The United States has often found itself locked in wars where there is no easy or apparent way out. As the world's police force, we have flown B-12 bombers into Vietnam and invaded countries in the Middle East in the name of protecting America's ideals of freedom. These are rightly called wars unlike a certain domestic disagreement, which has been blown out of proportion and mislabeled. As December approaches, I am here to tell you there is no such thing as a "War on Christmas."
The "War on Christmas" is a narrative peddled by conservative commentators in the media. They believe Christmas is under attack from businesses and local governments that embrace a more secular approach to Dec. 25. Offensives in this "war" are as minor as advertisements that say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," cities referring to "holiday trees" instead of "Christmas trees" and red cups instead of cups with the Nativity on them, who knows.
The logic behind the "War on Christmas" is best put by one of its most vocal mouthpieces, ex-Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly.
According to Time magazine, O'Reilly said, "I think it's all part of the secular progressive agenda … to get Christianity and spirituality out of the public sphere."
Christianity in America is not going anywhere anytime soon. According to the Pew Research Center, 70.6% of Americans identify as Christian. Worried about the remaining Americans? According to a study from Pew Research cited by JP Sottile with The Guardian, 80% of non-Christians celebrate Christmas. The Americans that O'Reilly is most concerned with already overwhelmingly celebrate the holiday.
In recent years, you have probably heard the discourse about the design of the Starbucks Christmas themed cups. In November 2015, Starbucks introduced cups that were solid red and lacked the Christmas symbols, such as reindeer or snowflakes, of years previous. The design of the cops spread over social media like wildfire. In 2015, Donald Trump suggested a boycott of Starbucks. According to Jenna Johnson with the Washington Post, Trump was hosting a Starbucks in Trump Tower at the same time, funnily enough.
I believe the Starbucks cups, instead of an attack in the "War on Christmas," better represent the wider commercialization of Christmas. While Americans may not be able to decide on whether to say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas," this is one thing they can agree on. According to the same study cited earlier in The Guardian, "Americans least favorite part of Christmas is commercialism and materialism."
Corporations capitalize on the gift-giving guilt of consumers during the holiday season, as if the average American has ever woken up to a new car with a red bow in their driveway on Christmas morning. Black Friday has become a feeding frenzy of online deal windows and viral videos of brawls in an otherwise empty department store. Starbucks has not gone into hiding since the cup controversy either. I recently saw an advertisement which put their new "Merry Coffee" cups front and center. It seems as if Starbucks has taken a page from Trump himself. Controversy can be good business.
To be fair, Starbucks, like many companies, is trying to be inclusive to all religions during the months of November and December. The "War on Christmas" strays far away from the holiday spirit. The holiday spirit is what allows us to forget about work to spend time with family. It is what allows us to give even when we have little ourselves, and it is what makes the holidays such a special time of the year. Regardless of religious affiliation, Americans should be able to come together during the holidays and love one another. "Happy Holidays" is an open invitation to a part of the holiday spirit.
Businesses and communities may feel like they need a "Happy Holidays" approach to this time of the year. Despite this, talking heads on Fox News will continue to forge the narrative that Christmas is dying in America.
I think you should say whatever makes you comfortable, whether it is "Merry Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah," "Happy Kwanzaa" or "Happy Holidays." When someone says a holiday greeting I do not hear often, I feel like I am sharing a few of their holiday traditions with them. It is a gentle reminder of America as a melting pot. It is also an embrace of multiculturalism, being the ceasefire "War on Christmas" needs.