Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On The State Of War On Christmas 2014: Return To Trench Warfare—But Palpable Progress

The War Against Christmas in 2014 is falling into the same pattern it has assumed in recent years: evidence of both elite disdain for the festival—and entrenched popular resistance against those who want to replace Christmas with “holiday.” A school in Massachusetts initially cancelled a visit to see “The Nutcracker,” because the ballet features a Christmas tree on the stage. (The visit was reinstated after parents protested). [School reverses decision to cancel ‘Nutcracker’ trip, by Jennifer Eagan, WHDH.COM, November 21, 2014] Seattle saw traditional Christmas decorations replaced with monkeys and Christmas trees renamed “glow cones.” The War against Christmas spread to France, with French atheists taking to the courts to remove a crèche from the city hall in La-Roche-sur-Yon—a town in the Vendee, the part of France that heroically rose up rather than submit to the French Revolution’s plan to suppress Christianity. And in Montgomery County, Maryland, the school board responded to a request from Moslem parents to add a reference to an Islamic holiday to the school calendar by eliminating any mention of other religious holidays, including Christmas. This latter event confirmed, once again, the prescient analysis offered by E. V. Kontorovich in 1997: demands by religious minorities for public recognition of non-Christian holidays at Christmas would lead inevitably to the displacement of Christmas.

But perhaps the most egregious instance of the War against Christmas I’ve come across this year so far: an article featured on The Washington Post website on December 18 entitled “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.” WaPo had to go all the way to Australia to find someone who would write this, but on the day I found it Raphael Lataster’s diatribe against the religion that created Western civilization was one of the most popular features at the paper. [Email Lataster.]

Lest anyone wonder why the WaPo had chosen December 18 to cast doubt on the existence of Jesus Christ, the paper illustrated the article with a large photo of the Nativity scene displayed last year in St. Peter’s Square.

Needless to say, the Post doesn’t mark Ramadan by running articles by obscure academics casting doubt on the Koran. Nor does it observe Passover by soliciting articles casting doubt on Moses or the Bible’s account of the Exodus. Such nastiness is reserved for Christian holy days.

This year also saw the customary War against Christmas Denial in full swing. But fortuitously The Scene, Cleveland’s alternative weekly, published photos making it harder to maintain such denials: black and white pictures from Cleveland Christmases past—including pictures of angels used as decorations in 1973 in Higbee’s downtown department store (where A Christmas Story was filmed); pictures of live sheep as part of a Christmas display on downtown’s Public Square in 1954; pictures of a Nativity scene in Public Square in 1963; and, most amazingly, pictures of the Terminal Tower (Cleveland’s tallest building at the time, and the tallest building in America outside of Manhattan until 1964) lighted up in the shape of a cross in 1938, 1957, and 1963. [22 Nostalgic Photos of Downtown Cleveland at Christmastime, December 4, 2014] Needless to say, these days Nativity scenes are rare in public spaces (though one—recently editorially disparaged by The Plain Dealer as “cheesy”—somehow survives on Public Square), angels don’t appear in many department store decorations, sheep aren’t used in many “holiday” displays, and skyscrapers aren’t lighted up as crosses.

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