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The C-Word Is Making a Comeback

December 19, 2004

This column’s far-flung staff has just visited two of the big anti-Christmas stores here in New York. First stop was Macy’s, where the formerly famous feast day has pretty much been obliterated. No reference to Christmas on the main floor. But high up in the store’s nosebleed section (ninth floor, furniture), shoppers may notice “Holiday Lane,” a collection of generically decorated Christmas trees and a few gift items.

The forbidden C-word is hard to find, though sharp-eyed column staffers noticed it twice, in little corners labeled “A Country Christmas” and “A Traditional Christmas.” Sadly, some minor Torquemada of the Macy’s Christmas disposal unit will probably lose his job for failing to rip down these backward signs. Not to worry, though. There is nothing religious in this area. No carols. No music at all. Just those two small indications of what holiday might be occurring along Holiday Lane.

Hanukkah is suffering the same fate as Christmas. Two years ago, the store had a huge Hanukkah banner and display. Now a few menorahs are for sale in a tiny unmarked area, well outside “Holiday Lane.”

The purge of Christmas is also in full bloom over at Bloomingdale’s, which, like Macy’s is owned by Federated Department Stores. A minuscule Christmas section is tucked away on the fifth floor. “Any Christmas music?” I asked a clerk, as a sad Billie Holiday song filled the air (just the thing for holiday lanes). “Oh, it goes in cycles,” the clerk said. “Just wait.” Sure enough, a few minutes later, right after “Let It Snow,” “The Christmas Song” came on, or as it is generally known, “Religion-Free Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Secular Fire.”

I heard no carols, though, and saw no “Merry Christmas” banners. Just a few trinkets and two table-top, fake evergreen trees decorated with tiny people holding Bloomingdale’s shopping bags.

Federated apparently ignores Christmas because it doesn’t want to offend anyone, though at least 80 percent of Americans say they are Christian, and 95 percent observe Christmas in some way. Presumably if American were 95 percent Druid, the canny business people at Federated would obliterate major Druid holidays and tick off as many Druid shoppers as possible. Then they would refer to this process as “inclusion.”

The folks at Federated are victims of the campaign to make people feel uncomfortable about Christmas, not just the religious feast but all the secular trappings, and even mention of the word “Christmas” in conversation. Some public schools have been banning “Silent Night” and other carols from school concerts, though no court has ever ruled that these songs cannot be sung. In West Bend, Wis., the joint school district announced that students could not distribute religious Christmas cards. No law or court has ever ruled this way. The school district backed down when Liberty Counsel, a religious liberties group, threatened to sue.

In Plano, Texas, a school district is trying to prohibit red-and-green sweaters at “winter break” parties. A judge has issued a restraining order. The anti-Christmas lobby keeps implying that schools can’t teach about Christmas and that creches can’t be placed on public property. Not so, as long as the teaching purpose is educational, and the creche is part of a broad seasonal display.

Santa Claus, the famously secular figure, is in hot water because he was originally based on St. Nicholas. Horrors. Then let’s ban the word “Goodbye,” which evolved from “God be with you.” At some schools, PC people argue that even “Jingle Bells” is a church-state violation.

Harold Johnson, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation said, “Administrators who try to make their schools Christmas-free zones are either constitutional illiterates or cowards in the face of PC bullies, or pushing personal agendas that have no grounding in the law.” Sounds right to me.

Jill Stewart, a California-based columnist, says her state’s “intolerance toward Christmas is just another reason why Californians and residents of other blue states are viewed by the heartland crowd as hostile, godless types who can’t stand regular folks.” Stewart is not religious, but to protest the anti-Christmas campaign, she will skip saying “Happy Holidays” at Christmas parties this year and just wish everybody “Merry Christmas.”

Defiance of the PC police may be catching on. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state “holiday tree” would be called a Christmas tree while he is in office.

In Winnipeg, Canada, last year, columnist Tom Brodbeck wrote that he was surprised and pleased that the musical event at his daughter’s school is a Christmas concert, not a “winter celebration” or an “international celebration of the holidays.” It wasn’t a “sunny solstice” or “decorous December” concert either, just a euphemism-free Christmas event. He thinks the word “Christmas” is slowly creeping back into the public vocabulary. “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas again,” he said. Let’s wish.

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