As a non-Christian with a deep affection for Christmastime, I've always felt a little left out around this time of year, but not in the way you might think. I've always felt a bit out of place with the venerable conservative tradition of denouncing the "war on Christmas."
I should offer some background.
When I was a kid, my parents cut out a jokey headline from a local newspaper that read "Santa Knows We're Jewish" and put it on a cardboard Christmas tree ornament. My father insisted I be raised Jewish. (I went to a Jewish day school and was duly bar mitzvahed.) My Episcopalian mother insisted we celebrate Christmas.
Ever since, I've always loved Christmastime, and it never occurred to me that when raising my own child we wouldn't have a Christmas tree. No Hanukkah bushes for the Goldbergs, please.
Anyway, this time of year conservatives bemoan the effort to scrub the public square of overt religiosity, specifically any suggestion that the big holiday we're all taking time off to celebrate is also a Christian holy day. I feel like a conservative Canadian living in America. I care a lot for a fight that's not really my own.
I think conservatives have the better of the argument, of course. Every year there are enough "war on Christmas" horror stories to lend validity to the complaints.
For instance, this year, the sage bureaucrats of Loudoun County, Va., had the brilliant idea of letting Santa be crucified outside their courthouse. And it wasn't even a jolly Saint Nick. It was a Halloween skeleton in a red Santa suit. It looked like a weird prop from a post-apocalyptic horror movie. "The zombies got Santa!"
Meanwhile, the Swedish branch of UNICEF put out a commercial depicting Santa as hard-hearted 1-percenter who scoffs at the idea of bringing presents to Third World kids. "Come on. I don't do poor countries."
And those are just the highlights. Incapable of getting around the inconvenient first six letters of the word "Christmas," more and more people have decided to duck the issue entirely. Increasing numbers of public schools insist on celebrating "winter solstice." Congress cannot send out "Christmas" cards. The governor of Rhode Island declared that the traditional Christmas tree would henceforth be christened -- whoops! I mean called -- a "holiday tree."