Canceling Christmas

December 25, 2021 Updated: December 29, 2021


As Christmas tree displays across the United States have been destroyed by arson, officials in the European Commission have gone even further, undertaking what the Vatican decries as the “cancellation of Europe’s Christian roots.” In its recently published “Union of Equality” document (pdf), the European Commission demanded that Commission employees use “gender-neutral” pronouns, avoid addressing audiences as “ladies and gentlemen,” and refrain from wishing each other Merry Christmas.

These guidelines, part of a 30-page booklet designed to foster “inclusive communication,” elicited widespread criticism and received an unusually strong reaction from the Vatican’s highest political office. Even Pope Francis commented on the issue, calling it an “anachronism” similar to the Nazi or communist attempts to erase the foundations of Europe. The top eurocrat behind the paper, EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, issued a statement defending the already printed document as a mere work in progress.

A few days after the document’s publication, European Parliament’s LGBT+ “goodwill Ambassador” Riccardo Simonetti added insult to injury when he proudly appeared on the cover of a German magazine dressed as the Virgin Mary. Brussels’s progressives seem to believe the New European Person should celebrate not Christmas but the December holiday season. As the Vatican can’t react to every single act of blasphemy, average European citizens outraged by Simonetti’s irreverence blew up his Facebook page.

This is neither the first nor the last attempt of European leftists to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable and expand their ideological dominance of the public square and regional organizations as aggressively as their woke U.S. counterparts do. But much to the chagrin of those attempting to import the cultural and religious iconoclasm that has ravaged American public life so successfully, there are old-world nations that still remember Marxism and its assault on tradition and faith.

East-Central Europeans, whose families actually experienced communist dictatorship, know all about ideologues trying to cancel Christmas and foist a totalitarian worldview on them. They recognized earlier than most the threat of what was happening across the Atlantic, when statues were being torn down, books banned or rewritten, and the unity of the nation challenged by racial identity politics and a new class war. They’ve seen it before.

Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, former captive nations, such as my native Hungary or Poland, are still recovering from the ravages of communism. They’re trying to reconstruct the past, not tear it down. To that end, efforts are underway to rebuild fallen statues, publish history books that promote national unity, and affirm rather than undermine traditions that had been under assault during half a century of communist rule. Free speech and anti-totalitarianism are part of their national DNA, made all the more precious by the brutal experience of living under Soviet occupation.

Many can still remember when not using the only correct pronoun—“comrade”—or missing an “optional” Marxism-Leninism seminar could be grounds for being fired or expelled from school. The manipulation of language and ideological indoctrination were woven into the fabric of everyday life.

During this time, party apparatchiks served as extended arms of the Central Committee. Their duty consisted of overseeing and educating their colleagues, whether it was a small-town factory or an exalted cultural institution in the nation’s capital. Apparatchiks were powerful tools of a totalitarian state that exerted control over every segment of society. Their power was practically limitless against those who, in their eyes, threatened the success of the “workers’ revolution.” Improper words were always treated as serious threats to the system—“Merry Christmas” among them.

Communists deliberately erased St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, from the public forum and introduced “Father Frost” in his place, a secular figure who brought presents for children both on St. Nicholas’s Day and on Christmas. The holiday itself was renamed “Pinetree Festival,” and “Happy Holidays” was to supplant the politically incorrect “Merry Christmas,” while Stalin’s birthday on Dec. 18, and not the birth of Christ, was the official “reason for the season.” It was dangerous to talk about the real meaning of Christmas—families observing the holiday in private risked potentially life-changing consequences of a young child inadvertently betraying his parents at school the following day. A reprimand or an outright punishment awaited the parents for contaminating their children with “undemocratic, retrograde, and reactionary” Christmas thoughts.

Back then, captive nations of East-Central Europe looked to the West, especially America, to find hope and moral support as they tried to resist the Soviet-backed totalitarian regime at home. Today, a new but familiar totalitarian wave emerges in the West, targeting Western tradition, indoctrinating the masses, and taking control over the language people use. For my grandparents’ generation, it would have sounded like a bad joke that the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) appointed a chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. It used to be the Red Army, not the U.S. Army that boasted political commissars overseeing the ideological purity of the soldiers and trying to discredit U.S. presidents.

But times have changed. Richard Torres-Estrada, who was investigated for likening U.S. President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, is now the new USSOCOM DEI chief. Public schools entrusted with educating the young teach America’s children that their country is irredeemably racist; the woke “steamroller” is turning parents, teachers, and students against one another in the name of diversity. Black Lives Matter, led by a group of self-professed Marxists, stokes racial tension and normalizes the use of physical violence to settle political differences in cities across the United States and beyond.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the EU leadership embraced the same woke ideology. European institutions push their ideological agenda regardless of local reactions from member states. The EU brooks no dissent when it comes to LGBT issues: Budapest’s and Warsaw’s strong stance in favor of the traditional family and against gender propaganda at public schools was met with social opprobrium and legal infringement procedures announced by the same equality commissioner who recently tried to cancel Christmas.

The attempts by modern apparatchiks, such as Dalli, to cancel Christmas, or of bureaucrat-provocateur Simonelli to pose for a blasphemous picture violate one of the most basic principles of the Maastricht Treaty (pdf). While the EU was to “deepen the solidarity between their peoples while respecting their history, their culture and their traditions,” Hungarians, Poles, and other nations of the post-Soviet bloc that trigger Brussels with their history, culture, and traditions can’t help but notice how hollow these phrases ring.

Christmas is hardly the continent’s greatest challenge, even if the equality commissioner believes otherwise. Europe faces real problems, such as the Belarusian crisis, China’s growing influence, or a belligerent Russia. But instead of seeing the EU tackling them responsibly, many Europeans will have to resign themselves this December to wishing Brussels a Merry Christmas.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Péter Heltai is a journalist and media manager based in Budapest. He’s the strategic director of Hungarian digital outlet Axióma. Twitter: @peterheltai