midwinter rituals

Blogmas: War Is Over – if you want it

8 Dec 2021

There is no better time than now for a message of peace. And, though it may be 50 years old this year, John Lennon’s holiday song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” continues to be a relevant and needed part of our holiday playlists today.

I want to share a little about this song because 41 years ago today, one of my heros + spiritual mentors was shot and killed outside his apartment in New York City. And I felt that I could not let this day go by without writing about him and channeling a little Lennon energy. Especially because his greatest message (in my opinion) is one that we all need to hear – every single year.

Say what you want, because I know that John Lennon triggers an almost “love him/hate him” kind of reaction, but his lyrics, his music, his wild + creative + alternative + free way of living have been an inspiration to me since my parents first played the Beatles in the car on our many spontaneous roadtrips. We didn’t listen to the Beatles often, but just enough to pique my curiosity. Plus, I think it was just something that naturally stirred in my soul when I heard them.

In any case, throughout the years, I realized I felt a special connection or kindred-ship with John Lennon. As I read biographies and learned more about the man, his life, and dug deeper than the surface iconic, legendary status we all hear about, I grew more and more curious and inspired.

So, for Blogmas today I want to honor him and his 50 year old Christmas message to us all.

The story behind the song + the poster

Between 1969-71, John + Yoko engaged in 2 years of peace activism. It all began with a few staged protests that they called “bed-ins”. They were newly married in March 1969 and decided to use their honeymoon as a way to bring attention to the need for peace and to protest the war in Viet Nam. So, they stayed in bed. For days. And, they did this a couple of times that year. Inviting media in to photograph their protest and get their message of peace out in a most creative, shocking, unconventional, and eye-catching way.

Later that year, in December, they decided to take their peace campaign further – and specifically share a holiday message of hope. They rented billboard spaces, took our newspaper ads, and created posters to display their protest and call to peace… War Is Over if you want it. Adding Happy Christmas from John & Yoko as a personal Christmas greeting to the world.

When we stick posters around saying, “WAR IS OVER – If You Want It”, what we’re trying to promote is an awareness in people of how much power they have, and not to rely on the government, or leaders, or teachers so much that they’re all passive or automatons. They have to have new hope. Everybody’s looking for goals and answers; the youth especially. What we’re trying to tell them is that “You are the goal. Nobody on earth can do it for you. Whatever it is you want, you must do it yourself.” John Lennon, 1969

The song that we all have heard for years grew from the original protest/poster campaign. In December 1971, two years after the poster campaign, Happy Xmas (War is Over) was written and released by John (and Yoko) as a way to continue the campaign and a way to continue to protest the horrific tragedy of war. But, it was also written as a call to action and a message of hope. A deep call to true peace, not just the sugary sweet platitudes that we often hear at Christmas.

In the heart of the darkness of winter, in the midst of a world that is seemingly falling apart, in an effort to bring a sense of hope and a message of a way forward, this peace campaign is just as relevant today as it was in 1971. We may not be in the throes of the Viet Nam war, but we’ve been in countless wars since. And, today, in addition to still romanticising power + strength as values, we are also facing the rise of fascism + dictatorships, the horrors of gun violence + abuse, racism, political corruption and complacency and greed; and, of course, a global pandemic. More than ever, we need a message of peace and hope.

And we don’t need some fluffy, sweet, sugary message of just gathering together on a cozy winter’s night. We need more. We need a kick in the ass, a call to action, and something deeper in which to find a bit of hope. We need to understand that real power is found in humility, grace, mercy, acceptance, equality, and love. And we need to learn what it takes to create real, true, just, life-changing peace.

John Lennon’s message of hope is a dose of reality and a challenge to each of us – war IS over… if we choose for it to be. It is up to us to choose how we react, what we decide is important, and the way we want this world to be. The answer is not outside of us, but found right inside our own souls. We are the ones who choose peace or war, with every little decision we make every single day. In other words, peace really does begin with us.

I know that this all seems so cliché. But, I beg of you to really think about it for a minute. A life of peace + love + justice does not begin from the top up and trickle down to us. It begins within our own hearts and minds and souls. And only I can choose how I live my life. Moreover, I deeply believe that choosing to live a life of peace is the biggest contribution I can make in the world. How I conduct myself, what message I put out there, what energy I radiate, what decisions I make for my family + household… this is what creates peace. And, should I choose the way of peace and love and equality, then I will affect all that I come in contact with. Because whatever we choose spreads. So think… no, imagine… what if we all chose the path of peace and hope? A wave of justice and love would move across the entire globe.

This is what the Christmas story is about. This is what the winter solstice is about. And what the ringing in of a New Year is about. War is over – if we want it. It’s up to each one of us to choose our way forward. This year, let’s dare to choose peace, hope, love, light, and justice. We don’t have to have grand campaigns like John Lennon, or be as saintly as Mother Theresa. The point is that we have all we need to create peace right where we are. And, if we all commit to that together…. well, then our lives of peace will change everything and together we will create a just, equal, and love-filled world.

From the bottom of my John Lennon-inspired heart, I wish you a holiday filled with peace. And, I also wish for you a deeply focused, inspired, call to live a life of peace in 2022. Just imagine…

xoxo. peace. liz.

Happy Christmas Kyoko (Yoko’s daughter)
Happy Christmas Julian (John’s son)

So this is Christmas and what have you done?
Another year over and a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one, the old and the young
A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Lets hope it’s a good one without any fear

And so this is Christmas for weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones, the road is so long
And so happy Christmas for black and for white
For yellow and red ones, let’s stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Lets hope it’s a good one without any fear

And so this is Christmas and what have we done
Another year over and a new one just begun
And so happy Christmas we hope you have fun
The near and the dear one, the old and the young
A very merry Christmas and a happy new year
Lets hope it’s a good one without any fear

War is over if you want it
War is over now.

Written by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
Copyright © 1971 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

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