Is the so-called "War on Christmas" back on? The annual fight over America's biggest religious holiday – and to what extent it should be celebrated in secular spaces – has been dormant in recent years.
But that could be changing... and it's not even December yet.
A controversial Christmas policy in a small Wisconsin town could be considered the first shots fired in this year’s battle.
Follow that up with outrage over inclusive Christmas decor at Target, and you've got the makings for renewed drama this holiday season.
"No Red or Green"
The opening salvo in this year’s War on Christmas came in the sleepy Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, population: 48,000.
That's where an alleged email containing recommendations on how to make the city’s seasonal decorations more inclusive left many holiday-goers confused and upset.
The memo, sent by city officials, instructs public employees to avoid overt religious language and decorations when decorating public spaces.
But that's not all – the memo goes on to warn against using the colors red and green because they are too closely associated with Christmas. Instead, employees are encouraged to take inspiration from the blues, greens, and purples of the northern lights.
Officials also encouraged ditching traditional Christmas symbolism and opting for more secular and inclusive seasonal symbols like snowflakes and “snow people.”
The full text of the memo was leaked online:
So far, reactions to the policy have been mixed.
Some critics were quick to call the city officials a group of Christmas Grinches (or would "secular green grumps" be more appropriate?).
"I have a hard time imagining someone would see red and green lights and be offended," said one local resident.
Others disagreed, however.
“These are government offices, therefore a separation of church and state,” wrote one social media user. “They aren't saying no decorating, they are saying to be respectful of all citizens.”
Meanwhile, there are other signs of discord at the national level.
This holiday season, retailer Target is once again coming under fire for the decor it's choosing to sell (you might recall the boycotts earlier this year after Target featured LGBTQ+ messages on certain clothing items).
Among the items that people are upset about this time around: a nutcracker holding a Pride flag, and an ornament featuring a black Santa Claus in a wheelchair.
The items quickly became the focus of cable news. In one segment, panelist Riley Gaines argued that "gay Nutcracker and Black disabled Santa has gone way too far."
The host of the show, Jesse Watters, went on to suggest that LGBTQ+ themed decor has the effect of "sexualizing Christmas for children."
No doubt some viewers may agree with that sentiment.
However, there are also signs that this message may be backfiring. Some shoppers came to Target's defense and defiantly bought the nutcracker doll anyway:
Echoes of Christmases Past
It's the most wonderful time of the year, they say. Christmas – while a secular occasion for many people – remains an important religious holiday marking the birth of Christ.
And whenever you mix religion with the public square, you're bound to see squabbles over how (or how not) beliefs should be expressed in public.
The War on Christmas has taken many forms, from the always-reliable holiday cups at Starbucks (an iconic classic, of course), to the more recent COVID-era request from Dr. Anthony Fauci that families not gather during Christmas 2020.
Consider this the latest chapter.
What is your reaction?