Inside the studios of talk radio and cable news, the hot talk about a "war on Christmas" has cooled somewhat in 2009. But the controversies over Christmas, which seem as eternal as religion itself, continue on a number of different levels.
There's the schoolhouse war over politeness to religious minorities -- and even more unnecessarily, the altogether non-religious. This is the kind where many parents sit through inane "winter" chorus concerts at both public and private schools where there are more songs about sleds and skis than about herald angels and newborn kings. In some cases, students even salute the holidays of religious minorities (including the recently invented Kwanzaa) while excluding any mention of Christmas.
At my son's "holiday" middle-school party, students performed skits from "Star Wars" and "West Side Story" and there was even a tribute to Michael Jackson. Not one popular Christmas carol was sung all night. (Their version of a "Silent Night," come to think of it.)
Then there's the shopping-mall war over commercial priorities. There's the same layer of political correctness as the schools. The best example of business P.C. this year was an ad for The Gap, where a group of fashionably dressed young adults and children danced and yelled, "Go Christmas! Go Hanukkah! Go Kwanzaa! Go Solstice!" They somehow skipped over the five-day December festival of Pancha Ganapati for the Hindus. How insensitive.
Minneapolis-based Best Buy caused a furor with a Black Friday circular that wished Muslims a "Happy Eid Al-Adha," which takes place at the end of November. There is one major market constituency that can now rest easily! Christmas? It wasn't mentioned in that circular, never mind that Black Friday launches the Chr------ season.
But there's another layer of Christmas exploitation -- tasteless ads mocking the Nativity story (Red Bull ads in 2006) or mocking Santa Claus. Boost Mobile drew brickbats for a bizarre animated ad where Mrs. Claus is in her bed cheating on Santa with Frosty the Snowman. Mrs. Claus says to the camera: "What, you think this is wrong? Santa's busy, and I have needs. I'll tell you what's wrong: cell phone plans with contracts that cost a fortune. That's why I got Boost Mobile. Their monthly unlimited plan has no contracts, and it's only $50 a month." Santa then returns home, and Mrs. Claus starts to melt Frosty with her blow dryer.