The Null Device

The War on Christmas

It's December, Christmas sales are entering their third month, and Britain's right-wing tabloids are full of stories about politically-correct do-gooders banning Christmas to avoid offending minorities. The problem is, further investigation reveals the stories to be utter nonsense. Birmingham hasn't ordered Christmas to be rebranded as "Winterval" (the name was used for a three-month shopping promotion in 1998, and never since), the evil secularist LibDems in Luton haven't replaced it with a Harry Potter festival, and as for the millionaire who was banned from putting up a light display outside his home, that had nothing to do with enforcing secularism and everythign to do with the large illuminated snowmen, amplifiers blaring Christmas songs and increased traffic and crime.

So what's going on here? Well, it looks like the "war on Christmas" is a quite deliberate ploy by a loud minority of religious traditionalists trying to claim more cultural clout than today's largely secular society entitles them to.

"There's something very complicated going on here," says Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. "It has to do with the contest between Christianity and Islam: Christians are becoming very alarmed about the progress they see Islam making in this country, and they fear their own festivals will be overwhelmed. I was doing a phone-in the other day, and everybody who rang in was saying, 'They're banning Christmas!' So I said: 'Who? Where? Who's standing outside a church saying you can't go in? Who's coming and knocking on your door at 6am and asking if there's a nativity set in your house?' It's quite dangerous, I think, to incite this kind of resentment against a perceived enemy."
This year, though, the defenders of Christmas aren't only invoking the fear that nebulous Muslim forces might be about to obliterate Britain's traditional religion. Simultaneously, they have also aligned themselves with Muslim groups, arguing that the real enemy is secularisation. It's a position well-crafted for the historical moment, and for the currently fashionable notion of Britain as comprised of groups defined above all by their faith (even though barely 10% of us regularly attend any kind of religious service).
Unsurprisingly, the War-On-Christmas panic is not indigenously British, but, like many forms of religious chest-beating, imported from the Colonies, in this case, America and its culture war:
Then, last year, the War on Christmas received a massive boost when it exploded on to the American political landscape, thanks primarily to two Fox News anchormen, John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly. Gibson had a vested interest, having just published a book entitled The War On Christmas: How The Liberal Plot To Ban The Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. (A note in the interests of full disclosure: O'Reilly, as I enjoy telling people whenever possible, accused me of "spout[ing] incredible nonsense" earlier this year after I wrote a story about a speech in which he invited al-Qaida to attack the liberal stronghold of San Francisco; previously, he had speculated that the Guardian "might be edited by Osama bin Laden".)
(Btw, has the atheists-are-taking-away-Christmas thing spread to Australia yet? I imagine when it does, the federal government will swing into action, using its expanded powers to come down like a tonne of bricks on any officials daring to take the Christ out of Yule Christmas.)

There are 5 comments on "The War on Christmas":

Posted by: Jody Macgregor Fri Dec 8 23:22:37 2006

I've not seen any nonsense about Christmas being de-Christed in Australia, yet.

There's some interesting analysis of the whole thing at http://andrewrilstone.blogspot.com.

Posted by: Reb Sat Dec 9 00:32:27 2006

Hmmm, see, I don't get this "war on Christmas" thing. I've been saying Happy Holidays for years; I sometimes say it to my Christian family. There is and has been like 3 other major religious festivals this time of year for quite some time! and as a Christian I don't really feel threatened or upset about it, as long as I have the religious freedom to worship and celebrate Christ's birth. *shrugs* I dunno. I just don't feel any sort of Christmas panic.

Posted by: dj Wed Dec 13 06:41:32 2006

Yes, it has arrived here. The usual suspects are bleating on about it.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Wed Dec 13 09:47:52 2006

In other words Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones?

Has our illustrious PM weighed in yet about how Christmas is a true Australian value?

Posted by: dj Thu Dec 14 04:26:00 2006

I'm not sure about Howard, though I have certainly heard him express similar remarks before on radio. Bolt has repeated form on this issue, I'm sure he has no problem in repeating these urban myths for his own purposes.

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