Let Slip the Reindeer of War

The original title for this was “Ding dong Merrily on oh for fucks sake not this again” but I think that violates WordPress’ character limit.  Every year it gets trotted out.  Every year starting in late November the declaration that there is a war going on is made and people are spurred on to defend their deeply held beliefs or love of the season.  I’ve even seen more secular leaning friends posting that “It is Merry Christmas, if you want to say Hannukah fine, but I’m saying Merry Christmas” as if there has been some sort of law passed that is restricting them from wishing others a Merry Christmas.  Unless its close to December 25th or I know specifically the person celebrates it I don’t say “Merry Christmas”.   Mainly because I think ANYONE saying anything in regards any festival 5 weeks before is a bit silly.

Now of course, if I were in America I may start with “Happy Holidays” early because of things like Thanksgiving, but forgive me as this will be (for the most part) pretty UK centric.

Of course you can say Merry Christmas.  Of course you can put up a Christmas Tree and not a Holiday tree- in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard ANYONE ever refer to it as a Holiday tree outside of scare mongering “War on Christmas” news articles.  The main reason for this is probably because Holiday Tree sounds ri-god-damn-diculous.

But every year, without fail, we will hear about the War on Christmas.  Some people may even have some anecdote that their kids school is foregoing a Nativity this year so as not to offend (usually) Muslims.  I wont deny there may well be some schools who forego the traditional Nativity but I’ve never seen an actual official communication or statement from officials that their decision to do something difference is to avoid offence.  I have heard plenty of anecdotes though.  Could some places do away with them because they think they may cause offence?  Sure.  But that’s usually an incredible over reaction if it is ever done, and usually, a bit of digging will show that’s not the case.  As an atheist and secularist I don’t see any issue with staging a Nativity.  There are many festivals during the winter months, many around late December but lets face it, Christmas is the biggest.

Christmas is a commercial success.  Many non Christians celebrate it, and many Christians don’t celebrate it.  Christmas day is the only publicly recognised holiday at this time of year (until the awesome New years later), so of course many non Christians will partake in some form of celebration, it has become incredibly secularised.   Christmas these days is about as Christian as, well, Easter really.  Neither have their origins in Christianity, both were usurped by early Christians knocking their Pagan competition out of the way.  Placing Christmas at the time it is nothing more than a marketing decision, so really, the commercialisation of it in recent years just plays into its origins.  The date of December 25th was arbitrary as far as a Jesus Birthday goes, though of course well thought out by the early church in order to make conversion from Paganism easier.  And boy did it work.  But Christmas is still symbolically Christs Birthday, even if scholars simply don’t know what date he was born – and of course that also depends on who or what we mean by “Jesus”.  Even Jesus Mythers tend to accept there was likely a first century Rabbi who some of Christianity was at least based on even if they don’t accept a “historical Christ” in the strictest sense.  But really, as it is pretty well accepted by anyone who can read that Jesus was not born on December 25th (Both March and September are contenders) then we must still accept it as a symbolic date- like the Queens Second Birthday, or Hobbits Second Breakfast.

Celebrate Christmas, or don’t.  It is up to you, but we really need to stamp out this nonsense of The War on Christmas.  Because there is none.  Zip, nada, zilch.  There may be some disgruntled people (both Christian and non) that will kick up a fuss and whine but few people of any worth listening to are calling for Christmas to be banned.

Some towns in the UK will put up “Seasons Greetings” lights and banners.  This has caused people to complain and whine when they really shouldn’t- it isn’t persecuting Christians, it is acknowledging that we are a multi cultural society of many different types and most of us will be celebrating something, in some way during the month of December.  Be that Hannukah, Kwanza, Yule, the Solstice, religious or secular Christmas, by placing Happy Holidays or Seasons greetings we are simply acknowledging that we are not selfish dicks that think everything revolves around us.  Considering the celebrations and lights, and decorations for the season go up from late November (earlier in some places) and last throughout December it is pretty fair and accurate to say “Seasons Greetings”.  Demanding that we ONLY say Merry Christmas actually makes YOU the ignorant bigot.  Simmer down, celebrate Christmas and let others celebrate their festivals and events.  No one is going to stop you.  You CAN say Merry Christmas, you CAN call it a Christmas Tree.  You CAN put the CHRIST in Christmas if you want.  And the town hall having “Seasons Greetings” lights isn’t an affront to that, an attempt to ban Christmas or appease minorities.  It is an attempt to not be selfish and to acknowledge that Jesus really isn’t the reason for the season, he’s just one of the many aspects of it.

But these myths simply wont stop.  In the early 2000s in the UK we were flabbergasted to discover that Birmingham were trying to get rid of Christmas by calling it Winterval.  There was outcry, uproar and newspaper headlines that continued for years.  It was only recently these newspapers held up their hands and said “yeah, we were wrong”.  And boy were they.  You see Birmingham Council DID instigate a Winterval event.  They did use the phrase.  Do you know why?  Dirty dirty capitalism.  Throughout the winter months, in order to encourage more shopping, Birmingham Council created Winterval.  A four month (ish) long marketing plan to get people to shop.  That’s it.  Winterval was a way of encouraging people into their new shiny shopping centre.  It was absolutely not an attempt to overthrow Christmas.

But what about Christmas carols and Nativities being banned?  Nope.  What tends to happen is schools will try out different things, most likely because after decades of putting children in tea-towel head scarves and the poor kid who always has to be second donkey, they want to try something else.  Kids are at primary school for about 6 years, it seems reasonable the school would want to vary what the kids do and see.  But even if that isn’t the reason, there is still nothing nefarious about it.  Personally I find the nativity soul crushingly dull, and historically inaccurate to the degree that I want sit in the museum, rocking backward and forwards whilst I weep.

But regardless of my own dislike of the story, I would still never call for a ban on it and no one of any merit is doing so.  Even when we hear tales of Christmas Carols being altered so as to not offend Muslims, or Atheists or whichever group isn’t liked by the Christian Right this week, a deeper investigation usually shows these claims to be untrue.  My favourite story that I read in a physical paper and is sadly lost to the sands of time / alternate loo roll, was about a young father furious that the school had changed the lyrics to a Christmas Carol his children were going to sing and he was livid because it was a mockery to Christmas and his Christian beliefs.  Turns out the school had indeed changed the lyrics.  They’d changed them back to the original lyrics.

Ultimately the War on Christmas is a scaremongering technique used mainly by the right- wing media because fuck it.  It gets people riled up, it gets them angry, and that sells more newspapers.  If the Daily Mail led with “There’s no war on Christmas, everyone gets along fine” there would be very few sales.

Ultimately I wont be “celebrating” Christmas this year.  I’m a 30 year old single man with no kids and my family dotted around the UK, since my Gran died I haven’t been a big fan of Christmas and this will be my first Christmas spent alone, by myself, on my tod – but you know what?  That doesn’t bother me.  In fact I’m sort of looking forward to it – I will have whisky and the Doctor Who Christmas Special.  In fact, I am campaigning for Christmas to have its name changed- I think we can all get behind Doctor-Mas.

Merry, happy Whatever.

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