Why The “War on Christmas” Isn’t That Big This Year

Ken AshfordWar On ChristmasLeave a Comment

Here it is — December 1 — and you are hearing almost NOTHING about the "War on Christmas".  What gives.

Sam Summers, a social psychologist at Tufts University*, has the answer:

According to recent reports, the "War on Christmas" may be in its final throes, and contrary to the fears of many, Christmas is winning. 

In fact, one of the groups that has lobbied most vocally on this issue, the American Family Association, faced a challenge this year even finding a Public Retail Enemy #1 to boycott. Indeed, only 8 stores remain on their 2010 "Companies against Christmas" list, headed by Dick's Sporting Goods. And what was Dick's heinous crime? An on-line collection referred to generically as the "Holiday Shop," which failed to make use of Christmas-specific nomenclature.

Oh, wait a minute… scratch that… Dick's has announced that as of November 28th, they'll be rolling out their "Christmas 2010" advertising campaign. And already today, on their official website, the "Holiday Store" is no more.

Phew. Boycott averted. Make that just 7 stores left to raise arms together in the increasingly lonely offensive being mounted against all that is righteous and good.

Yup.  There's not much of a War on Christmas this year because the Christ forces have won.

But I like what Dr. Summers continues to say:

Taking a step back, this whole notion of the "War on Christmas" reflects an interesting psychology underlying victimhood. Ever notice that people get pretty territorial when it comes to their own group's role as victims? I've heard many Jews bristle at the application of the term "Holocaust" to other examples of genocide. Same goes for the resistance of some African-Americans to recognize, say, the current same-sex marriage movement as a matter of civil rights. It seems that we often view victimization as a zero-sum game: more for you means less for me.

Now keep in mind, I'm not equating feelings about genocide, slavery, or institutionalized racism to the Christmas debate. But these examples certainly illustrate how defensive we can be when thinking about our own group's misfortunes. And in recent years, we've reached the point where the traditionally empowered majority wants to stake its claim to a piece of this victimhood pie as well.  Woe is me, just as much as it is you, the argument seems to go.

This all ties into to the origins of the "War on Christmas" idea. It's an effort–this time employed by factions of the majority group–to say, hey, you may think you've got problems, but so do we! By claiming victim status, we not only draw attention to our priorities and preferences, but we also give ourselves a ready-made excuse the next time we want to oppose or refute a claim of bias by other groups. As in, tough luck; we all get the short end of the stick sometimes, so deal with it.

Sure, in previous years some companies went overboard in their efforts at inclusion: I mean, really, why call it a holiday tree when we all know it's a Christmas tree? But still, what is there about a generic "Happy Holidays" that could possibly offend anyone? Or would, in any way, infringe upon people's ability to enjoy Christmas? In the past few years, have there really been that many conversations ending with, "Kids, I'm sorry to say we can't have Christmas this year–the grocery store receipt only saysWishing You a Happy Holiday Season"?

Of course not. Freedom of religion or the right to celebrate as you see fit have never been the issues here. After all, for years my family (and millions of others who don't celebrate Christmas) have had perfectly joyous celebrations of our own winter holidays without having the names of those occasions spelled out for us in store mailers, billboards, and websites.

50928-40681 You see, if this movement were really about restoring the importance and meaning of Christmas, then who in their right minds would ever couch it in the parlance of religious "war"? Nothing like a good military allusion to conjure up the true spirit of Christmas, right?

No, the "War on Christmas" has never been about religious freedom, individual rights, or even the supposed scourge of political correctness. Rather, it's just an attempt to get attention, jockey for victimhood, and make sure that other groups aren't passing yours by. The ability to celebrate as you and your loved ones wish to celebrate has never been at issue–unless your family had a tradition of meeting for Midnight Mass at Dick's Sporting Goods.

Yup.  So maybe it is a good thing that the "War on Christmas" has come to an end.  Now we won't have to here whiny religious organizations complain about how oppressed they are when they have to endure the degrading "Happy Holidays" banners at Walmart.

* I majored in social psychology at Tufts University, so I'm happy to throw this over to a social psychologist at Tufts University


Perhaps I spoke too soon:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Tuesday that he won't participate in Tulsa's Holiday Parade of Lights until organizers put "Christ" back in the event's title. 

"Last year, the forces of political correctness removed the word 'Christmas' and replaced it with 'Holiday' instead," the Oklahoma Republican said. "I am deeply saddened and disappointed by this change." 

Inhofe, who was Tulsa's mayor from 1978 to 1984, said he had participated in the parade annually, riding a horse as his children and grandchildren watched. 

"I did not do so last year because I'm not going to ride in a Christmas parade that doesn't recognize Christmas," he said. "I am hopeful that the good people of Tulsa and the city's leadership will demand a correction to this shameful attempt to take Christ, the true reason for our celebration, out of the parade's title. Until the parade is again named the Christmas Parade of Lights, I will not participate."