IT’S NOT Christmas all over the world tonight.

While we Filipinos would find restricting Christmas absurd, in the West, there have been moves to outlaw Christmas traditions. This should ring a bell on Filipinos abroad and those here who follow Western secularists’ initiatives.

Last year, officials in Lambeth, Britain banned the word “Christmas” from ads for “political correctness” since greeting “Christ”-mas would be offensive to unbelievers. Christmas lights should be called “winter” or “celebrity” lights, while Christmas trees must be renamed “holiday or dream trees.” In many parts of Britain, it’s “Winterfest” or “Winterval” instead of “Christmas.” Christmas decors are a no-no in job centers.

Fox News anchor John Gibson, in his The War on Christmas, presents how Christophobic US companies like Wal-Mart also ices out its employees from greeting customers “Merry Christmas.” They are told to say “Happy Holidays” instead.

Radical secularists seem to get cold shivers with anything that can be associated with Christianity, even those of pagan origins. A Christmas tree, for instance, was removed from the Indiana University Law after a leftist professor whined about the tree’s supposed violation of separation of church and state rule.

In 2004 in New Jersey, bands in a school district were barred from playing instrumental Christmas songs—tunes without their Christian lyrics—except for “Winter Wonderland” or “Frosty the Snowman.” (Something like “O Come, All Ye Unfaithful” would have passed). A musical play based on A Christmas Carol—whose main villain, Ebenezer Scrooge, sulks Christmas and from whom the word “scrooge” came from—was also cancelled in an elementary school after threats of lawsuit.

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Yes, kids are not spared by real-life scrooges. In a kindergarten school in Coudekerque-Branche, France, 1,300 gift packages for children were returned to the local city hall for containing chocolates in the shapes of crosses and jolly old St. Nicholas.

Since Christmas has been universalized now—becoming a merry cauldron of legends and motifs both pagan and Christian—banning one expression for another for “political rectitude” is no less discriminating, inhibiting, futile, and stupid. While no one should be forced to celebrate Christmas the Christian way, no one should be forced not to. Greeting “Christmas,” for many, is essential to the celebration.

It’s hard to understand how in supposedly liberal countries, the word “Christmas” should grate the ear worse than the “f” word. Real freethinkers suppose to be open even to religion. Even if it has its cock-and-bull stories, you don’t ban fiction.

And what’s in a name? While renaming “Christmas lights” to “winter lights” may work in snow-capped lands, the new labels would hardly sell in countries where there is no winter. Calling it “holiday lights” doesn’t crack a nut either. There are many holidays in a year, and some Christmases are not holidays.

These Christmas interdicts are not new. Christmas was once outlawed in Massachusetts from 1659 to 1681 (and shunned until the mid-1800s) until Catholic immigrants decked the halls. Reasons for banning were no different from now: Christmas is “superstition;” the idea of a “Mass” for Christ sounds too Catholic.

Under the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, the British Parliament in 1552 ordered town criers to warn people of the superstition of Christmas. Soldiers patrolled the streets, with their noses on roasting goose or Christmas treats. Rioteers were arrested and jailed. But come elections, the Puritans lost and Christmas harked back triumphant.

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For almost three decades, Christmas was banned in Catholic-turned-Communist Cuba, too. But families continued to celebrate Christmas at home, in literal silent nights. Proof was that when John Paul II visited Cuba in 1997, Fidel Castro was forced to lift the ban and people were still keen on Mass traditions.

No Mr. Grinch can stop people from celebrating what existential meaning or name they want to assign to a season. Christmas has come to mean gift-giving, communal gathering, celebration, mystery, and tradition—values to treasure to being merry and human.

Instead of stopping Christmas, let’s leave the grinches into their frozen disenchanted world of pure reason, and grant every willing Santa a free pass tonight.

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