| December 21, 2005
Great Christmas Debate
by Michael J. McManus
George Bush's most ardent supporters are angry with him because he has
secularized Christmas. As the President put it at the end of his press
conference on Monday, "Happy Holidays to you." His Christmas card said nothing
Nor does the WhiteHouse.gov
website. It features pictures of a beautifully decorated White House on the
theme of "All Things Bright and Beautiful," which was "chosen to highlight the
beauty to be found in nature. Our emphasis for this holiday season is on some of
the many ways that plants, trees, fruit and flowers can be the stars of holiday
Huh? It seems that the President has missed the reason for the season. Bush has
taken Christ out of Christmas, like Bill Clinton – but unlike his father, George
Bush I. It's as if we had elected Barry Lynn, of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State - as our President.
Last year Christmas at the White House proclaimed the "Season of Merriment and
Melody," and featured decorations with "delightful vignettes illustrating many
of the best-loved songs of the season." Not one was a traditional spiritual
carol or hymn, but elevator music, "Here Comes Santa Claus," "All I Want for
Christmas is my Two Front Teeth."
Similarly, at the opposite end of Pennsylvania last year Congress erected a
giant "Holiday Tree."
This blandification infuriates many Protestants and Catholics who take their
faith seriously. Why do store clerks wish you a Happy Holiday rather than a
Merry Christmas? They are trained to use a phrase that is supposedly inoffensive
However, in secularizing Christmas, politicians and merchants are offending 82
percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas.
What percentage of Americans are offended when someone wishes them a "Merry
Christmas?" The majority (56 percent) of people who don't attend church on an
No. Absolutely not. According to a Gallup Poll released this week, "only 3
percent of adults say it bothers them when stores specifically refer to the
Christmas holiday in their displays, rather than "Happy Holidays" or "Season's
And 62 percent of Americans say that the nearly ubiquitous use of such phrases
rather than "Merry Christmas" is a change for the worse.
Generic "Happy Holidays" are most likely to irk Republicans (48 percent), and
weekly churchgoers (42 percent). Even 25 percent of those who seldom or never go
to church are offended. However, 97 percent are NOT offended by "Merry
Christmas." Remember that number when you see Christmas secularized. And get
mad enough to do something about it.
Those who fight to put Christ back in Christmas won some victories this year.
First, that tree on Capitol Hill is called a Christmas Tree this year, thanks to
House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Consider Federated Department Stores (Macy's, Belk's). Last year the American
Family Association persuaded 700,000 supporters to e-mail Federated threatening
a boycott unless they stopped omitting Christmas from their stores, advertising
and promotions. This year Christmas appears in all Federated stores and ads.
Macy's apparently concluded it had more Christians than secularists as
An AFA survey this year found that "almost all of the national retail chains
were leaving Christmas out," said Tim Wildmon, AFA President. "We don't want to
see the importance of Christmas diminished in our culture. If it is removed, we
are just celebrating a winter holiday."
The AFA army threatened to boycott Target stores that not only omitted Christmas
but banned Salvation Army bell ringers from its stores. The backlash was severe
enough for Target to start referring to Christmas and Hanukkah directly. So has
Sears. Lowe's now sells Christmas trees rather than "holiday trees."
I suggest patronizing those stores, and thank them. Who should we avoid? Kmart,
Staples, Home Depot, Best Buy, L.L. Bean, Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Office Depot,
The issue is larger than Christians vs. secularists. Seamus Hasson, author of a
new book, "The Right to Be Wrong," notes that after the Pilgrims celebrated the
first Thanksgiving, they stoutly banned Christmas celebrations a month later,
which they saw as Catholic (Christ-Mass). The Puritans made Christmas
festivities illegal from 1659-1681.
Each religious faith has a right to celebrate its holy days, while ignoring
those of others. What should be resisted are attempts to ban faith from the
public square. No one objects to February being "Black History Month," or March
17, St. Patrick's Day. Similarly, no one should object to nativity scenes or
Jewish Menorahs in a city park.
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski wished a Merry Christmas to all of the city's
Christian residents. That's the spirit!
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