War on Christmas, or just business?

Perhaps the election year has dimmed the ardor of the usual War on Christmas debaters, having expended all of their energy on a tough and unique campaign pitting two non-incumbent Senators of two very different generations against each other.  I haven’t seen much chatter about the attempts to strip the religion from the season, or seen many posts about offering “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.  Today, however, the Washington Times’ Peter Parisi fills the gap with an analysis of retailer fervor for Christmas that somehow feels strangely self-contradictory:

In the fall 2008 edition of “FYI Alexandria,” which the city bills as “Alexandria’s Official Resident Newsletter,” a front-page blurb announced: “City Seeks 2008 Holiday Tree.”

Alexandria at the time was “seeking the donation of a Colorado Blue Spruce … or other well-formed 25- to 35-foot evergreen tree.”

“The Holiday Tree will be decorated and displayed throughout the holiday season,” the newsletter noted, adding that it would be lighted during the city’s annual tree-lighting ceremony on Market Square.

Given that it was politically correct Alexandria, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the city arborist – ironically, named John Noelle – wouldn’t call it what it is, a Christmas tree; after all, the only other “holiday” involving trees is Arbor Day, and that’s celebrated on the last Friday in April.

And with the holiday that dare not speak its name almost upon us, nowhere is that phenomenon more noticeable, or more indefensible, than in the advertising sales circulars of the national retail chains that come by the dozen in newspapers, especially on Sundays.

I think we can all agree that “holiday tree” is an especially lame attempt at political correctness.  Unless Alexandria produces an example of another faith tradition during this holiday season that makes use of trees in some manner, they’re obviously putting up a Christmas tree.  The fact that they can’t quite admit that is more amusing than offensive, although it certainly shows that Alexandria’s citizens need to find more honest and straightforward officials.

Retail chains use the “holiday” reference more often for commercial reasons, though, and in this economy, that makes some sense.  As a term, “holidays” is more general than “Christmas”, which theoretically at least would apply to more people.  Instead of marketing exclusively to Christians, stores offer a broader reason to buy consumer goods so that Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and others can feel encouraged to buy stuff at tremendous discounts.  That’s just good business.

I’m at a loss to understand the offense taken here by Parisi and the Times.  Christians have complained for decades about the utter loss of a religious holiday to commercialization, and for good reason.  Now suddenly we measure the depth of commitment to Christmas by the way retailers exploit the birth of Jesus to sell goods?  If we’re arguing on those grounds, haven’t we already lost?

For myself, I’m not offended when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays,” although I always reply, “Merry Christmas.”  I’ve been wished much worse in the past, believe me.