Merry ——mas

I consider myself a tolerant bloke. All I ask in return is that you be tolerant of me: please keep Christ in Christmas.

I used to live in the better-than-its-reputation town of Birmingham, England. Birmingham is a marvellously diverse city (Indian baltis, yum!) and has a better track record in race relations than some of the towns up north. So in a sense, the powers that be in Birmingham are doing a good job and I hesitate to criticise them. But, if you are trying to promote racial and cultural harmony you can’t do it at the expense of the majority, or one day their goodwill will run out. Of what do I speak? Birmingham’s annual “Winterfest”. That would be Christmas to you and I, but we can’t call it that for risk of offending those who might also be celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid, Divali or whatever other holidays.


This isn’t even about Christmas as a religious holiday. Santa and Rudolph have put paid to that, and if Christians grumble about the commercialization of Christmas they would do well to look in the mirror (or examine their January credit card bill). But the Christian story does have a place in Christmas and there is no shame in a Nativity here, or a Christmas carol there. Both believing and cultural Christians love Christmas, it is a huge deal, and its public sideline does no-one any favours. (The irony in the case of Birmingham is that I suspect Winterfest is the child of some cardigan-wearing Guardian-reading white cultural Christian. The minorities usually have no problem with Christmas).

There’s a rant at the Telegraph about all of this that outlines numerous absurdities here in the US, including:

– A post-office in Santa Claus, Indiana, whose workers required written permission to say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”

– Schools in New Jersey that cancelled a visit to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and that won’t allow even instrumental renditions of religious carols

– In Massachusetts, the mayor of Somerville issued an apology for accidentally referring to the town “holiday party” as a C——– party

– In Texas, parents were instructed not to bring red and green plates and napkins for the school’s “winter” parties, as red and green are colours with strong Christmas connotations and thus culturally oppressive

This is all done in the name of the “separation of church and state”. But if that is the case why are there Hanukkah candles in the Upper Quad of Johns Hopkins University but nary a Christmas tree to be seen? (Not that I have anything against Hanukkah candles – they’re rather fetching – but 1) Hanukkah is NOT the big deal for Jews that Christmas is for Christians (church-goers or not), and 2) don’t elevate the minority over the majority). Here’s the danger in all this PC silliness:

“Every time some sensitive flower pulls off a legal victory over the school board, who really wins? For the answer to that, look no further than last month’s election results. Forty years of effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicised Christianity in America. By “politicised”, I don’t mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing Silent Night if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: what’s more important? Winning a victory over the kindergarten teacher’s holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?”

In other words, don’t make us ashamed of Christmas, or the silent majority will elect people like George Bush again, and again, and again.

P.S. One final note on this separation of church and state: it is surely not what the Founding Fathers had in mind:

“America’s founders were opposed to the “establishment” of religion, whose meaning is clear enough to any Englishman: the new republic did not want President Washington serving simultaneously as Supreme Governor of the Church of America, or the Bishop of Virginia sitting in the US Senate. Two centuries on, these possibilities are so remote that the “separation” of church and state has dwindled down to threats of legal action over red-and-green party napkins.”

Silly. Silly. Silly.

Merry Christmas, headlife.


5 thoughts on “Merry ——mas

  1. Very nice post. The state of the doctrine of the Separation of Church and State is in such wild disarray these days. Actually, I find it to be a very useful and necessary doctrine, but not in its current use as a tool for the political sanitization of this country’s public life. The minority needs to learn how to tolerate the majority too; people who belong to the majority don’t need to feel ashamed because of that–after all, they had as little control over their birth as did members of the minority. 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="" TITLE="john dot fowles at gmx dot net">john fowles<>


  2. Even as someone who no longer gets anything spiritual out of, say, Christmas, I agree that at some point you just have to give in and let the huge majority have their holiday. However, I’ll comment that some of the anecdotes you noted are probably specious. The NY Times ran a similar opinion piece to yours but addressed some of them. For instance, the NJ school that cancelled Dickens was apparently over a fight about charging admission. The people who wanted to put it on also wanted to charge $5– against school policiy. They wouldn’t relent, so the school canceled it. The Christmas element wasn’t a factor… 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>Lance


  3. I’m bugged by this whole thing – why is it ok to be anti-Christian?? We live in a Christian country, but we’re so scared of being politically correct, that we almost apologise for our faith. This holiday break is done in remembrance of Christ’s birth – not for any other reason. I refuse to say happy holidays, it’s Christmas, so it’s Merry Christmas everyone!! 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="" TITLE="">Rebecca<>


  4. The only problem, Becky, is that in some places– e.g. Baltimore– there acutally are good chances that the person you’re greeting with ‘Merry Christmas’ is Jewish or otherwise doesn’t celebrate the holiday. And while I’m not sure that saying Merry Christmas to a Jew will offend, it does seem presumptuous.

    But yes, Christianity does dominate in this country (the religious right’s claims to be ‘threatened’ by a secular left notwithstanding), so I don’t see much problem in granting an official Christmas holiday (because really, if it weren’t a holiday, 90% of all workers would take off anyhow…), or putting up Christmas-y stuff in public places, etc. 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>Lance


  5. I realize I’m posting on a dead topic here, but wanted to tell you that Governor Schwarzeneggar, when lighting the annual tree at the capitol, said “THIS is a CHRISTMAS tree!” You could probably read the entire story in the archives at
    One of the few things he’s done that I like. 

    <><><><>Posted by<><> <><>< HREF="" TITLE="jangg at lanset dot com">January<>


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