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November 12, 2007

This 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.


Yes, the 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 economic plus.


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.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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