For the past several years, I've been among those in the trenches mounting a defense against the "War on Christmas."
The "war" is mainly fought by politically correct retailers afraid that wishing customers "Merry Christmas" during the Christmas season will alienate some of the Christmas shoppers looking for Christmas presents during Christmas sales in their Christmas-decoration-festooned stores. Spineless government bureaucrats often are willing ammo carriers.
In a word, it's stupid. Afraid of scaring off an almost imperceptible fraction of customers -- or of attracting the ire of the ACLU, in the case of the bureaucrats -- the retailers from the big national chains wish everyone a generic "happy holidays!" even as their aisles bulge with gifts and candy and decorations and knickknacks that are expressly related to the celebration of Christmas.
As Christmas cards have started dropping into my office from various organizations, I see that just one of them so far mentions Christmas by name. Others are loaded with "joys of the season" during the "holidays, or offering "best wishes for a wonderful holiday season."
If you didn't know any better, or got visual cues just from the stock images of holly and snow, you could probably assume the "season" is merely winter, and the "holiday" is, well, any random day off.
Our staff isn't immune. A couple of years ago, I ordered The News-Times' annual "Merry Christmas" ad. One of our marketing folks asked, "Are you sure you don't want to say 'Happy Holidays'?" Argh.
After so long being one of those complaining about all this politically correct scaredy-cat stuff, though, I'm worried that we're seeing a backlash.
So many well-meaning people have complained about the lack of Christmas in Christmas that now there seems to be an almost hair-trigger mentality from the defenders of the holiday.
As a result, instead of joy in their hearts for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, some of my brethren seem to be walking around with chips on their shoulders just waiting for the first chirpy "happy holidays" to knock it off. They're itching to treat a greeting like fighting words.
A perfect example came in an e-mail forwarded from a friend this past week, just one lately on the similar theme. The sender unloaded both barrels on one of those big-box retailers for wishing Muslims a "Happy Eid al-Adha," but omitting Merry Christmas in the same flier.
It just so happened that this particular flier came out on that particular Muslim holiday, and subsequent ads from the same company have, indeed, included Christmas (and "holiday") wishes.
The person who fired off the e-mail blast didn't seem to care about that; she just wanted to be sure everyone knew she was never going to shop with that company again. She was angry, not because Christmas wishes were excluded, but because in the midst of those greetings another religion's holiday was recognized.
I'm not exactly the most tolerant person on the planet and don't particularly care if it hurts anyone's feelings. I happily say "Merry Christmas" and am among those cheering each year during the county's tree lighting when county commission Chairman Ron Cross makes it a point to note that we're lighting a Christmas tree, not a "holiday tree."
I'm also not among those looking for excuses to be offended if someone else is squeamish -- for whatever reason -- about saying "Merry Christmas" and instead decides to be squishy and "inclusive" with the near-meaninglessly generic "happy holidays."
I know it's Christmas. So do you. So do they. Let's not get so wrapped up in what we call the holiday that we forget why we celebrate it, OK?
Barry Paschal is publisher of the Columbia County News-Times.