19 December 2022
H and M – no, the other brand – are causing trouble again. ‘Sussexes send out Happy Woke-mas card to friends’, griped the Mail on Sunday. Their crime? Wishing friends a ‘Joyful Holiday Season’ rather than a more traditional Merry Christmas.
Given recent controversies, this might seem like a minor offence. But count your blessings. Last year, the Sussexes’ cards proffered a ‘Happy Holidays’ slogan, which was even more irritating to those of a sensitive cultural disposition.
“From our family to yours, and on behalf of our teams at The Archewell Foundation, Archewell Audio, and Archewell Productions, we wish you health, peace, and a very happy new year!,” write Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex for their paper-free 2022 Christmas card. pic.twitter.com/ak8vUTeY1v
— Omid Scobie (@scobie) December 16, 2022
The couple’s departure from Christmas is fairly recent. In 2020, they went for the traditional greeting. What changed? They were swept up, belatedly but inevitably, in a dismal yet unstoppable societal trend.
The drive to remove the ‘Christmas’ from Christmas has been snowballing ever since the advent of Tony Blair’s multiculturalism (his famous ‘menacingly odd’ card wished lucky recipients ‘season’s greetings’). Taking up the baton, David Cameron’s cards bore ‘no sign of Father Christmas, baby Jesus or even a sprig of holly,’ as the Guardian put it. The royals have generally resisted this move, with Charles and Camilla wishing a ‘Merry Christmas’ in the same typeface each year. But then came Harry and Meghan.
I’m not aware of any polling, but I’d be willing to bet that this leaves most ordinary people cold. Call Christmas Christmas, for God’s sake. Presumably, the erasure of faith is motivated by a desire for ‘inclusion’. They’re doing it for people like me (I’m Jewish). So, the theory goes, by taking Jesus out of the picture and making the festival about winter, snow and holly, I’m supposed to feel welcome in the great family of Britain. I’m supposed to feel flattered that you are hiding this country’s Christian roots. I’m supposed to feel respected.
Seeing Christianity properly honoured reassures minority groups of the value of their own traditions
But it doesn’t work that way. In fact, the opposite is true. If you don’t respect your own traditions, how can you respect mine? The ‘Happy Holidays’ message implies that the only way to achieve ‘equality and diversity’ is to efface the millennia-old legacy of Christendom. By extension, then, we must also efface Jewish, Muslim and other cultures. What does that mean for minorities? If you can’t wish me a Merry Christmas, can I still say Happy Chanukah without being un-British? Will I be banned from saying ‘l’chaim’ when I raise a glass of mulled wine? Can I still say Shabbat Shalom, or must I say ‘end-of-week greetings’ or ‘joyful day of rest’ – or ‘blessed day’, like in The Handmaid’s Tale?
I can’t be alone in feeling patronised by the notion that the very mention of Christmas would throw me into a paroxysm of offence. This is a Christian country – by culture, at least, if sadly no longer by the numbers – and believe it or not, Jews are fully aware of this. And we respect it. We feel grateful and privileged to be here. Why on earth would we be offended by your Christian faith? Are you offended, deep down, by our Jewishness? Maybe that’s an uncomfortable question to answer.
In truth, seeing Christianity properly honoured reassures minority groups of the value of their own traditions. This is partly why King Charles is so popular in the Jewish community (as we saw when he danced with Holocaust survivors last week); his warmth for us seems to stem from confidence in his own faith. It develops mutual trust.
Blair’s failed multicultural project showed that social cohesion does not rest on a bland, indistinct, platitudinous nothingness, in which nobody knows who they are any longer. It rests on respect between different people uniting under a national identity. I’m not Christian, but I couldn’t be happier to live in a Christian country. So do wish each other a Merry Christmas. Do it loudly and often. You should be as proud of your heritage as we are of ours.
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