December is not even half over, and already the war on Christmas has started. Out in the Red State of Colorado, where traditional culture supposedly thrives, the city of Denver has waded into a little cultural gunplay that is attracting national attention.
But Denver is not the only battlefield. Increasingly it looks like Christmas may be pitched in the same trashcan as the Confederate Flag.
In Denver, local merchants have for years sponsored a pallid festival called the “Parade of Lights,” which sported Santa Claus but no Christian images. The “mood,” as the New York Times described it last week, “was bouncy, commercial and determinedly secular.” The Parade “shunned politics and anything remotely smacking of controversy, including openly religious Christmas themes that might offend.” (Well, not entirely.) [A Question of Faith for a Holiday Parade, By Kirk Johnson, December 6, 2004]
But perhaps most interesting of all is that nowhere in the entire New York Times story, despite several references to “the controversy,”is a single person or group identified who actually admits to being offended by religious imagery.
The people who were offended were local Christian groups fed up with the absolute refusal of local businessmen to mention religion at all. This year the Faith Bible Chapel sought permission to run a float in the Parade of Lights that carried explicit religious themes with a choir singing hymns and carols.
Michael Krikorian, [Send him mail] a spokesman for the Downtown Denver Partnership, which sponsors the parade, says they don’t allow “direct religious themes,” and that includes “Merry Christmas”signs and singing or playing traditional Christmas hymns.
“We want to avoid that specific religious message out of respect for other religions in the region,” Mr. Krikorian smirks. “It could be construed as disrespectful to other people who enjoy a parade each year.”
But the horror of being misconstrued apparently extends only to Christian themes. The Parade of Lights, as the Rocky Mountain Newsreported, “includes the Two Spirit Society, which honors gay and lesbian American Indians as holy people; a German folk dance group; and performers of the Lion Dance, a Chinese New Year tradition ‘meant to chase away evil spirits and welcome good luck and good fortune for the year.’” [Parade prohibition puzzles preacher, By Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News, December 1, 2004]
Nevertheless, denied permission to chase away the evil spirits of their choice, “hundreds” of Denver area Christians showed up on the sidewalks anyway and sang “carols about mangers, shepherds and holy nights, handed out hot chocolate and spoke of their faith.”
“This was always just supposed to be a cutesy parade, for the kids,” says Jim Basey, president of the Downtown Denver Partnership.“The purpose was to get bodies downtown.” No offensiveness for Mr. Basey.
Denver is not the only city to enjoy a little Christmas cultural warfare. The Washington Times reports that the mayor of Somerville, Mass. [Send him mail] as issued a public apology for “mistakenly” calling the local “holiday party” a “Christmas party,” while “School districts in Florida and New Jersey have banned Christmas carols altogether, and an ‘all-inclusive’ holiday song program at a Chicago-area elementary school included Jewish and Jamaican songs, but no Christmas carols.”
Christmas, to be fair, is not an exclusively religious holiday, though Christians are entirely right to insist on preserving that meaning among others. It’s a celebration that has been around so long it has acquired non-religious meanings as well, but meanings that go well beyond Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.
It’s a festival that comes from the heart of the traditional West, which is why music, literature, films and common social customs center around it so much.
At least some of the people who want to abolish it are not intentionally anti-Western. They’re people who have simply disengaged themselves from their own civilization and are entirely indifferent as to whether it survives or not.