Victories in the battle to save Christmas

Carol Platt Liebau

12/25/2006 12:00:23 AM - Carol Platt Liebau

It’s been several years since the term “war on Christmas” entered the American lexicon, denoting the politically correct effort to remove all potentially “offensive” religious elements from the public observation of the “winter holiday” that falls on December 25. Certainly emotions on both sides of the debate run high between those who welcome the reaffirmation of a common Judeo-Christian common culture (leavened by believers in other faiths or none at all), versus those who subscribe to the notion that celebrating “diversity” trumps all other considerations.

For a long time, it seemed apparent that the latter were winning the argument. “Happy holidays” largely replaced Merry Christmas, “holiday displays” in stores supplanted areas once designated as “Christmas shops.” Even this year, there’s been the usual, “politically correct” nonsense. The City of Chicago pressured organizers of the annual Christkindlmarket into eliminating New Line Cinemas – the studio that released The Nativity Story – as a sponsor. A city staff member in Riverside, CA, silenced Christmas carolers lest Jewish ice skater Sasha Cohen, who was present, take offense (the staffer obviously hadn’t seen the invitation on Cohen’s website to "Join Sasha On Her Christmas Tree Lighting Tour"). Worst of all, Target continues to ban Salvation Army bell ringers from seeking donations in front of their stores.

Even so, this year – for the first time – there’s been a sense that the tide is starting to turn. Companies that once rejected “Merry Christmas” are now embracing more faith-friendly terminology. Major stores like Wal-Mart (which still welcomes the Salvation Army), Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Walgreen’s, Sear’s and Kohls are unabashedly referring to Christmas in their customer interactions. Food Lion, which had previously relied on messages referencing the “holidays,” likewise is using “Merry Christmas.” In general, “holiday” political correctness run amok no longer goes completely unchallenged; the Dallas Morning News condemned the city for erecting a “downtown holiday tree,” noting sarcastically that “synagogues everywhere are dusting off their holiday candelabras.”

These changes, welcome as they are, didn’t happen spontaneously. They came about because ordinary Americans, frustrated with the gradual “de-Christianizing” of Christmas, finally spoke up. Last year, nearly 300,000 people signed an online petition calling for a boycott of Target in part because of its refusal to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” in store advertising and promotions. And this year, a Wal-Mart spokesman conceded that the company had “learned its lesson” in the wake of its unpopular 2005 policy of forbidding employees to say “Merry Christmas.” Finally, it became clear that tailoring corporate policies to avoid offending the left-learning, politically correct crowd could, in fact, be costly.

With all these favorable developments in the war on Christmas, there’s a heartening reminder for ordinary Americans: As citizens in a capitalist country with a market economy, we wield great potential clout through our spending power. Contrary to what the press and the class warriors would have us believe, our voices (and our choices) do matter. But that power is ours only to the degree that we choose to use it – and too often, it’s easy to stand by and watch with dismay as the culture veers ever leftward.

Instead, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did something different in 2007? Imagine the impact if we approached a different issue – say, the marketing of sex to little girls through clothes, books, music, movies and television, and the internet – with the same fervor and conviction that’s marked the defense of Christmas.

In time, parents could find clothes for their daughters that seem appropriate for teens, rather than for streetwalkers. The plots of adolescent girl-oriented books and movies could focus on something other than sex. And young women might not find themselves singing along to songs with lyrics that, once upon a time, would have made a sailor blush.

If there’s a lesson from the victories in the war on Christmas, it’s that they needn’t be isolated successes. We have the ability (and the right) to improve the quality of our common culture in general – if only we decide to do so.

Merry Christmas. God bless us every one.