NR Digital


O Cap’n! My Cap’n!

by James Lileks

It’s time for the annual review of the War on Christmas, including the obligatory note that there is no actual War on Christmas. Mannequins dressed like Santa are not drawn and quartered in the town square by the cackling atheists on Segways.

Yet! some say. Well. Three examples from the Front.

1) I point those who think you just can’t say “Merry Christmas” anymore to this year’s holiday-season Limited-Edition Cap’n Crunch. The Cap’n is looking as wide-eyed and manic as ever; the poor man hasn’t been in his right mind for a long time. Of course the cereal has fun holiday shapes, like a stocking cap and a fir tree. But it has a star, which isn’t part of the secular iconography. That’s a bit like finding a cross among pastel eggs in Springtime Crunch.

Now consider the name: Christmas Crunch. I was startled to see it, to be honest. You expect Limited-Edition Wintertime Non-Birth-Observing Crunch! or perhaps End O’ Year Festive Crunch with Fun Solstice Shapes! To see the word Christmas so big and bright on a cereal box seemed unusual.

And it wasn’t alone. Oreos are playing it safe, with Winter Oreos. “Same great taste with Red Creme!” You can imagine the marketing people worrying over that one: “Did any of the Three Wise Men bring Red Creme? No? Then we’re good.” Hostess cupcakes simply dumped red and green sprinkles on the vinyl frosting and declared them holiday-style.

But the Pillsbury Doughboy’s pre-cut cookie packs are called Christmas trees, and you think: There’s that word again.

If this is new, it’s impossible not to wonder if it’s a result of the election of Donald Trump. Not because the execs said, “There’s a new free spirit abroad in the land! Finally, we can say ‘Christmas’ on packaging again.”

It’s more likely they didn’t want to be on the wrong end of a tweet. Sad to see Captan (cq) Crunch not getting with program – only holiday cereal, not Christmas. Oh well, Santa will deal with him. Lump of coal in his stocking!! By the way coal is back in a big way.

On the Cereal Front, then: victory.

2) The annual Starbucks Cup Controversy. If Starbucks’ design is a simple black cup with a white star, a peevish tweeter with four followers says the black does not represent the night of Jesus’ birth, but the color of the Satanic Mass. He is retweeted by 5,000 progressives making fun of him. Media run story: “Conservatives don’t like this year’s Starbucks cup, again.”

Seem overblown? Well, in 2015 the company went with plain red cups. A statement of simplicity or a subtle anti-Christian message? Of course, you could buy a “Merry Christmas” gift card to buy a pound of Christmas Blend, but the absence of a snowflake on the cup, well, that was an obvious reindeer whistle.

Then-candidate Trump weighed in on the matter: “I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?” Trump told a crowd in Springfield, Ill.

The store is still open, probably because seriously, he didn’t care. But this year’s controversy is peculiar. The cup’s design shows mittened hands clasped together, and since they are not branded with the words man and woman, as God intended, some people insisted — perhaps jokingly, to live up to the fundamentalist-nudnik stereotype — that the lack of obvious gender was LGBT etc. propaganda.

Then it took a turn. Salon: “Some on the LGBT-advocacy side perceive it as two men, two women or one or two trans individuals holding hands. . . . Naturally, some on the LGBT side are taking it a step further, claiming that their personal interpretation of the genderless appendages is necessarily the only one.”

Next year’s cup design should be in the style of a Rorschach test, except it’s obviously a Christmas tree.

3) Don’t buy anyone an Amazon Echo for Christmas because it hates Jesus. A video snippet tweeted by conservative Internet fun-guy Stephen Crowder had him asking his Alexa various questions about Islam, and then asking the popular AI helpmeet, “Who is Lord Jesus Christ?” Whereupon Alexa responds that he is “a fictional character.”

Well. The Twitter comments were incandescent: Never buy anything from Amazon again! Social Justice Warriors have infected everything! And so on. But ask yourself: How likely is it, really, that the people who had programmed the device rubbed their hands together and said, “Finally! We’ve found the perfect means to destroy the deep, firm beliefs of those snake-handling clingers! A robot voice in a black Pringles can!”

The device answers questions by reading the first few lines of the relevant Wikipedia entry. When I asked Alexa the same question, I got a straight, accurate answer from the article. Nothing about Jesus being the equivalent of Harry Potter. But somehow this is a plot, because Amazon’s owner also owns the Washington Post, which is stuffed with cloven-hooved Trump haters.

And that’s ridiculous. They do not have cloven hooves.

In short: fake controversy, just like the cups. Christmas is alive and well, joyous and eternal. Even Cap’n Crunch is on board again. #MAGA!

As in, Make a Grateful Adoration. If you are so inclined. If not, happy holidays. Honor the message of peace and redemption as you choose, as Americans get to do. Who cares if the hands in the coffee-cup mittens have no explicit gender? What counts is that they’re together, instead of clutching each other’s throats.

There’ll be time enough for that in 2018.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

Send a letter to the editor.

Get the NR Magazine App
iPad/iPhone   |   Android