Sarah Palin ends her new book, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, with a collection of family recipes—starting with Christmoose Chili. They are the capstone of a 200-page journey through Palin’s vision of the “war on Christmas” that ranges from Constitutional law to culture wars, from fact to fantasy, from Bristol to bear skulls.
One could say her latest offering from HarperCollins covers more ground than a bald eagle skimming the shores of Wasilla Lake. But if the book were broken down into a recipe, these would be some of the main ingredients:
1 lb. evidence that there is a war on Christmas: Palin recounts news stories from recent years—such as a North Carolina college temporarily banning students from selling “Christmas” trees—to mount evidence that there are Americans trying to “destroy” the holiday. She generally refers to her foes as “secular leftists” and waffles between how formidable they are, saying “these guys aren’t just a few malcontents with lawyers” and dismissing them as a “few haters and cranks.” Palin prebuttals critics who would say she’s tackling a “non-existent problem” but doesn’t present any shattering new statistics to move the perennial debate.
10 oz. hypothetical situations: Many chapters center on made-up tales that illustrate Palin’s concerns, what she calls “stories based on reality.” She bolsters these with related real-world examples. In an imaginative ghost-of-Christmas-future scenario, Grandma Palin finds herself visiting her grandson Tripp at college in the year 2028. While on campus, she learns that the school has kicked out all the Christian groups, administrators liken the end of Christmas celebrations to the end of slavery and someone mistakes her for Tina Fey. Also, Mitt Romney finally gets elected on his sixth presidential run.
3 cups partisan meat: For readers who want classic Palin, have cheer. There are plenty of references to “dopey-hopey-changey things you hear from politicians,” criticisms of the Lamestream Media, digs at “cultural elites,” jokes about NPR-loving liberals, mentions of the “unfolding train wreck of Obamacare” and even an allusion to death panels.
2 cups “holiday”-shaming: A central trope in the book is Palin’s disgust and frustration at people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” While hitting on various points about the commercialization of the holiday (it’s good, it’s bad, it’s beside the point), she extolls businesses like Hobby Lobby that use religious imagery in advertisements and shames businesses like Target and Wal-Mart who have eschewed Christmas for more politically correct terms.
4 cans broader arguments about religion in public life: In many ways, Christmas is just the occasion for Palin’s book. She argues that Christians are being reviled and marginalized in American society—and that Christian faith should be more central to culture, politics, schools and public squares. Some chapters lean heavy on the evangelism, as she recounts Biblical stories and advocates for more Christ in Christmas. “God,” she writes, “is the only cure for what ails us.”
2 cans anti-atheism: Last year, Pew announced that people with no religion are the fastest-growing spiritual demographic, with one in five Americans opting for “none” when asked about their faith. Palin paints atheists as aggressive and power-hungry, saying that “the logical result of atheism … is severe moral decay.” She criticizes them for filing lawsuits over crucifixes displayed on public land and a “larger orchestrated attempt to strip our [Judeo-Christian] heritage from America.” (This comes at a time when some atheists are embracing church-style services, putting their own spin on weekly congregation.)
3 tbsp. peaking behind the curtains: Each chapter opens with anecdotes about Palin’s personal holiday memories, like the Christmas Eve when her father may have injured himself boiling a bear skull and definitely ate a can of salmon from 1992. Throughout the book Palin also gives readers glimpses at her private life during 2008, writing about how she reacted when her daughter Bristol confessed she was pregnant and how worn down she was by being “maligned” and “mocked” during the campaign.
1 dash curiosity piquing: There aren’t any explicit hints that Palin is planning on running for a particular office, though the book itself does rally the troops and call conservatives to action. “We must resist their efforts to push God out of the culture,” she writes, “to characterize us a silly and superstitious.”