In Dedham, Massachusetts, A Library’s Christmas Tree Makes People “Uncomfortable”

So the board of library trustees and the library director responded to an undisclosed number of complaints by banning the tree, so nobody can enjoy it.

Ever since uber-athiest Madeleine Murray O’Hair’s lawsuit got the Supreme Court to rededicate itself to ensuring that national, state and local governments did not endorse a particular religion in defiance of the Constitution’s establishment cause, there has been a tug of war over how America should celebrate Christmas. Are office Christmas parties “insensitive”? Should elevators play “Joy to the World?” Is the greeting “Merry Christmas!” offensive to someone who isn’t a Christian?

Prior to Mrs. O’Hair’s attack, the balance between religious and secular elements at Christmas time was solid. Schools included traditional Christmas carols in their annual programs without anyone seriously regarding it as pro-Christian propaganda; Bing Crosby was as likely to sing “O Holy Night” as “White Christmas” on his TV Christmas specials. Then the lawsuits started flying over public crèche displays, and otherwise rational people began causing trouble. I remember a smart and generally sensible female executive at an association I worked for in the ’80s making a huge issue out of a “Christmas elves” staff gift exchange mandated by the executive director. She was Jewish, and felt “excluded” by “Christmas elves.” So the gimmick was renamed the “holiday pixies” program. What the heck are “holiday pixies?” Unless she was one, which I doubt, how did that make her feel more “included”? Her successful Christmas protest only managed to put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth and divide the staff, just as the current Christmas nonsense divides the country.

“I was told that, when people, I use the word people, walked in that room, it made them uncomfortable,” branch supervisor Lisa Desmond told WBZ Radio. Desmond posted her disappointment on social media; hundreds of passionate, pro-Christmas tree responses followed. But of course, as we should know by now, this isn’t a decision decided by the majority. The vast, vast majority of Americans enjoy the Christmas season and its traditions. But when dealing with weenies like the library trustees, all that is needed is a vague complAInt about being “offended” or “feeling uncomfortable.” The goal is to bend other to the complainers’ will. Increasingly, this isn’t even much of a challenge.

For more than two decades now, retail outlets have been substituting “holiday” for “Christmas,” trying to avoid lawsuits and controversy. But you can’t win this zero sum game. The result of the tension and cowardice has been to erode a source of happiness and good feelings for the whole culture. There’s a reason why 90% of the U.S., including many Jews, Muslims and agnostics, celebrate Christmas. It is a season that brings families together and encourages us to think about ethical values like love, charity, mercy, peace, caring, and forgiveness. One shouldn’t have to believe in the Christian story of the virgin birth to feel included in such a holiday, which embodies the spirit that Charles Dickens captured so richly in “A Christmas Carol” with barely a hint of religious dogma. The holiday that falls on December 25 is, however, called Christmas, and it is celebrated on that day because that was the date set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

The “war on Christmas” is an extension of the Great Stupid, but this particular strain has been active for a long time. Almost 20 years ago I wrote about a lawsuit against a school system that re-wrote the lyrics of “Silent Night” and removed all mention of the “holy infant.” It was called “Cold in the Night” —no I am NOT making this up. “Silent Night” is in the public domain, however, and its lyrics can be changed at will. The familiar lyrics are themselves the result of a rewrite, because “Silent Night,” lyrics by Joseph Mohr and music by Franz Xaver Gruber, is a German song. Weighing in on this earth-shattering controversy, mercifully-dismissed Fox News bloviator Bill O’Reilly, thundered that “Cold in the Night” was an insult to “Irving Berlin’s lyrics.”

More recently, Salon, the far-left web equivalent of MSNBC, attacked lightly-talented former “Full House” child star Candace Cameron Bure’s new TV Christmas movie, “A Christmas…Present.” Melanie McFarland, Salon‘s TV critic, is an atheist and knee-jerk progressive cant-monger who thinks Christmas is a white supremacy plot, and that Bure is a homophobic bigot. (Bure quit the Hallmark Channel’s stable of B and C actresses who star in “Murder She Wrote” rip-offs and sappy Christmas romances after it announced that its fare would include gay characters.) Why would McFarland review, then, a Bure Christmas movie, which is like me reviewing “The Mitch McConnell Story”? Why, to write things like this…

By golly, does she ever give it to us with a supersized serving of God-stuff, as promised, in her Great American Family film debut ‘Candace Cameron Bure Presents: A Christmas . . . Present.’……it’s a blizzard of poor writing and empty schmaltz devoid of propulsive tension or profound resolution, but with 500 percent more scripture references. The church-going Christian people I know wouldn’t waste their precious Earthly moments on this spiritless mess. You’d find more depth in two hours of white noise.And yet, cosmetically, it is a kind of Christmas movie, one whose target audience seems to be the hypnotized. Nary a scene passes without a sprig of pine or a light. Everybody smiles, and almost constantly.”

Oohh, “God stuff”! Can’t have that!

The compromise position and the ethical position regarding Christmas in America remains where it has always been, at least since the mid-1960s. The holiday is Christmas. Calling it so doesn’t “exclude” anyone unless they choose to feel excluded, for Christmas has a unique dual identity as a religious and secular holiday that allows it to be part of anyone’s holiday season. This means that it is indeed a National Christmas Tree and not a “Holiday Tree.” It also means that if people choose to be silly about non-issues like the words of “Silent Night,” they should be allowed to, as long as they aren’t obnoxious and gratuitously mean spirited like Scrooge or Melanie McFarland. The religious and secular holidays can only co-exist if each respects the other.

Nobody is going to win the Christmas war, but like all wars, it risks doing real damage to our culture, and to a wonderful tradition that makes life magical for children and adults alike. It is time to back off, stop being jerks, call a truce, have some eggnog, and sing “Stille Nacht.”

10 thoughts on “In Dedham, Massachusetts, A Library’s Christmas Tree Makes People “Uncomfortable”

  1. The so-called “war on Christmas” has been knocking around four decades or more, but, like all leftist causes, it got turbocharged with the death of George Floyd and the hatred of Trump. Trump was tapping into some populist anger when he said that “we’re going to start saying “Merry Christmas” around here again,” four words to that effect. Frankly, I’m surprised that Biden hasn’t made a big show of going back to “Happy Holidays” and made a big speech about a new inclusive approach to the holidays. At most, that used to mean a nod to Hanukkah amidst all the Christmas stuff. Actually, I myself pushed for the course I belong to, in addition to doing the Christmas portion of Händel’s “Messiah,” to do some excerpts from his oratorio “Judas Maccabeus,” which tells the story of the Battle of Emmaus and so on.

    Not good enough, apparently, to these new social justice warriors, nor is it enough to throw in a reference to the synthesized holiday Kwanzaa, created by a black pseudoscholar in an early attempt at black separatism. These days, it isn’t so important to include all of the holidays as it is to worry about those who celebrate none of them, or those who not only celebrate none of them but hate all of them.

    It’s more important to concern yourself with whether Hamid in his skull cap with his long beard feels less than special as he watches the people of the country he’s been in not even a year celebrate, when if he was so concerned about it he would have been fine if he had just stayed where he came from where a Christmas bell never peals and the lighting of a menorah is caused for execution, not celebration. It’s more important to concern yourself with whether the Patel people are offended by the fact that those they chose to be among still choose to celebrate as they did in the past. It’s especially important to concern yourself with whether those who believe all of the above means nothing, whether they be Adam and Rhoda, who stopped attending services in college and pay nothing any mind or River and Taylor, who grew up hating religion and now post about being “good without God” and all that other pathological religion hatred, will be offended. It’s important above all to concern yourselves with whether the gays, who can’t stand religion because it’s generally not very accepting of their lifestyle, will be offended, and whether those black people who consider Christmas the white man’s holiday imposed on them by conquest, will be offended.

    It’s not really about inclusiveness or anyone not feeling excluded. Like the war on Columbus Day and the pushing of Juneteenth rather than July 4th as the real Independence Day, it’s about destroying traditional society so that something else can take its place.

    Ironically, the feast of Hanukkah is about a people who stood up against invaders who tried to destroy their culture and impose their own, and Christmas for the longest time was a rallying point for Christians being forbidden to practice their faith, usually by tyrants. It didn’t matter whether those tyrants wore Puritan black, Communist red, or some other color, when you try to forbid someone to practice their faith or celebrate their traditions in favor of some new set of beliefs you want to press down, you’re a tyrant.

    Maybe you can go watch that TV show where the main character has an abortion to Silent Night and then sneers out the window while drinking the wine she can now drink. Happy celebration of the crushing of everything non-leftist.

  2. But I’ve been informed by numerous tweets, blog posts, and articles from progressives that the “War on Christmas” is nothing more than a figment of my imagination, just like antifa or Twitter shadow bans…

  3. Don’t we all know that the US population is divided about Christmas? For so many it is a secular holiday — what does Santa have to do with the religious Nativity anyway?– for others it’s a sacred holiday. Who has the right to pick and choose at this point? Let people celebrate in their own way, and stop this Woke nonsense about religious ‘offense.’

    Easter is the same: the resurrection of Jesus or the Easter Bunny or both? We are really a heterogenous society: freedom of religion is important. So is secularism and angnosticism. Take what you want from the holiday and just leave everyone else alone. These holidays are not, have never mean to become homogemous in any way. That would indeed totalitarian.

    Get off it!

  4. As far as I can tell, ‘Christmas’ is a Christianization of the Roman celebration of Saturn, Saturnalia. In Saturnalia, all men wore the freedman’s cap, all men were treated equally. Slaves dined with their masters or were even served by their masters. Gambling was permitted, even for slaves. Free speech was allowed. Slaves were allowed to openly criticize their masters, without fear of punishment later. People, especially children, were given gifts. Gag gifts were popular among adults. Unlike many Roman holidays, this was celebrated throughout the empire. Even after it was not longer an official state holiday, it went on. Its values were just too popular. When Christianity came along, the Christians realized they weren’t going to be able to eliminate Saturnalia, it was just too popular. Because the rituals and philosophy of Saturnalia do not contradict Christian scripture or values, it was adopted as a Christian holiday.

    The Romans knew they couldn’t stomp out the values of Saturnalia (I doubt the upper class really liked this holiday), the Christians didn’t care to stomp out the values of Saturnalia. What makes the left think they can stomp it out. Lo Saturnalia! Merry Christmas!

  5. Memories of Brooklyn and Queens where I grew up. Walking down the block some houses were lit with Christmas decorations, others had Chanukah lights in their windows. From some houses, we heard strains of carols, and from others’ Shabbat prayers. The first school holiday we celebrated was The Jewish High Holy Days which gave us two days ff. Then Christmas, School lunches on Friday were meatless for the sake of us Catholics, milk was served from a separate station so that our Jewish friends would not break the kosher rules. As I said Memories of days when diversity was respected, not demanded.

  6. Now everyone close your eyes and chant with me…
    “War is peace”
    “Freedom is slavery”
    “Diversity is our strength!”

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