Politics & Policy

Always Winter, Never Christmas

Narnia's White Witch is at work on this side of the Wardrobe.

When I recently watched The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my sons, I came to a disturbing conclusion: The White Queen of Narnia has quietly, but effectively, infiltrated this side of the Wardrobe.

Readers of the book and patrons of the film know that the enchanted realm of Narnia, under the tyrannical control of the White Witch, suffered from perpetual winter without Christmas, as the faun Tumnus, laments.

As it gets closer to Dec. 25 on our side of the Wardrobe, few (save some presidential candidates) seem to want to mention Christmas. My suspicion is that the White Witch has assembled an army of civil libertarians, bureaucrats, advertising agencies, department stores, and sometimes grumpy individuals to replace her wolves, dwarves, and magic wands. This time, however, she is not confined to the perils of the childhood imagination; the effects of her efforts cannot be escaped by closing the book.

My sons’ school concerts have been officially dubbed the “Winter Concerts,” as though freezing temperatures, higher heating bills, and roads that need plowing are something to celebrate. Major car manufacturers and other businesses have been spending millions on television to advertise their “Winter Sale,” since long before winter even started.

Of course, for years everyone from politically correct school and government officials, to major retailers, has pushed a “Never Christmas” policy. We’re browbeaten to avoid saying “Christmas” the way that polite society used to avoid the word “sex.” That leaves Christmas standing there like that unmentionable elephant in the middle of the room.

For years, the nation enjoyed the Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington. In the late 1990s, infused with Orwellian overtones, the name was changed to “the Capitol Holiday Tree.” The name “Christmas tree” was restored a couple of years ago, but other cities, such as Boston, have had similar controversies. Please, we’re trying to celebrate Christmas, not nominate a justice to the Supreme Court. Even President Bush felt compelled to send out “holiday” wishes in his Christmas cards one year.

Schools, civic associations, even Boy Scout troops who are usually not prone to the forces of political correctness, have been giving their concerts, plays, and parties that same blandly inoffensive name, “holiday.” Some schools ban songs that mention the reason that “the holiday” is being celebrated, as though fostering ignorance is the best way to educate children. One city, Pittsburgh, through its Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, for a while dubbed this festive time “Sparkle Season,” a designation that would more aptly describe the Fourth of July Weekend. They have since dropped that designation, but they won’t dare mention Christmas.

Stores and suppliers of consumer items — from Target to Land’s End — blatantly seek your money and patronage for Yuletide shopping while insisting on a Never Christmas policy. Even conservative talk shows hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity – who denounce this Never Christmas policy — speak of “holiday shopping” as they hawk the wares of their commercial sponsors. That’s like promoting the World Series without mentioning baseball. “We hope you will join us for our coverage of this exciting October sporting event.”

The only time that one is allowed to mention the holiday that falls on Dec. 25 is during summers, when some businesses have “Christmas in July” sales.

Some people argue that “cultural sensitivity” and “desire for inclusion,” rather than a nefarious Narnian plot, explain these stealth greetings as Noel nears. “Not everyone celebrates Christmas and some are offended by Christmas greetings,” people note, often sharply. Yes, I suppose that more than 90-percent is not truly “everyone,” and the five percent who object to Christmas greetings — according to one survey — do constitute “some,” but I don’t buy that explanation.

After all, no one warns against wishing “Happy Mother’s Day” or “Happy Father’s Day” to avoid offending orphans or children of Joan Crawford. We’re not urged to de-emphasize Valentine ’s Day out of sensitivity to the lovelorn, or to forego Thanksgiving greetings to spare the feelings of vegetarians or ingrates. And I have never heard anyone counsel me against wishing “Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” out of concern for that vast unfortunate majority who — through no fault of their own — are not Irish.

If we really want to be multicultural, we should proudly proclaim every holiday by name and celebrate the diversity of each one, not obscure them all. I can’t entirely blame the big culprits because I have learned that even ordinary individuals can work against the simple, civil practice of wishing Merry Christmas. One Dec. 24 a cashier politely wished me “Happy Holiday.” When I teasingly said that he was allowed to say “Merry Christmas” on Christmas Eve, he told me that he had earlier been scolded by another customer for doing just that. As Tumnus observed about the White Witch: “The whole wood is full of her spies. Even some of the trees are on her side” — probably holiday trees.

In short, the White Queen has penetrated this side of the Wardrobe, and threatens to make it always winter and never Christmas.

Lest you think I exaggerate, have you noticed how long our winters have been getting lately?

 – Pete Sheehan is senior reporter for The Long Island Catholic and a freelance writer living on Long Island, New York.


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