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November 12, 2007
Year’s War on Christmas, Courtesy of Your Friendly Retailer, Has Begun
An irritating thing
happened to me almost two weeks ago. I walked into one of our local mega
stores to find artificial Christmas trees on sale, and Christmas music
pumped through the sound system. I looked outside. The leaves hadn’t yet
cleared off all the trees.
I’ve been led to believe
that the War on Christmas is today being waged by hairy atheist liberals
like me, who are hoping to squeegee Christmas from the public square. To
this, I dissent to a point. There is a war being waged on Christmas, but
it’s by the retailers.
commercialization of Christmas. Blah, blah, blah. Not nearly as sexy as
turning Christmas into another partisan club with which to beat each
other, I’m sure, and probably not nearly as entertaining. Why? Because I
guess we’re all at some extent guilty of pushing it along and it’s never
fun to point fingers at yourself.
In years past, people
have complained – loudly – about the phrase “Happy Holidays.” They would
rather stores require greeters to say, “Merry Christmas,” in honor of
the holiday most of us celebrate. I’m led to believe that retailers who
ask their greeters to use a more generic greeting are doing so at the
behest of the American Civil Liberties Union, which never makes it
through this season of peace and goodwill towards men without incurring
a wheelbarrow of wrath and abuse.
I would like to offer an
alternative theory, one in which retailers understand that it is good
business to cater to everyone while favoring no one. This probably plays
out differently in some places with a smaller, more homogeneous
population, but I can’t imagine the retailer stupid enough to risk
offending someone by making them feel left out. It’s bad for business.
But these same folks are
the ones who are really waging war on Christmas. When you walk into a
megastore and find artificial Christmas trees and Christmas music
playing the day after Halloween, it’s not because the store management
and owners want you to remember that Jesus was born on December 25 and
would die on the cross for you. It’s because they want you to buy
things, and because they want to stretch out the associated shopping
season as long as possible in hopes that you’ll buy even more things.
Each year, it seems, we
see more and more stories in various media outlets about how the
shopping season is likely to help or hurt the bottom line of our major
retailers. In fact, in recent years, it’s almost as if we’re crossing
our collective fingers that enough of us go out and get ourselves
further into debt so that the entire enterprise can be turned into an
Those who do, of course,
are sacrificing something – carrying a little more credit card debt
buying stuff no one really needs for the sake of bloating out the GDP
just a little more.
I know a lot of people
who don’t like things like Nativity scenes at the local post office, or
in the town square. In fact, I am one of these people. To my knowledge,
none of them wish to affect what holiday anyone chooses to observe in
the sanctity of their own homes, which is where these things should be
confined anyway. As we say, what consenting adults do behind closed
doors . . .
This isn’t the case with
Christmas commercialized. It invades your home, usually through
television advertising, leaving subtle messages with impressionable
minds at a time when people are thinking about how to budget for the
holidays. This, in turn, affects the way the holiday is perceived by the
recipient of the message, helping to confuse whatever they hear from
their parents about the real meaning of Christmas.
Long term, the effects
of this are predictable – a diluted interpretation. It is the
true-frog-in-a-pot-of-water scenario. Slowly, methodically, the water
warms. The difference is that in this case, at the end of it the frog
doesn’t die, but only realizes that the carols he grew up singing have
become just another sales pitch.
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