Tell me more about this "war on Christmas." Where is it? I want to sign up before it's over. I've just looked at my wife's credit card bills.
If they're not enough to start a war, I don't know what is. We'll wait until after Dec. 25 to set off the rockets.
Oh, sorry. You say I'm wrong. This Christmas war is not about spending. It's about shutting up people who say "Happy Holidays" when they should be shouting "Merry Christmas!" Or maybe it's the other way around. That's a reason for a war?
A Fox cable-television guy wrote a book called "The War on Christmas," and this whole fuss is rooted in peddling his book before time runs out on Sunday. After that fateful day, "The War on Christmas" will probably sell for about a quarter on the remaindered table.
I hesitate to preach to the faithful, but I will proceed anyway. Christmas is a wonderful holiday, one of the two greatest Christian observances, the other being Easter.
In contrast to Easter, however, Christmas - or at least the way we observe the secular aspect of the holy day - is constantly changing. (I started to say "evolving" but decided, in the present political climate, that "evolving" was a poor word choice.)
A few years back, the holiday-season debate centered on the "over-commercialization of Christmas." Everywhere you looked, pastors and other Christian leaders decried the rise of materialism during the Yuletide. Buying stuff had blotted out the real reason for Christmas, the good counselors declared from pulpits and lecterns across the land. "Stop buying and pray!" - good advice any time, I say.
You don't hear much nowadays about the Christmas stuff problem. The anti-materialism folks have mostly left the stage. Today, nearly every newscast dealing with Christmas begins with a economic report from retailers. Then we get to hear the latest headlines from the war-on-Christmas front. The Merry Christmas soldiers seem to be winning against the Happy Holiday warriors.
Many of TV's dueling ninnies would have you believe that our current manner of celebrating Christmas stretches back centuries to the beginnings of our country.
Not quite. The early Pilgrims hoped to keep Christmas out of the colonies, believing the holiday served as a hindrance to true faith. If those very straight and solemn folks had prevailed, the world might have been spared Visa and MasterCard - but a lot of good cheer too.
Our accepted version of Santa Claus is about 75 years old, conceived as part of an Atlanta-based Coca-Cola advertising campaign.
A commercial artist, Haddon Sundblom, unveiled Coca-Cola's Santa in December 1931 as "jolly and rotund, a ruddy Dutch uncle who glowed with luminous warmth and loved to drink Coca-Cola while delivering presents from the North Pole," according to Frederick Allen's "Secret Formula," a history of Coca-Cola.
Coke's Santa or a look-alike has become ubiquitous during America's holiday season.
Speaking of Atlanta, the Christmas celebration and shopping season began for decades on Thanksgiving night with the lighting of "The Great Tree" (no, it wasn't officially called a Christmas tree, but we knew what it was) on the Rich's department store bridge over Forsyth Street. Dozens of local choirs sang traditional carols as the lights went on.
Kids couldn't wait to ride Rich's Pink Pig monorail train, which ran around the ceiling of the toy department. By the early 1960s, the electrified pig had joined Coke's Santa as cherished local symbols of Christmas.
Another entrenched tradition comes to mind. For years, old-timers would greet each other joyfully with cries of "Christmas gift!" as the holiday approached. I never quite figured out the precise meaning of "Christmas gift!" Did it mean "Give me a present!" or simply "Here's a gift"? No matter. The custom has virtually vanished. Times change.
In any event, I wanted to make certain this year that my holiday-entranced wife had not mailed Christmas cards that might offend the fierce defenders of "Merry Christmas." Too late. The long-gone heretical cards carried a drawing of a dove and read, "Wishing you peace at Christmas." Oops, the Christmas war crowd at Fox News will have a hissy-fit.
No, Bill O'Reilly, the missus didn't buy the offensive cards from liberal Democrats. She picked them up at Publix.
Syndicated columnist Bill Shipp writes on Georgia politics. Write him at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.billshipp.com. His column appears on Wednesday and Sunday.