target (it’s there, you just have to look closely). I remember how my friends looked at me funny when I said my family didn’t have a Christmas tree. I remember having to take time off from school while my classmates enjoyed a generous break built around their holiday plans. I’ve met people who don’t even know what Hanukkah is about. My college roommate thought a menorah was something you smoke out of. Even today, I’ve felt guilty for requesting time off from work to celebrate with my family and friends.
So, apologies, but it’s a bit hard for me, your neighborhood Jew, to buy into the notion that there isn’t enough Christmas.
You may think I sound like a grinch. Fair! But I’ve never declared a “War on Hanukkah.” I’ve never reprimanded someone for saying “Merry Christmas” to me instead of “Chag Sameach.” I’ve never demanded that Starbucks create a Hanukkah-inspired drink (but @Starbucks I would absolutely drink it). That would be ridiculous. In fact, the opposite has happened. I’ve grown to truly enjoy Christmastime. I like the music, the decorations, the ambience, the Hallmark movies, the cheerfulness. I’ve enjoyed partaking in Christmas festivities and learning about the story and significance of the holiday from my friends. Also, I tried ham — not bad!
And did I mention how much I like Hallmark movies? Oh, right, I did.
My point is: I believe that there is room to celebrate and appreciate all religions. That diversity isn’t a barrier, it’s for the better. That inclusion should be encouraged, not avoided.
In other words, an increased presence of other holidays in your local Macy’s does not mean that Christmas is being devalued or forgotten. Your Postmates delivery driver saying “Happy Holidays” does not mean that there is a “war.” Inclusivity should never be mistaken for erasure. And if you know someone who thinks that way, it might be worth asking why.
As a ham-eating Jew who loves fake snow and plays the Kacey Musgraves Christmas album on repeat, I have no problem whatsoever with Christmas — I have a problem with a certain segment of people fabricating a convenient “us vs. them” narrative in order to fearmonger and maintain power.
All this to say, friends don’t let friends buy into the non-existent War on Christmas. But just in case you need some back-up, I’ve created some fake ads to help you make your case.