Every December, Fox News and its ilk is up in arms about the alleged “War on Christmas.” Most readers here are aware that the “keeping the Christ in Christmas” perspective is an extremely historically narrow view.
What many others, secular folk included, forget, is that it is also quite narrow-minded to assume that everyone should care about Christmas.
The battle over Christmas is everywhere at this time of year. Pervasive signs declare Jesus to be “the reason for the season.” People post on social media sites insisting that they are going to say “Merry Christmas” to everyone regardless of what they deign, condescendingly, to be “political correctness.” The aforementioned Christian conservatives are angry over what they perceive as an encroachment onto their traditions and culture.
On the other side, secular folk remind the religious that Christmas, as it currently exists in the United States, is an amalgamation of many traditions from many cultures and religions. Alongside that, there also seems to be a trend among some of the more prominent voices to vehemently protest that Christmas is for the secular, too, since it is not necessarily a Christian holiday.
Although it is true that Christmas does have its roots in non-Christian practices and is now more American than anything else, there is one thing that unites its patchwork history: whatever is not from Christianity tends to come from a European culture, and not everyone is invested in observing historically European celebrations.
Furthermore, not all Americans share a nostalgia for Christmas. If you are secular and your family has celebrated Christmas your whole life, you would have a reason to battle believers over whether or not your observation of the holiday were valid. You would have nostalgia related to decorating the tree, drinking eggnog, signing carols, exchanging presents, and so on. If, on the other hand, you have never celebrated Christmas, you don’t really have a stake in whether or not your celebrating it is considered valid by others. The Christmas season is a time of year where everyone is preoccupied with something that doesn’t concern you, and the actual day of Christmas is the most boring day of the year, since everything is closed and everyone is busy with their family gatherings.
By all means, it makes sense to educate people about the true origins of Christmas and to allow for those who wish to partake in it to do so. It is a fallacy, however, to assume that everyone cares about claiming Christmas for the secular. For those of us who grew up celebrating other holidays (or none at all), saying “Merry Christmas” and assuming that we are invested in the squabbling over who is permitted to legitimately participate in it is untrue at best and presumptuous at worst.
For the record, I personally consider myself a Christmas tourist. I know people who celebrate it and have given people in that category Christmas gifts for years. This year, as I did for the past two years, I’m attending a Christmas celebration that I intend to thoroughly enjoy. Just as many Western tourists participate in foreign festivals and holidays when abroad without considering themselves native participants, I can take in the exotic (to me) rituals, food, and customs without saying that I celebrate Christmas. Just as it takes nothing away from my Eid celebrations with my family to know that others do not participate, my lack of investment in Christmas delegitimizes no one’s celebrations.
Happy holidays, everyone!