Christmas is coming and, just to keep up traditions, conservatives have been raising battle-cries over the war on Christmas – the claim that American Christians are (in this secular, multicultural age) being denied their God-given rights to “celebrate the holiday loudly and publicly in the way Baby Jesus intended,” as historian Timothy Stanley puts it on CNN.
Christmas and the winter holiday season as we know it acutally are endangered, though not quite in the way conservatives think. Here’s why:
1. There’s a War on Reindeer
At the behest of snowmobilers, Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobiling Association are seeking to have woodland caribou delisted as an endangered species. Caribou have been considered an endangered species since 1984 and, this past November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would preserve 30,010 acres of the Selkirks, mostly in Washington, as a critical habitat for the caribou.
Snowmobilers have been “pleased to see the critical habitat area was scaled back from 375,552 acres the feds had proposed” says the Billings Gazette. The title of the newspaper’s article — “Endangered caribou continue to curtail snowmobiling” — makes it clear who snowmobilers think should have the right to roam free (not endangered caribou).
2. We Can’t Hear The Angels On High Because the Heavens Are Full of Fossil Fuels
Earlier this year, scientists reported on how climate change is adversely affecting mountain meadows as well as contributing to drought at lower elevations. Maybe once we could hear angels on high but in today’s altered climate, the mountains may well not be able to echo their joyous strain in reply.
3. Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum-ing Just Makes Too Much Noise
A Florida man recently shot, and killed, a teenager who was African-American for playing his music too loudly. You have to wonder what “Stand Your Ground” proponents might do if a little drummer boy was drumming too loudly in the neighborhood.
4. White Christmases “Like The Ones We Used To Know” Are Just That
A recent Arctic Report Card has found so many alarming changes — declining amounts of sea ice and snow cover, ice melting in massive amounts in a short period of time, to name a few — that scientists say there is a “new Arctic” that is far from the popular notion of a year-round winter wonderland of ice and snow where Santa keeps his sled and reindeer every night except December 24th.
5. Turtle Doves and Partridges Face Extinction
In the U.K., due to changes in farming methods, the population of turtle doves has fallen by 60 percent and that of partridges by 30 percent in just the past five years. Before too long, these birds will only be known about from the “12 Days of Christmas” carol.
6. Frosty Also Faces Extinction
Climate change has meant warmer winters here in the Northeast with far less snowfall (after a freak Halloween blizzard, there was none last winter in New Jersey where I live). If anyone has a snowman on their lawn these days, it’s either made of wire and electric lights or plastic.
7. Where Did That Star of Bethelem Go?
If smog and pollution form CO2 emissions, coal-burning plants, etc. isn’t make it harder to see what’s in the night sky, light pollution from cities that keep the lights on 24/7 means the Three Magi might have a hard time keeping tracking of that “star with royal beauty bright.”
8. Wagers of War on Christmas Are Actually Waging War on Christ and Christian Symbols
Some conservatives have claimed that using “Xmas” as an abbreviation for “Christmas” is “anti-Jesus” because it is an attempt to indeed “keep Christ out of Christmas” by literally “x-ing” him out. But Xmas = Christmas because the x stands for the Greek letter chi, χ, which is equivalent to the first two letters of “Christ.” If you’re going to wage war on Christmas, please first make sure you know what Xmas is!
9. People From Other Places Are Not Welcome
At a time when some parts of the U.S. are harboring deep anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiments, one suspects an innkeeper would tell a man from somewhere else requesting a room for his heavy-with-child wife by saying: “You know, I’m out of rooms and I’d like to offer you this manger but this town has an ordinance about people sleeping in them and I really have to watch my profit margin so you’ll just have to take your chances out there (but we have an anti-sleeping-outside ordinance, keep in mind).” In an age when Christians declare a war on Christmas, charity can only go so far.
10. Gift-Giving Has Become Equated With Spending (Lots of) Money
The blatant commercialization of Christmas for commerce’s sake is a mainstay of the conservatives’ war on Christmas. The excessive, all-out attempts of stores to get you to show holiday spirit by buying, buying and buying do get tiresome. But there are plenty of ways to enact the spirit of giving — a few dollars on top of your grocery bill for the local food bank, a special donation of something really special for a child who has little, making your own gifts — that forego the business of receiving and getting and also don’t involve maxing out your credit card.
11. O Christmas Tree, We Hardly Knew Ye
The prolonged drought that baked the midwestern and southwestern U.S. this year is likely to continue through the winter. It has already killed a number of young trees in Minnesota and Oklahoma. In a few years we may not have to choose between a real or an artificial tree because there won’t be any more of the former.
12. We’ve Turned the Holiday Season Into a Time of Stress
It seems that we hear as much about avoiding holiday stress as about celebrating the holidays. Indeed, I’ve realized I’ve been so worried about wrapping and sending holiday gifts to my family across the country that I forgot how much I enjoyed finding just the right present for my sister and a wonderful set of beginning reader books for my son.
Then my thoughts turned to the Saturnalia, an ancient Roman celebration of the winter solstice occurring on December 25 under the Julian calendar. It was a time of much merriment including an inversion of the social order, with gambling allowed in public and slaves not having to work.
So, with the “merry” in “Merry Christmas” in mind, I have said to myself, the presents will be sent out when they are and it’s ok if they arrive a bit late; they will get there. It is the spirit that counts!
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