The frequency of Google searches for "war on Christmas".  Data source: Google Correlate. Graph created by RNS.

Peace! Why you can expect a ceasefire on the ‘War on Christmas’ until Thanksgiving 2014

(RNS) 12:01 a.m. The annual winter siege known as the “War on Christmas” is over, for now. For the next 11 months, the holiday will be able to exist in peace. The new ceasefire is unlikely to be permanent, however. The war is expected to return by December 1, 2014, when slow news days and the need for donations will likely cause the fighting to resume. If next year plays out like days of old (okay, just since 2007), we should expect interest in the war to begin just as Thanksgiving ends and shopping for Christmas begins in earnest. According to data from Google Correlate, interest in the “War on Christmas” peaks at the same time we start putting up Christmas lights.

Chris Stedman's wizard Christmas tree ornament tattoo. Illustration by Lauren Pettapiece.

An atheist’s Christmas tree ornament tattoo

As an atheist who grew up in a nonreligious household that celebrated Christmas with gusto—for us it was about food, family, and Santa, but not about Jesus—I’ve always loved the holiday. As a child this was partially due to the “magic” of the season—such as the year we found pieces of cotton strewn about the house, strategically placed where we would discover them, and speculated (at my mother’s suggestion) that they were in fact bits of Santa’s beard that had fallen off during his visit. But that aspect of Christmas always felt like a game, like make believe. The most important elements of Christmas were always the uninterrupted time with family, and the encouragement to slow down and express our love and appreciation for one another. Now, as an adult, Christmas remains one of the most special days of the year for those exact same reasons (minus the “magic”)—enhanced by the fact that it’s usually the only time that my family is able to assemble from the various places we’ve relocated to.

Discussing the “War on Christmas” with Bill O’Reilly

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to appear on to the Fox News program “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss a new Christmas-themed billboard put up by American Atheists. I’ve expanded on my thoughts about this issue in a new piece for CNN Belief:
The “War on Christmas:”  what —or who—is it good for? In recent years, one organization, American Atheists, has claimed the mantle of prime atheist promoter of the tired “War on Christmas” narrative. This year, they ushered in the season with an electronic billboard in New York City’s Times Square carrying the message: “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” The word “Christ” is crossed out, just in case their message wasn’t clear enough.