Early this year, President Donald Trump proclaimed that the “War on Christmas” had finally been won. As a result, the fight over the so-called secularization of Christmas has once again been thrust back into the spotlight. Trump claimed to have “won” this battle through his own campaign against secularization, proclaiming: “Remember the attack on Merry Christmas? They’re not attacking it anymore.”
A push for the inclusion of people of different religions and faiths has been at the heart of the “Happy Holidays” movement. Similarly, freedom of religion is at the core of our nation’s founding ideals. That was one of the main reasons Europeans came to America: they wanted to be free from religious persecution in their home countries. Yet despite the colonists’ aversion to religious suppression, the United States has typically revolved around Christianity and its holidays. This favoritism is deeply rooted within our culture: radio channels are flooded with Christian songs, schools and universities refer to the winter holidays as “Christmas break,” and almost all businesses are closed on this official federal holiday. Interestingly, there’s a stark contrast between the major political parties in terms of preference for holiday greetings. The Pew Research Center found that 54% of Republicans would prefer hearing “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” compared with just 19% of Democrats.
Even though Christmas is still widely ingrained in society, some people still protest a step for the inclusion of other religious groups. The movement for inclusivity has been dubbed the “War on Christmas” and has been proclaimed by Fox News and other conservative organizations as an attack on Christianity itself. In an era in which the overall emphasis on Christmas seems to be declining, some citizens feel that they are being deprived of a tradition that’s at the center of their American identity. Groups even chastised the Obamas about their 2016 holiday card, simply because it stated “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Although the phrase is still actually still inclusive of Christmas, the acknowledgment of the numerous other cultural festivals during December and January is interpreted as an attack on traditional Christian-American values.
The rising concern over something so mundane is unsurprisingly correlated with increasing feelings of nationalism, as well as many white Americans feeling overwhelmed with influxes of immigrants and refugees. Yet this begs the question: is this a matter of attacking Christianity, or simply reflective of the changing demographics of the United States? As ethnographic makeup shifts towards greater diversity, and millennials and younger generations taking roles of political authority, perhaps people’s priorities and tolerances are shifting as well.
A smaller controversy has emerged in recent years about whether Kwanzaa should be celebrated. People, from senators to journalists, have referred to the holiday as “fraudulent” and claimed that it should not be celebrated. However, that ignores the holiday’s purpose: celebrating African-American heritage. It is intended to unify and empower African-Americans around their culture. An attack on Kwanzaa seems to be an attack on the African-American community. As Stacey Patton explains, “What is it about holidays that celebrate something Black that is so problematic?” To claim that Kwanzaa is a fraud of a holiday is to deprive black people of their right to cherish and celebrate their own history.
If people want to celebrate a holiday that they enjoy, taking away their freedom to do so is completely unjust. This method of silencing forcefully imposes one’s system upon another. Even if you believe a certain holiday or religion to be wrong, that still does not justify trying to take an experience away from those who genuinely want to celebrate their traditions. This attempt at superiority should not be tolerated if we want to continue to uphold our ideals. Why should people be excluded just due to their faith? For freedom and for our integrity, we must denounce this attempt to deem certain belief systems as less worthy.