On December 25, 1914, a Christmas miracle took place. After five months of bloodshed and slaughter, German soldiers crossed the barren no-man's land separating them from their English enemies. They carried no weapons and shouted “Merry Christmas!” in English. Although skeptical at first, the English proved glad to postpone their violence until December 26, and the two armies celebrated Christmas together. Amidst the carnage and rotting bodies produced by the first World War, sworn enemies put their hostility on hold for just 24 hours to shake hands, sing Christmas carols and even play a game of soccer.
There’s something very special about the Christmas season. From the end of Black Friday weekend until the morning of December 26th, the whole world seems to change. Stores, churches and schools alike are decked out in red and green, bearing lights and decorations still dusty from 340 days of attic storage. Every building and crowded city square seems to have the same soundtrack on repeat, fat men in red suits take pictures with naive children in every mall and the same movies play on TV for 25 days straight.
The western world becomes an exact copy of what it was just one year ago, and we love it.
The stresses of life seem to fade as we welcome the cold weather and redundant music, because these all signify the one thing that we (well, most of us) can all agree is awesome—Christmas. We are happy to buy our family members gifts, even the ones we don’t like. We smile at strangers and sit through horribly-produced and redundant Christmas pageants.
Every December for three weeks, we are all a little more inclined to be kind, generous and compassionate. For just one part of every year it becomes easier to treat each other decently so we can just sit down and enjoy “A Christmas Story” one more time. January through November, it’s perfectly natural to be bitter and hostile toward one another. But for the 25ish days of the Christmas season, it’s not so hard to pretend we like our fellow men.
Or, at least it used to be that way.
Recently, though, Christmas feels different. I usually ignore shouting matches I see on the news between small-minded idiots. But when I saw people arguing about whether Starbucks has waged war on Christmas because it removed the holiday decorations from the company’s disposable cups, I was bothered. Is it too much to ask that we be tolerant of one another for just one month?
Apparently it is. This isn’t the first time people have been offended by Christmas traditions. For years some have claimed that the word “Christmas” and nativity scenes are offensive to those who don’t celebrate the holiday. For just as long, others have remained furious about the liberal vendetta against Christianity and this semi-religious holiday.
This bothers me because I feel like an unspoken yet sacred truce has been violated. Christmas was the one time when even soldiers in the first World War put down their weapons and treated each other like human beings and allies for one day in 1914.
Maybe asking for an entire holiday season of tolerance and goodwill is too much. But can we have just one day? From Christmas eve until December 26th, can we see the beauty in everybody and accept the ugliness?
The ridiculous red-cup debacle at Starbucks highlights our need for tolerance. But tolerance goes both ways.
Some of us feel like a special season from our childhood is being hijacked by those who don’t respect our faith—can we tolerate those hijackers and see their perspective for just one day?
We who accuse the privileged of failing to understand what it’s like to be marginalized and treated with prejudice—can we give them the benefit of the doubt for just one day and remember that they’re human, too?
And for those of us who think that safe spaces and trigger warnings are silly overreactions—can we empathize with those over-reactors, even for just one day?
If a Christmas truce can be achieved in a war zone, why is it so hard to pull off now?
I’m going to give it a try.
Nigel is a sophomore pursuing a double major in history and psychology.