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Throwback Thursday: Wars of Christmas Past

It’s a shame that the term “War on Christmas”—demeaning to both the gravity of war and the spirit of Christmas—is now associated with efforts to display overtly religious symbols in public places during the month of December. As Mollie’s recent column suggested, might the hawkishness with which Christmas Warriors are picking these fights hinder their cause? And moreover, isn’t this term a bit patronizing to those who have or are currently fighting in real wars?

For our throwback today, we’ve reached deep into the archives for this December 1925 editorial, “The Will to Peace.” Perhaps it’s just semantics, but the War on Christmas—with its talk of picking fights and engaging in battle—seems to directly contradict the greeting of peace offered at the Incarnation:

“Peace!” is the ideal enshrined at the core of all pomp and circumstance with which men surround the feast of Nativity. “Peace” was the one message heaven had for earth at the moment the veil was withdrawn and a “great company of angels” was seen by the poor hinds who lay awake watching their flocks on the hillside.

Written between world wars (though at the time, the editors believed they were eight years past the war to end all wars), this editorial concludes with a plea to hold out for peace that cannot be achieved through battle or force:

The world, in a word, can have peace, old Rome’s way or God’s way. It cannot have both. The first is the easiest, for the state is still supreme, and a word will set battalions and batteries on the march, and battle-ship propellers revolving. The second is the hardest, for hearts are not changed at an official word, and a city is taken easier than a spirit conquered.

Militant moral warriors fighting the modern War on Christmas might try their hand at peacebuilding this holiday season. They could take a cue from those in the trenches—that is, those actually fighting in a war on Christmas Day—whose famous ceasefire in the Christmas Truce of 1914 is a model worth imitating.

About the Author

Ellen B. Koneck runs Special Projects at Commonweal and teaches in the Catholic Studies department at Sacred Heart University. You can follow her on Twitter.



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Is there a "War on the War on Christmas" under way here?


I am a footsoldier in the War on the War on the War on Christmas.


Putting the words "War" and "Christmas" together always makes me think of the 1914 Christmas truce, especially with that black and white picture.


I agree with the poster that the tone of the War on Christmas contradicts the very spirit of Christmas. The best leaders lead by example, like Pope Francis is doing.  The War on Christmas folks should take a page from his book.



That reminds me of the movie Joyeux Noel, which has become something of a Thanksgiving-watching tradition for me.   I think it translates to Merry Christmas, but my Spanish is not very good.

It’s also available on Netflix.    I will warn you it’s a bit syrupy, so the cynical among us (yes, Abe, I’m thinking of you) will probably not be able to stomach it.

Thanks you - in the 1980s, we had a pastor who would start his usual Advent/Christmas war meme - it was so tiring, repetitious, and monotonous.  If he had truly just spent more time reaching out to the poor, needy, involved with parish outreach groups doing gifts, visitations, etc., he might have had less energy to *harangue* us - which appeared to be his point.  His degree was in liturgy from Rome and so he footnoted his liturgical justifications.

I grew up in a very religious culture---the South in the 60's---and NO ONE said, "Merry Christmas," except ON Christmas DAY.

I guess no one had yet told them they were making War on that day by saying, "Happy Holidays," the rest of the season.

We won't know who is keeping Christ in Christmas until next Tuesday evening. In the meantime, anybody who is having holidays is not a Christian, and any Christian who is having Christmas needs an update on the liturgical calendar. Dispatches from the front are, at the moment, premature.

Nice article in the FT today by Margaret MacMillan.

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