According to a survey conducted last year by GoCompare, the British public would spend £21 Billion on Christmas in 2016. That includes presents, decorations, food and various seasonal events and attractions. That averages out at £753 per household, with £378 being spent on presents alone. And in America, the collective spending last year was estimated at over $1 Trillion by a 2016 survey. Every major brand has a Christmas range or specials list, with some of them becoming part of many peoples yearly traditions, be it Gingerbread lattes or boxed Turkey sandwiches. And despite being a holiday rooted in Christianity, Christmas has become and almost universal holiday, with celebrations and messages of goodwill happening all over the world.
But, according to an increasingly large portion of the American population, Christmas is under threat and so is all of Christendom by proxy. They claim that society, the government and major corporations are trying to turn Christmas into an atheistic holiday where all mention of Christianity is banned and that it is just a step on the path to the annihilation of the American Conservative. This sentiment, whilst incredibly extreme and fringe, is being echoed by more and more people each year. And it is fuelled by series of largely inconsequential things, perhaps the most famous being a series of red coffee cups.
Most major fast food chains and cafes will roll out a series of Christmas themed cups and mugs each year, and this is usually a fairly innocuous event. But in 2015, Starbucks released a range of take out cups that were plain red with the Starbucks logo on them. This minimalistic design was received well by the vast majority of the American public, but a number of American Conservatives found this offensive. They deemed that the lack of any Christmas related imagery was an attempt to remove the Christian aspect of Christmas in the pursuit of political correctness. Joshua Feuerstein, a former Televangelist turned internet personality, posted a video in November of 2015 where he not only stated that Starbucks had removed the symbols from their cups, but that employees were banned from saying Merry Christmas. During the video, he claims to have have given his name for his order as “Merry Christmas”, and then asked his followers to do the same as a large scale “prank”. He also claims that Starbucks is also against the Second Amendment, and so ordered his drink whilst carrying a concealed handgun which he gleefully shows the camera towards the end of the video.
Removal of Christian images aside, another aspect that this group takes issue with is the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas”. Whilst seemingly totally inconsequential, especially when the number of religious holidays that fall in December is taken into account, the use of Happy Holidays is seen as an attempt to lessen the importance of Christianity in America. Even President Trump has weighed in on the debate during a recent speech to a New York Evangelist group, saying “We're saying Merry Christmas again”, eliciting a massive applause.
One of the key fears and causes of this perceived 'War on Christmas” is that America is drifting away from it's Christian roots and culture. This is despite the fact various denominations of Christianity have been the most common religions in America for decades according to census data and surveys. America is and has always been made up of many religious groups and ethnicities who may or may not celebrate Christmas in a religious capacity, if at all. The act of saying “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” is best taken as an attempt to be inclusive of these groups, which surely fits the message of peace and unity that Christmas stands for.
Any attempt to force businesses or individuals to use more (or less) Christian themes is a direct violation of the first amendment, as would any attempt to ban the usage, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech...” And whilst this issue may be predominately an American one, it is important to remember that inclusion is rarely ever an affront to personal liberty, and that sometimes a red cup is just a red cup.