I got one of those annoying pop e-mails recently. You know; the kind that are either some kind of tacky joke or some kind of cute, shallow wisdom. Fortunately I don’t get many, so please don’t send me any as I usually just delete them without looking at them.
This one was entitled “This is a Christmas Tree”, and I just knew what it probably was pitching as the title is a bit transparent.
It began with a series of Christmas Tree pictures, each with the catch phrase underneath it. Then it helpfully points out to us that “This is not a Holiday Tree”, “This is not a Hunakkah bush”, etc., -with smaller text stating the inevitable “This is not an Allah plant”, thus betraying the true nature of the message’s creator. It ends by proclaiming that it is a Merry Christmas, not a Happy Holiday.
The implicit message is clearly that people who celebrate Christmas object to the people who use a more neutral “Happy Holidays” greeting. They feel that the spirit of Christmas as it is understood as the Mass of Christ is being diminished and even under attack. You see this sentiment more in the U.S. (although I’ve heard it from Canadians), where they complain that our schools are no longer able to have Christmas events and buildings can’t have Christmas decorations. Recently there was a controversy here in York Region where a school bus driver was ordered to remove a hanging Christmas decoration from her bus.
This is ironic for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, looking at the specific content of this e-mail, choosing a Christmas tree as the focus of the objection is just misinformed. To the best of my knowledge there wasn’t a Christmas tree within a thousand miles of the Middle East on the night that Jesus was supposedly born. Nor did Santa Claus guide the wise men to the manger. Evergreen boughs, Christmas trees and things like mistletoe have nothing to do with Christmas, Mass or Jesus. They were all symbols co-opted from existing Pagan rituals that celebrated the Winter Solstice. Trees with lights on them symbolized the return of the sun as the days began to get longer rather than shorter. Evergreens were the symbol of sustaining life when everything else seemed to die in the winters of the north. Using the Christmas tree to make a point about the sanctity of Christmas is ironic to say the least and demonstrates a considerable degree of shallow thinking. Looking deeper, one easily sees the thinly veiled attacks on and intolerance of other religions such as Islam, or of secular beliefs. Once again it is ironic that they chose the Christmas tree, which is an excellent symbol of the systematic eradication and persecution of rival religions by Christianity when it swept over Northern Europe.
Secondly, the issue of Christmas being attacked is bogus. Right now in the U.S. Obama is under attack by certain Republican opportunistic fear mongers, claiming that there is a war on Christmas, hoping that this will get a knee jerk response from less intelligent right wingers (of which there are many, it seems). This is nonsense. A fabrication. Just as it is nonsense that schools are not allowed to celebrate Christmas. The school I taught in for the past 15 years, and every school I taught in before that (including one in a heavily Jewish area) had Christmas trees, parties and even gathered in the Gym to sing carols. Often, these celebrations were accompanied by the inclusion of other faiths which celebrate at the same time as well. I’m sure that many Christians would object to this, but why? It’s a school. Educating students to a broader perspective of the world is certainly a worthy goal. Many might claim that any celebration should be excluded from school as that is not the function of a school, but in spite of my many beliefs of the hypocrisy of Christmas, I don’t really believe that to be necessary, and most schools don’t either. If there is any concern about the expression of Christmas in schools, it is usually in areas with a large component of multiculturalism where a certain amount of tact and consideration is only polite. As far as the bus driver goes, a school bus is a workplace. Do you really want decorations hanging in a school bus either obstructing the driver’s view or causing a distraction. There are broader rules about hanging personal items in a bus, or in any workplace, beyond the scope of Christmas. What about saints or other deities? What about political posters? But because having Christmas decorations removed feeds the bogus “war on Christmas”, it got medial traction.
Thirdly, the core of Christmas for many people may be the birth of Christ, but Christmas has grown far beyond that. Most of the expressions of Christmas such as cards, egg nog and holiday shopping have little to do with the religious side of Christmas. In fact, I would say that a large portion, if not a majority, of people who “celebrate” Christmas don’t even go to church as part of their celebration. (And a lot that do, go twice a year.) I know atheists and people of various non-Christian religions, who get into the Christmas spirit. Wishing those people a “Happy Holidays” is appropriate, considerate and in no ways diminishes “Merry Christmas”. To say that it does is just untrue. To object to people saying “Happy Holidays” is the height of arrogance, as it is a minority of people trying to foist their ideas on a majority of people, which of course the Christian Right loves to do. Their righteousness demands that everybody be exactly like them, because God likes them best. To complain about “Happy Holidays” is petty and arrogant. What gives anyone the right to dictate how another person can express celebration, especially when that expression carries no offense? The fact of the matter is that there are several celebrations happening, not only including other religions observances, but New Years as well. But these particular Christians have tunnel vision, egocentrically wanting the spotlight to be on them and them alone.
A lot to say about a cheesy little e-mail, but I felt that in its simplicity it really presented the underbelly of an intellectually bankrupt idea.