ABDUL-HAKIM SHABAZZ Commentary: The war on Christmas is imaginary

With the passing of Thanksgiving, we are now in the official Holiday Season. It means a lot of things to a lot of people, including the “war on Christmas.”

Yes, it’s the time of year when every conservative commentator and organization comes out with the “list” of examples that show America’s traditional Christian roots are under attack, and the war against Christmas is living proof.

I decided to do a little research. First, most of what we consider Christmas has nothing to do with Christ. Second, any effort to keep Christmas out of the public arena is more than likely a result of misinformation, rather than malice. Allow me to elaborate.

To start, although Christmas is celebrated Dec. 25, there is no historical evidence to back up the claim that it is the anniversary of Jesus’ birth. Depending on which historian you believe, Christ was born in either March or September. Some scholars dispute this, saying Dec. 25 comes from an ancient Persian faith. Regardless, none of this stuff is in the Bible. You can thank the Roman emperor Constantine for making Dec. 25 the official day.

So how did this date get picked? The winter solstice was always a major day in Western cultures. The most plausible explanation is that Jesus’ birthday coincided with the Saturnalia, the celebration of the Roman god Saturn. By the way, the celebration of Christ’s birth didn’t kick in until about 336 A.D., give or take a few years.

So what about the tree, the gifts, the carols, Santa Claus? Sorry, folks, none of these has anything to do with Christianity. All were picked up over the centuries from traditions of various cultures.

Now that takes care of the origins of Christmas, but what about today? We’ve all heard stories about stores that ban employees from saying “Merry Christmas” or the public school that won’t have a Christmas play.

Well, the rules on this are pretty simple as well. In 40 words or less, religious displays can be held on public property. Schools can call their winter break Christmas break. Students can sing Christmas carols in public school. Schools can’t ban teachers and students from saying “Merry Christmas.” Schools can display religious symbols.

All it takes is a little education and studying of the law. It all boils down to context. Religious symbols and icons can be displayed and discussed. Someone just has to do some homework

So what does this all mean? Easy. There is no war on Christmas. Christmas is getting along just fine. If you don’t believe me, do what one Washington Post columnist did. Go to a big-box store Web site and type in “Christmas.” You’ll be surprised at what comes back.

But even after all this, if you still think a war on Christmas is going on, I suggest fighting the war by living by the following doctrine, “Peace on Earth and good will to all.” Merry Christmas.

Shabazz is the morning show host on WXNT-AM 1430 and of counsel at the law firm of Lewis & Wilkins. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at ashabazz@ibj.com.

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