There’s no mistaking US President Donald Trump’s “Merry Christmas” message – he wields it as a weapon against political correctness – and his predecessor Barack Obama.
For weeks, he’s been liberally sprinkling his public remarks with Christmas tidings. And then pointing it out in case anyone fails to notice.
Trump has long promised that this year would be different after what he saw as a trend towards giving the Christian celebration short shrift in favour of a more generic and inclusive “happy holidays” message.
“Well, guess what? We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” Trump announced in October at a Values Voter Summit of conservatives.
For all of that, though, it turns out the 2017 holiday rhythms at the White House are similar to those of years past.
The president participated in the annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree. The house has been decked out for the season with an array of traditional trimmings There has been a whirlwind of parties, including a reception to mark Hanukkah.
The White House holidays under Barack and Michelle Obama also included plenty of Christmas trappings and cheer. Obama offered a more general holiday message on the official greeting card but wished “Merry Christmas” at the National Tree lighting, on his Twitter account and in his weekly address.
Trump has expressed concern about a diminished “Merry Christmas” message for years.
In 2011, he criticised Obama’s approach, saying on Twitter that the president had “issued a statement for Kwanza but failed to issue one for Christmas”.
In fact, that year Obama wished people “Merry Christmas” from his Twitter account and gave a video address with his wife in which he wished people a “Merry Christmas and happy holidays”.
Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also offered greetings marking Kwanzaa, the week-long African heritage festivities in December.
The White House said Trump will also have a statement on Kwanzaa.
At the official lighting of the National Christmas Tree this year, Trump offered an overtly religious message, noting that “for Christians, this is a holy season”. He added that the “Christmas story begins 2000 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”.
But his predecessor also made remarks grounded in Christian traditions. At his final tree lighting, Obama opened with “Merry Christmas,” and spoke about this being a time to “celebrate the birth of our Saviour, as we retell the story of weary travellers, a star, shepherds, Magi”.
Obama went on to discuss the message of the holiday, saying that it “grounds not just my family’s Christian faith but that of Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, non-believers – Americans of all backgrounds.”
Trump’s emphasis on Christmas has been welcomed by evangelical Christians who see it as evidence of his commitment to religious liberty.