Editorial: Remember the true meaning of Christmas

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There are two things we can count on as soon as the Halloween decorations are put away – store shelves aligned with Christmas decor, and claims of a so-called War on Christmas.

Outcries over this perceived slight have been going on for many years now. Some trace it back to about a decade ago when Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly started his rants over the idea of wishing people "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." And then there's the backlash against people of other faiths objecting to the prominent displays of Nativity scenes at schools and government office buildings, where no other holiday is represented. Imagine the nerve of these people in an increasingly diverse nation trying to be more inclusive of the many other holiday celebrations this time of year. Such blasphemy!

So it should come as no surprise when the issue keeps resurfacing as soon as the calendar turns to November. But what never ceases to amaze us is how claims of religious persecution against Christians and Christmas get more ridiculous with each passing year.

Last year the uproar was over President Obama using the term "holiday tree." It seems those who claim to be the most religious don't know their religious history very well. Decorating a tree during the holiday season originated as a pagan custom, and in fact early Puritan settlers forbid the use of any such "heathen traditions" or "pagan mockery." It wasn't until the mid-1800s that Christians began to adopt the "Christmas tree" as part of their own traditions, and now it appears they aren't willing to share or give credit where it's due.

We didn't think the small-minded hypocrisy could get any worse than that, but we were wrong. This year's big controversy is over a coffee cup. Seriously?!

Instead of the usual array of decorative images such as wreaths and snowflakes, Starbucks has chosen to take a more minimal approach this year and made the cups a simple red with the company's green and white logo on the side.

"This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories," said Starbucks' Vice President of Design & Content Jeffrey Fields.

Apparently that's just a little too secular for some Christian evangelists.

"Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus," said Joshua Feuerstein in a viral Facebook post that garnered nearly 10.5 million views over the past week.

His chosen method of protest then was to march into the nearest Starbucks, buy a cup of coffee and have the barista write "Merry Christmas" on the cup. Yes, Mr. Feuerstein, give them your business; that will certainly teach those evil Starbucks executives a lesson!

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is taking the opposite approach. During a campaign speech in Illinois this week he urged his followers to boycott Starbucks altogether. And then, in trying to pander to evangelical and other conservative Christian voters, said, "If I become president, we're all going to be saying 'Merry Christmas' again. That I can tell you."

Does this mean that in Trump's utopian vision of America we'll be arrested or deported for wishing someone "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas?"

Fascist much, Mr. Trump?

Actually, we should thank him for helping drive home the point that all of this brouhaha against efforts to be more inclusive and accepting of other people's beliefs and traditions is antithetical to the teachings of the man Christmas is supposed to revere.

According to the website, Christianbiblereference.org: "In Jesus' teachings, our relationship with our fellow men, women and children is inseparable from our relationship with God. Love of God and love of our neighbors are two aspects of the same calling ... We commonly think of neighbors as the people who live near us, but Jesus meant it to include all mankind – even our enemies!"

Or, as a US Uncut post circulating on Facebook says: "Let me tell you what a real war on Christmas looks like: It looks like hunger, poverty, homelessness, and bigotry. Now, leave the cups alone and fight those battles."

And, we would add, have a happy holiday.


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