Christmas, by any other name...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The cease fire is in, the war is over - or at least on hold for a while.

No, not the war in Iraq, not hardly. But one that's had even more attention of late - the offended Christians battling mega-merchandiser Wal-Mart. Now that, my friends, is your true clash of the titans.

The skirmish was first joined when Wal-Mart encouraged its employees to greet customers with a smile and a "Happy Holidays."

Hey, the ultra-offended replied, what about "Merry Christmas?" In a report by WorldNetDaily, a spokesperson for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called the policy, "dumb" but said that wasn't the real issue.

The Catholic League apparently fielded a complaint from a woman who questioned Wal-Mart policy, and in return got an e-mail from a temporary employee who said that most of the world has practices other than "christmas," and went on to claim that the Christian holiday is rooted in Siberian shamanism.

The associate, reportedly now the former associate, is NOT having a happy holidays.

The Catholic League also took exception that when "Christmas" was typed into a search engine on the Wal-Mart web site, a "holidays" page came up instead of one labeled "Christmas." The spokesman reportedly labeled a Wal-Mart statement attempting to explain the retailer's efforts to appeal to a culturally diverse population, as "flatulent."

I'm not sure what to think of that. Do we really get our religious beliefs from discount store online shopping websites? Frankly, I'm thinking most people don't go shopping in a church, and probably don't look for religion at the Wal-Mart, either.

WorldNetDaily heavily reports that the celebration of Christmas is a "major cultural battleground," dating back to an attempt by colonial settlers to outlaw the celebration in New England, claiming it had more to do with pagan traditions than Biblical instructions.

Who knew Christmas was in trouble? Certainly not Wal-Mart, I would think, which started putting out the Christmas tree stuff around the first of October. If in fact there is one group that single-handedly would work to expand Christmas purchasing to a 24-hour-a-day, year-around activity if it could, complete with non-stop Bing Crosby carols, it would be your friendly neighborhood big-box retailer.

Anyway, after a final harrumphed "insane" comment pointed at the Wal-Mart statement, the Catholic League reportedly says it has accepted an apology from Wal-Mart, decided the company has satisfied its demands, noticed that a web search now brings up a "Christmas" page, and called off its plans for a national Wal-Mart boycott.

"This is a sweet victory," Catholic League President Bill Donahue is quoted. "...It means Wal-Mart can enter the holiday season without a cloud hanging over it."

Happy to hear it.

Too many clouds, and you can't see the stars. And this will soon be the time of the year to look for one, in wide wonder.

I like the holidays. I like "Jingle Bells" and the smell of pumpkin pie and the feeling of giving an unexpected present and taking a wide-eyed kid to Santa's Castle and those immortal ringing words from the Book of Luke and Adopting-A-Family and the Rudolph cartoon and visiting people you care about to tell them so and the kids in the live nativity scene downtown on the coldest night of the year and the way people smile at each other just a little bit more.

I'm glad that Christmas is alive and well.

You don't buy that Christmas at Wal-Mart, and you don't get it defined for you by religious organization bigwigs who call names like "insane" and "dumb" and the rather creative, I must admit, "flatulent."

You know where to find it. It's there in your heart, just where it was when you were a child. It's doing fine. You know how to hold it and where to celebrate it, and how to care for it like the special thing it will always be, no matter what.

Happy holidays to you. Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Hanukkah to. May we all get along like the family we are, and may none of us experience excessive flatulence, at least until New Years.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.


At the wonderful "Songs for Hope" concert at Buena Vista University Sunday, they handed out a small program. On the back was printed a message uttered by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. I knew it well once, but that was many years ago.

It came back to me like a sweet old friend. To whoever thought to include it, thank you. If anyone is offended, I don't want to hear about it. Enjoy, friends:

Now I say to you in conclusion,

life is hard,

at times as hard as crucible steel.

It has its bleak and difficult moments.

Like the ever-flowing waters of the river,

life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood.

Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons,

life has the soothing warmth of its summers

and the piercing chill of its winters.

But if one will hold on,

he will discover that God walks with him,

and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair

to the buoyancy of hope

and transform dark and desolate valleys

into sunlit paths of inner peace.