Readers familiar with American mainstream media punditry will be familiar with the annual explosion of “War on Christmas” stories that mark the beginning of the holiday season. Invariably, each year some local mayor will have the audacity to rename the Christmas tree at city hall with a more inclusive name like holiday tree. Like a shot heard round the world, the stories commence, panic ensues, and the mayor is forced into the town bunker until the witness protection program can provide a new identity.
This year, it seems the “War on Christmas” may develop an international flare. A recent story by Stars and Stripes Online tells of how the Military Evangelical Association of Korea has had its request to construct three giant Christmas tree like towers along the Demilitarized Zone
rejected withdrawn due to concerns raised by Koreans living near the border.
Before going into the current situation, it might be useful to provide a little context for those (myself included) who are not familiar with the tradition. Prior to 2004, it was an annual tradition to light a large Christmas tree tower overlooking the DMZ. The practice was suspended in 2004 as part of an agreement over propaganda spreading between the two Koreas during a period of relative calm. Following the sinking of the Cheonan and the later shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, the Christmas tree ritual was promptly reinstated.
Some have considered the tradition to be an inappropriate use of the symbol for the purposes of propaganda and psychological warfare while others consider the tree to be an appropriate gesture of peace, love, and reconciliation that definitely belongs at the DMZ. As Fox News often states, “We report, you decide.”
So why the change of heart this year? (The 2011 tree was also eventually cancelled due to respect for the North Korean period of mourning following the death of Kim Jong-Il). North-South relations aren’t looking much better than in 2010. Why the sudden “War on Christmas?” It appears the source of the concern comes from South Koreans living near the DMZ that were concerned the tree would provoke acts of North Korean aggression. Namely, they appear to be concerned that the North Koreans will fire their weapons at the trees! This is presumably a legitimate concern by the local South Koreans, but it reads like North Korea is auditioning to star as Scrooge in the sequel to A Christmas Carol (Bah! Humbug!). If Bill O’Reilly gets wind of this, we may be headed for World War III.
Perhaps there’s a lesson here. Next time your neighbor threatens to shoot down your Christmas tree or other holiday decorations that infringe on his property line, rather than weaponize your tree, maybe just move it back a few feet from his window. You could always see if renaming it a holiday tree would work, too.
The DMZ Christmas tree from a previous year