Trump digs in against 'war on Christmas'
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President Trump has made good on his pledge to “say ‘merry Christmas’ again,” though those who follow the issue are divided on how far outside the White House his influence will — or should — reach.

Trump joined the pushback against the “war on Christmas,” early in his presidential campaign, telling Iowa supporters in 2015, “I’m a good Christian. If I become president, we’re gonna be saying ‘merry Christmas’ at every store.” 

He has repeated his support for the Dec. 25 holiday since his election and inauguration, most recently on Monday in Utah.

“Remember I said we're bringing Christmas back? Christmas is back, bigger and better than ever before. We're bringing Christmas back,” the president said in Salt Lake City.

Critics point out that Trump’s Oval Office predecessors actually said “merry Christmas” a great deal, but his administration has kept the phrase front and center this month, striking multiple references to “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays” in White House decorations and its annual greeting card.

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Rep. Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornThe Hill's Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message Federal judge rules Lamborn should be on primary ballot Colorado Supreme Court rules GOP lawmaker should be kept off ballot MORE (R-Colo.), who introduced a resolution to the House in 2015 that “the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas,” praised Trump’s approach in a recent interview with The Hill.

“I think it’s great that we have a president who expresses support for Christmas, and I welcome his doing so,” Lamborn said.

“Unfortunately, there are some Grinches out there who oppose Christmas, and I think it’s great for Congress to make a positive declaration that Christmas is a part of our national life. It’s been a federal holiday since the year 1870, and people should freely enjoy, if they so choose, to express themselves as being in favor of Christmas,” he added.

Trump’s insistence, however, that when “you go to the department stores” in December that Christmas should be part of the experience has raised eyebrows among outside advocates.

“People have to realize that there are certain limitations when it comes to what the government can do in acknowledging a religious holiday, and I’ve never understood to begin with why people expect the government to be the vehicle to promote the religious aspects of Christmas,” said Rob Boston, communications director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Opinions over whether the phrase “merry Christmas” should follow American shoppers around have a stark partisan divide.

A Public Religion Research Institute survey from last year reported that 67 percent of Republicans surveyed said businesses should not greet customers with “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas," while 66 percent of Democrats said they should.

Among all Americans polled, 47 percent said stores should use “happy holidays” and 46 percent disagreed.

As president, Trump has emphasized the Christian aspects of the holiday.

The White House website said he sought to revive the “religious spirit” of the National Christmas Tree lighting last week.

“The Christmas story begins 2,000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son and the most extraordinary gift of all — the gift of God’s love for all of humanity,” Trump said at the event.

“Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of his life forever changed the course of human history,” he added.

Boston said celebrating any religious holiday should be a personal choice free of government interference, and that any perceived pushback on the Yuletide season could be a response to growing U.S. diversity.

“If you want to go full-on Charles Dickens Victorian Christmas, play religious music 24/7, put a Nativity scene in your front lawn, go to church, midnight Mass — more power to you,” Boston said.

He added: “I think what a lot of times people are saying when they complain about a ‘war on Christmas,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘I am not comfortable with some of the changes that have occurred in this country,’ and I think folks need to realize what they do in their own home, what they do in their own church, what they do with their family, none of that’s going to be affected.”

Lamborn also characterized celebrating Christmas as a personal choice, adding that those who do not publicly observe the holiday should not push their beliefs on those who do.

“I would tell them to lighten up. No one’s forcing them to do anything. They can be as celebratory or as aloof as they want to be and that’s their own personal choice. We’re just asking that they don’t impose their values on us,” he said.