Orlando, FL – Between his campaign against President Gerald Ford in 1975-76 and his race against Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan delivered more than 1,000 radio broadcasts, running about three minutes each, writing nearly all of them himself. In one broadcast during the Christmas season, Mr. Reagan told a story about Christmas in the Ukraine before and after Communism.
In an effort to resist Christians, Communist leaders secularized a favorite Ukrainian Christmas carol, “Nova Radist Stala” (Joyous News Has Come to Us). The original song began with these words: “The joyous news has come which never was before. Over a cave above a manger a bright star has lit the world, where Jesus was born from a virgin maiden, …” Communists feared the public outcry that would follow a complete ban on Christmas, so they began to slowly secularize the holiday. The first rewrite of the song began: “The joyous news has come which never was before, a red star with five tails has brightly lit the world.” The second rewrite went further: “The joyous news has come which never was before. Long-awaited star of freedom lit the skies in October [the month of the Revolution]. Where formerly lived the kings and had the roots their nobles, there today with simple folks, Lenin’s glory hovers.”
The former Soviet Union eventually began banning Christmas commemorations. St. Nicholas was replaced with “Did Moroz,” or Grandfather Frost. This Stalinist creation wears a red cap and long white beard of Santa Claus, but he delivers gifts to children on New Year’s Eve. Christmas trees were also banned, but people continued to trim their New Year’s trees. Communism folded all Christmas celebrations into a New Year celebration.
Christians in the former Soviet Union exhibited bravery and courage in confronting Communism’s anti-Christmas campaign. One person recalled how the young people would go out in the streets and sing Christmas carols, knowing that if police heard them, they would be arrested. In Communist Romania, Rev. Geza Palffy, a Roman Catholic priest, delivered a sermon in 1983, protesting against the fact that December 25th had been declared a work day instead of a holiday. The next day he was arrested by secret police, beaten, imprisoned and died. Inside and outside the Iron Curtain, Ukrainians never stopped singing: “We beg you our Lord, we pray to you today. Grant us freedom, return glory to our Mother Ukraine.” Mr. Reagan ended his broadcast: “I guess we all hope their prayer is answered.” Indeed it was.
The secularization of Christmas is nothing new. Christianity Today in 2002 reported that in the Vietnamese province of Dak Lak, children’s choirs were forbidden to sing “Silent Night.” From 1969 to 1997, Christmas was banned in Cuba. Such examples are endless.Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “The war against Christmas is nothing new. Repressive forces have always had the same goal – to first secularize and then to eliminate Christmas. We must never take our freedom for granted.”