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Stan Fix: Is there a ‘Christmas War’? I say ‘Bah! Humbug!’

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Posted: December 18, 2010 6:29 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Some believe there is an effort to do away with the religious side of Christmas. “Bah!”

The “War on Christmas” phrase was coined by Fox News host John Gibson in 2005, when he published a book by the same name.

True, the enduring symbolism of Christmas trees are sometimes referred to as “holiday trees,” “community trees,” “family trees” (a proofreading error according to Lowe’s) or simply “trees”; and first lady Laura Bush chose nonreligious themes for the White House Christmas trees.

A “national Christmas tree” is set up every Christmas season on the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Each year, one of the 50 states is afforded the honor of supplying that year’s “Capitol Christmas tree,” along with 75 smaller trees to be dispersed around the Capitol.

Granted, in our increasingly diverse nation, some retailers opted five or more years ago to downplay the word “Christmas” during the winter/holiday “season” (that now runs from Halloween through New Year’s) to appeal to an expanded customer base. All Hallow Even, (my birthday), Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s have become “the holidays.” The current circulars we receive offer “holiday deals.”

With tens of millions of customers coming through its doors every week, “Wal-Mart is proud to welcome … celebrants of all holidays.” Kmart and Old Navy have “holiday hours.” Target has “holiday prices. Save merrily.” You can “share holiday classics” at Costco, including a Christmas album that aims for “retro sensibilities” by Mariah Carey, the top-selling female recording artist in history. Macy’s has “holiday dollars.”  Sports Chalet invites you to have a “holiday on us!” 

Easy Life Furniture brings you “brightest holiday wishes.” Sprouts is now a “holiday” market. Smart and Final has “holiday dinner savings.” Vons/Pavilions is “Your place for the holidays.” Orchard Supply is now “holly jolly.” Pier 1 Imports encourages you to “Get in the spirit with gifts.”  Even Castlebridge Church Tours says, “Seasons Greetings.”

Some ads simply feature snowflakes or “traditional” trees with red and green print.  Yet, Albertsons wishes you “happy holidays.” Select stores open Christmas Day. 

Party City has “Christmas-patterned tableware” with poinsettias, snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas trees and holly. Stater Bros. emblazons across their ad:  “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,” and Food4Less and Ralph’s simply say: “Merry Christmas.” Souplantation takes the phrase “comfort and joy!” from the carol “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”

“Every season starts at Dick’s Sporting Goods: Christmas.” Honeybaked Ham has “Christmas savings.” Office Max has “Christmas gifts.”  Toys “R” Us and Kohl’s are having a “Christmas sale.” Joann expresses “Christmas wishes.” Trader Joe’s “holiday guide” has “happy Hanukkah!” and “Merry Christmas!” in fine print.

Oh, it can become confusing as it is in Japan, where a department store Santa is seen holding the Christ child in one hand and a bowling ball in the other. Although the word “holiday” is derived from “holy day” and is an expression even more ancient and originally no less religious than “Christmas,” which is derived from the 11th- century “Christ’s mass,” since wrapping suitcases at a Bullock’s one Christmas as a teen, there is a part of me that wants to keep Christmas as far away from this commercialism as possible.

 And then, in our diversity, the difficulties of planning an office “holiday party” turn up every Christmas time. Since 2000, a fictitious series of e-mail messages from a company’s Human Resources director has circulated. It is a humorous commentary about the travails of trying to avoid conflicts with everyone’s religious, cultural, dietary and other preferences.
Sadly, people of faith have sometimes been aggressive in saying mean things and “bear false witness” against one another in such situations.

Still, the celebration of Christmas is essential. I love it. I love the gatherings, the candles, the expressions of thoughtfulness and the always-excited kids. I love driving home from worship on Christmas Eve, humming carols and wanting the night to go on and on.

  Oh, there are plenty of joys in Christmas and in organized Christianity, and there are plenty of shortcomings. But somehow, the tidings of great joy need to get out.

I agree with Ben Stein, a Jew, who appeared on the CBS Sunday Morning news program a few years back:
“It does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit-up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. That’s what they are. ... It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating.”

Likewise, it doesn’t bother me when Christmas trees are called holiday trees.  Likewise, it doesn’t bother me when the greeter at Wal-Mart says, “Happy holidays!”

In the words of our president at the lighting of the national Christmas tree, “Merry Christmas, everybody!  Merry Christmas!  Happy holidays!  Merry Christmas!”

Dr. Stan Fix is pastor of the Friendly Valley Community Church in Newhall. Readers can e-mail him at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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