Christmas means different things to different people. For Catholics and Christians, the meaning of Christmas centers around the celebration of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But for people of other faiths (and those who do not profess any faith at all), Christmas is still a reason to celebrate. After all, it’s a national Canadian holiday. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t want to share in the peace, joy, and goodwill associated with Jesus’ coming, even if they don’t share our belief in Jesus’ Divinity. St. Nicholas has morphed into Santa Claus for some, but the tradition of giving each other gifts at Christmas has become a mainstay in Canadian culture. Despite the diversity of our beliefs, children still go to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in their head, and the jingling of bells and the blanket of white snow outside their door hints that it won’t be long before Santa’s reindeer take to the sky.
Yet despite all these traditions, there are those who would keep the celebration of Christmas out of the public place. They object to calling Christmas trees what they actually are – Christmas trees! And it’s no longer politically correct to wish someone “Merry Christmas,” or to send out invitations for the annual office Christmas Party. Those who object to these customs claim that by taking Christ out of Christmas, they are being more inclusive – that Canada is a multicultural nation and we need to be more sensitive to the beliefs of others. But it seems ironic that this version of multiculturalism would suppress the voice of the faith held by the majority of its citizens. I would argue that if we can’t say “Merry Christmas,” then multiculturalism has failed.
It isn’t the first time in history that there have been attempts to suppress the celebration of Christmas as a religious holiday. One of the most recent examples took place in Nazi Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Joe Perry is an associate professor of modern European and German history at Georgia State University and the author of the book, Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History. He writes, “One of the most striking features of private celebration in the Nazi period was the redefinition of Christmas as a neo-pagan, Nordic celebration. Rather than focus on the holiday’s religious origins the Nazi version celebrated the supposed heritage of the Aryan race, the label Nazis gave to ‘racially acceptable’ members of the German racial state. According to Nazi intellectuals, cherished holiday traditions drew on winter solstice rituals practiced by ‘Germanic’ tribes before the arrival of Christianity. Lighting candles on the Christmas tree, for example, recalled pagan desires for the ‘return of light’ after the shortest day of the year. …
Because Nazi ideologues saw organized religion as an enemy of the totalitarian state, propagandists sought to deemphasize – or eliminate altogether – the Christian aspects of the holiday. Official celebrations might mention a supreme being, but they more prominently featured solstice and ‘light’ rituals that supposedly captured the holiday’s pagan origins. …
Open anti-Semitism … cropped up at Christmastime. Many would boycott Jewish-owned department stores. And the front cover of a 1935 mail order Christmas catalog, which pictured a fair-haired mother wrapping Christmas presents, included a sticker assuring customers that ‘the department store has been taken over by an Aryan!’ In Nazi Germany, even shopping for a gift could naturalize anti-Semitism and reinforce the ‘social death’ of Jews in the Third Reich. The message was clear: only ‘Aryans’ could participate in the celebration.”1
Christians are the new kids on the block when it comes to religious discrimination. Although we are considered insensitive if we wish others a “Merry Christmas,” it’s still fine for people of other faiths and cultures to greet others with “Happy Kwanzaa” or “Happy Diwali.” Jewish people still wish each other a “Happy Hanukkah,” and they haven’t been asked to refer to the menorah as a ‘holiday candelabra’ – at least not yet. But “Christmas Concerts” are now referred to as ‘Holiday Celebrations’, and ‘Christmas Vacation’ has become the annual ‘Winter Break’. But perhaps I’m just splitting hairs. Do words really matter?
According to Dennis Prager, a Jewish man living in the United States, words do, indeed, matter very much. “Christmas is not a religious holy day for me,” he said. “But I’m an American, and Christmas is a national holiday in my country. It is, therefore, my holiday – though not my holy day – as much as it is for my fellow Americans who are Christian. That’s why it’s not surprising that it was an American Jew, Irving Berlin, who wrote ‘White Christmas’, one of America’s most popular Christmas songs. In fact, according to a Jewish musician writing in the New York Times, ‘Almost all the most popular Christmas songs were written by Jews’. Apparently all these American Jews felt quite included by Christmas! By not wishing me a Merry Christmas, you are not being inclusive. You are excluding me from one of my nation’s national holidays.
But even if Christmas were not a national holiday, I would want pilots to wish their passengers “Merry Christmas,” companies to have Christmas parties, and schools to continue to have Christmas vacations. Just because I don’t personally celebrate Christmas, why would I want to drop the word “Christmas” when the holiday is celebrated by 90 percent of my fellow Americans? It borders on the misanthropic, not to mention the mean-spirited, to want to deny nearly all of your fellow citizens the joy of having Christmas parties or being wished a “Merry Christmas.” The vast majority of Americans who celebrate Christmas, and who treat non-Christians so well, deserve better.”2
So, in the light of the Christmas spirit, on behalf of all of us at Swords of Truth, I would like to wish you ALL a very blessed and Merry Christmas. May the peace, joy, and love of the Christ Child reign in your hearts and in your homes today and every day in the year to come!
- Sharon van der Sloot
1 Joe Perry, “How the Nazis co-opted Christmas: A History of Propoganda,” (December 24, 2015), Washington Post, available from https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/12/24/how-the-nazis-co-opted-christmas/?utm_term=.83115805584e; Internet; accessed 7 December 2016.
2 Dennis Prager, “Just Say Merry Christmas,” available from https://www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/just-say-merry-christmas; Internet; accessed 7 December 2016.