The War on Christmas

Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned Christmas.

The War on Christmas | BCBusiness

Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned Christmas.

It seems that every year the war on Christmas starts earlier. We’re not even done with the Halloween stuff when the outpouring of seasonal outrage begins. This year it started way back in September with harrumphing about a new version of Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit From St. Nicholas (’Twas the night before Christmas . . .”) from Vancouver publisher Pamela McColl. It chops out the line that goes: “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.”

It was a lovely and thoughtful gift from McColl to all those who see the holidays – sorry, I mean the Christmas season – as a chance to blow off steam about atheists, do-gooders and multiculturalists messing with our cherished Christian heritage. Righteous outrage has become an indispensable part of the celebration. It’s right up there with mistletoe and yule logs and all that other stuff surely mentioned in the Bible somewhere. Fie on the politically correct! Santa is making his list and checking it twice, and politicians who send out “Happy Holidays” cards will feel his reindeer-driven wrath. Check for naughty-list updates in the National Post.

The pull of Christmas tradition, whether it’s a nativity scene or a pipe-puffing St. Nick, is emotionally powerful. Folks get their dander up. For media outlets, that kind of reaction is catnip. Thus, every time the baby Jesus is kidnapped from his manger and the wise men and shepherds are replaced with elves and plastic snowflakes, headlines are sure to follow. Retailers aren’t the only ones with Christmas product to sell.

The reality is that few non-Christians really care about removing Christian imagery from the season. I enjoy singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” as much as the next heathen. It’s tradition. What puzzles me is the apparent desire – regularly expressed by offended newspaper columnists – to make Christmas strictly a celebration of the birth of Christ. If that’s what you want, it goes beyond putting up a few more nativity scenes. You’ll have to take Christmas off the official calendar.

In Canada, Muslim and Jewish holidays are purely religious in the sense that there’s no public acknowledgement and no statutory holiday status. If you want to celebrate Yom Kippur or Ramadan you’re free to do so on your own time and perhaps with the cooperation of an understanding employer. Is that what these outraged Christians want, a nation of Bob Cratchits, forced to beg a half-day from Ebenezer Scrooge every December 25? Hardly. They want the Christmas we now have, enforced as a statutory holiday by government regulation and established by centuries of Canadian observance, but they want it to be explicitly religious, too. Sorry, Sun News and friends. By securing its place as our primary seasonal celebration Christmas became something more than a religious holiday. Something greater, I’d say. It became a holiday for everyone, albeit one with a lot of traditional Christmas trappings. No need for the Seinfeld celebration of “Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.” Christmas fills that happy role already.

There are even occasional editorial-page letters accusing non-Christians of “stealing” the Christian holiday. As if they have a choice. As the carol says, “This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.” It’s here to stay and non-Christians can hardly ignore it. But if the goal is to enforce belief, you’re talking about a celebration that would be more fitting for Iran or Saudi Arabia. No, Christmas is for all of us. Deal with it, Ezra.

As for the non-smoking Santa, that’s a different issue. I suggest a compromise, with Santa’s benevolent face wreathed in smoke because fireplace cinders set his beard on fire. It’s got to be an occupational hazard for the old guy. That still leaves the issue of seat belts on the sleigh, but we can deal with that next year.