IPA Today

‘Away with the Manger’: Christmas Hijacked By Politics

Written by
24 December 2022
Originally appeared in The Spectator Australia

Away with the manger; no wisemen from afar; the little Lord Jesus; replaced by Indigenous art!

Imagine Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building bulldozed into rubble. That was the likely fate of the historic structure in the 1960s before a massive restoration project saved it from demolition.

Today, the building stands as a poignant reminder of the importance of history and tradition – particularly in December where Christmas at the QVB has become a much-loved family institution.

However, QVB bosses have effectively bulldozed 2000 years’ worth of Christmas tradition with their latest end-of-year ensemble.

Christmas at the QVB is being cancelled by a virtue signalling class of corporate activists. Nativity scenes are out, and Indigenous art is in.

This year advertising for the display opened with an acknowledgment of country and quickly informed the reader that this year’s decorations will, ‘shine a light on the importance of Aboriginal culture’.

It described the cardboard cut-out situated beneath the tree as a ‘collaboration of First Nations artists from Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative’.

The familiar figures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus have been replaced by a ‘lustrous vision of bush and rainforest’ embedded with tools ‘emblematic of the Ingenious innovation’ of Aboriginal people.

Likewise, the three wisemen, shepherds, and farm animals have been swapped out for a celebration of ‘Indigenous art, intelligence, systems and knowledge’ and ‘endangered bird’ calls.

Keep in mind that Christmas has a specific meaning which rises above identity politics to a universal thing that we all share – family.

This is something that resonates with Christians and non-Christians alike. And who better to represent this reality than the family at the heart of the Christmas story?

The loss of this powerful Christmas metaphor demonstrates a diminishing focus on the family unit as a core building block of Australian society.

QVB bosses would do well to remember their role is to provide quality goods, not be a platform that pushes a political agenda on parents and their children. Australian families would do well to wake up to the ideological battle that is being waged over Christmas, before it is too late.

More and more, discourse in Australia appears to be making a return to race-based thinking across key spheres of influence in media, politics, and business.

A litany of calendar days reflects this phenomenon with weeks at a time set aside for the recognition and celebration of indigenous history and culture.

Next year will kick off with the Anniversary of National Apology Day on February 13, followed by National Close the Gap Day on March 17, and National Sorry Day on May 26.

National Reconciliation Week lasts from May 27 to June 3, followed by NAIDOC Week from July 3 to July 10, and multiple other key indigenous dates.

Indigenous issues are well and truly covered in the 2023 calendar, the 45 per cent of Australians who are Christian should be able to celebrate Christmas the traditional way.

The QVB’s Christmas display speaks to the superficiality of modern society, where meaning is skin-deep and longstanding traditions are overturned flippantly. The removal of nativity scenes is part of a new type of iconoclasm targeting historical figures which represent a way of life no longer in line with postmodern thought.

There is a push to remove the very symbols that represent Christmas and replace them with feel-good political targets. Using non-Christmas imagery for a Christmas display robs the holiday of all its historic meaning – turning it into little more than trite posturing.

Since 1898, the iconic Christmas display at the QVB has delighted families by speaking to the meaning, tradition, and history behind the holiday.

Just as the QVB was saved from demolition more than half a century ago and restored to its former glory, so too must Christmas traditions be preserved so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.

As the famous British author Penelope Lively said, ‘We all need a past – that’s where our sense of identity comes from.’

Some may grumble at the Judeo-Christian roots of the festive season, but everyone should be able to get around the traditional family focus at the heart of Christmas.

The QVB Christmas display is just another casualty of a reductive worldview that robs Australians of much-loved family traditions in order to score political points.

The shell of Christmas that will remain once the holiday has been cleansed of all its potentially offensive elements will be a fragile and meaningless one.

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Brianna McKee

Brianna McKee is a Research Fellow and National Manager for Generation Liberty at the Institute of Public Affairs.

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