George Will

ORANGE CITY, Fla. -- A mob of shoppers rushing for a sale on DVD players trampled the first woman in line and knocked her unconscious as they scrambled for the shelves at a Wal-Mart Supercenter. -- Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- In sorting out the sociological significance of the fact that rival shoppers, according to the trampled woman's sister, ``walked over her like a herd of elephants," note that elephants do not behave that way to others of their species, even when they are stampeded by a 6 a.m. siren announcing, on the famously anarchic day after Thanksgiving, open season on a finite supply of $29 DVD players. But, then, elephants do not have Christmas celebrations.

Conservatives, in their simplistic way, will blame the Florida trampling on facets of human nature to which the Christmas story pertains -- mankind's fallen condition, meaning original sin. Liberals, being less judgmental and more alert to the social causes of things, will blame Wal-Mart. They already blame it for many flaws in creation, from low wages in Asia to America's ``loss of community," by which liberals mean the migration of shoppers from large-hearted Main Street merchants to the superior variety and lower prices at the Wal-Mart on the edge of town.

But at the risk of sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge, who was not the character in English literature who said, ``We shall soon be having Christmas at our throats," consider a possibility. Perhaps, as liberals like to say, the ``root cause" of modern Christmas discontents is the ruinous success of Puritanism -- ruinous, that is, to Puritanism.

That Christmas-at-our-throats fellow is a character in a novel by P.G. Wodehouse, who was as sweet-tempered as Scrooge was not. If the Christmas season, as it has become, could cause the preternaturally amiable Wodehouse to pen such a dark thought, how did it come to this?

That God works in mysterious ways is not news, but it is particularly puzzling that the birth of Jesus occurred when Romans, who then set the tone of the times, were celebrating Saturnalia -- think of a Wal-Mart at 6 a.m., plus wine, women wearing less than those little Wal-Mart vests and songs that are not carols. Songs that would not have been amusing to Oliver Cromwell, whose piety caused him to ban the celebration of Christmas.

He did the right thing for the wrong reason. A Puritan scold and a killjoy, he thought Christmas had become too much fun, which is not our problem today, unless getting trampled at a mall is your idea of merriment.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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