It's a wonderful lie

The war on Christmas doesn’t exist

By SAM FERNANDO
On November 27, 2012

  • Four broad avenues radiate from Niagara Square, one block from a waterfront location once proposed for UB. Image Contributor

The holiday season is upon us, and it wouldn't feel like Christmas without the tree, snow and, of course, war.

Yes, that's right. People still perennially claim there is a "war on Christmas." The phrase has become as traditional as mistletoe and as redundant as Jingle Bells.

In a country where every shopping mall looks as if Santa exploded and every radio station plays non-stop Christmas songs, it's hard to imagine anyone actually believes this. But every year, political commentators like Bill O'Reilly and Christian groups like the American Family Association (AFA) genuinely want people to believe there is, in fact, a war on Christmas.

The United States has fought many wars against many enemies, but Christmas never has and never will be one of them.

The alleged war most likely began in 2002 when New York City banned nativity scene displays in public schools but allowed more subtle symbols like a Christmas tree, a menorah and the star and crescent. This decision was upheld in Skoros v. City of New York (2006).

Since then, any decision Christian groups feel restricts the celebration has been considered an attack on Christmas. These groups claim the attacks are a breach of the First Amendment - our freedom of religion and speech in particular.

I've been a devout Catholic all 21 years of my life. I went to a Catholic elementary school, a Jesuit high school and even spent a semester at a Jesuit university before transferring to UB. In no way does a public school's decision to not display the nativity scene restrict my right to practice my faith.

To clarify, the ruling did not prevent nativity scenes at churches or private property. Religion has and should be kept out of the public sphere as the Constitution dictates. As a Catholic, I choose to go to church and celebrate the birth of Christ. Just because there isn't a nativity scene in the middle of the Student Union doesn't change what I believe or my right to believe it.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a non-profit organization which tries to protect the Constitutional rights of Americans, has pushed for more inclusive phrases like "Happy Holidays" in public places, especially schools.

The AFA has even targeted companies that use the phrase "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," and called for boycotts of these companies until they changed their practices, like they did with Target and Best Buy. The group's website even has a "Naughty or Nice List," which ranks companies on how "Christmas-friendly" they are.

The words "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greeting" should not offend anyone. The companies that use these phrases are just being inclusive to other religious and secular holidays like Hanukah, Kwanzaa, New Years and many others, including Christmas. ACLU never called for a ban on the phrase "Merry Christmas," although O'Reilly and AFA would like you to think they did.

If one of my Jewish friends wished me a "Happy Hanukah," I wouldn't be offended at all. In fact, I would probably wish him or her a "Happy Hanukah" back. By saying this, I wouldn't be attacking Christmas or demeaning Christianity at all.

Religious freedom means more than just the freedom to practice your religion; it implies tolerance as well. Tolerance isn't merely indifference to other religions but having deference for them.

Using more inclusive phrases around the holiday season is nothing short of a business decision that shows tolerance and acceptance of all religions. And as a business, it would be irresponsible not to advertise to everyone and not just those who are celebrating Christmas. This decision certainly would not infringe on my rights as a practicing Catholic.

Political comedian Jon Stewart understands how ridiculous the war on Christmas is. In a debate against Bill O'Reilly he was asked about the war and his response summed up the state of religion in America.

"In this country, I think people have confused not being able to pray everywhere with not being able to pray anywhere," Stewart said. "[People] have confused the loss of absolute power with persecution."

I'm not saying attacks on Christmas don't exist. Like most things in America, there are definitely people who genuinely hate Christmas and go out of their way to antagonize those who celebrate it. But if all it takes to claim a war is for a select few people who dislike something with a passion, then I can claim there is a war on the New York Yankees or a war on vegetables.

No matter what your religion is, the holiday season is about spending time with family and friends and celebrating how grateful you are for all that you have. These claims about a war on Christmas just detract from the true reason for the season.

It's time to make peace with the that the war on Christmas is war that has never existed.

Email: ssf6@buffalo.edu
 


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