It looks like that time of year has come upon us again.
"What time?" you say? "Autumn? Halloween? Leaf color season?" No - none of that is that of which I speak. I am talking about Christmas season.
For the four years in four different stores that I worked through Christmas season - one of those years in management - It was always known that Christmas season started October 15. Regardless of the fact that some stores had their displays out before they even had Halloween candy sales, the start of the Christmas season in retail is October 15. (Leases on seasonal stores usually run from October 1.) It looks like it got started just a little early this year.
One thing that was never a problem when I worked in retail - and it wasn't that long ago, we are talking the 1990's - was the name of the season. It was always Christmas season, because that is the accepted and historical name of the holiday under consideration. I never knew anyone to have a problem with that.
The "war against Christmas" is a more recent occurrence. To the best of my memory, it's not even really been ten years since the name came under attack. Of course, attacks on having nativity scenes on public property have been around a bit longer. Now some would like to ban those even if they are on private property if they can be seen from a public road. How ridiculous!
This year, the war against the name has started in Richmond, Virginia. The annual parade there was renamed this year in an effort, they said, to be more inclusive. A power company named Dominion sponsored it this year, and the board voted to change the name to the "Dominion Holiday Parade". Here's where the story takes two turns I would like to discuss more in depth.
1. The American Family Association, with whom I often find myself at odds, immediately jumped on this story. They were quick to accuse Dominion Power of changing the name, and called for action of letter writing and possible boycott of the company in all states Dominion operates.
Quote from the original AFA Alert: This year, a company which took over sponsorship of the annual Richmond, Virginia, Christmas parade has ordered the city's organizers to change it to a "holiday" parade.
Dominion, an energy company operating in 12 states, has told the city it no longer wants to use "Christmas" as part of the parade name. Instead, Dominion said it will be known as the "Dominion Holiday Parade."
Note especially what they said at the bottom of the email: "Should Dominion become the title sponsor of your city's parade in the future, you can expect that they would not hesitate to censor "Christmas" in your town, too!"
All good and well ... if it were true! It appears once again, AFA jumped the gun and went off without having all the facts. The city of Richmond issued a statement that they were changing the name to, "Dominion Christmas Parade" because of the outpouring of support for "Christmas" being in the title. More importantly (for the discussion at hand), they said this: "This decision [to change the name to Holiday Parade] was made prior to approaching Dominion about becoming the main sponsor of the event. It was not done at the insistence of Dominion, as has been misreported in some instances."
AFA celebrated the change back to Christmas and told their members they had made all the difference and it was a victory all around.
Except that they were deceptive in getting there! Is AFA taking a "the ends justify the means" approach? Nowhere have I seen them issue an apology to Dominion for stirring up their hornet's nest of Angry Mommies (that is what 99% of their members are) to make calls and write letters and basically attack a company that had nothing to do with the change. Have you ever dealt with an Angry Mommy? They can be most unreasonable - especially when they are misinformed.
2. What if Dominion HAD made the change? They are the main sponsor, they are paying for most (if not all) of it so why should they be denied the right to name it? Without even devolving into the argument as to whether Jesus the Christ was really born in December or not (he wasn't - try April or September), or how Christmas actually came about (the Catholic Church began it as an alternative to the Pagan Winter Festival, because if the newly "converted" Pagans were required to be at a Mass, praying, they couldn't take part in the Pagan activities), this is still a free country and as such, someone can celebrate any Holiday they want and call it anything they want.
That said, actually banning displays, banning employees from saying "Merry Christmas" (as Walmart did in 2005: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15639425/), or insisting that a religious display is okay as long as it has a secular display as part of it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynch_v._Donnelly) is going too far in the opposite direction. The last is particularly of interest ... while a portrayal of a historic birth is wrong (because, as they see it, it may not be true), it is okay as long as it is teamed up with a fat man who rides in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer! Using the establishment clause to defend this does not work - the clause prohibits the endorsement of atheism over religion as much as it prohibits the endorsement of one religion over another.
The first settlers who came to this country celebrated Christmas. I don't know of any Christian who has ever been offended by someone wishing them a Happy Chanukkah - so if you want to celebrate that, DO. I personally celebrate both - just not as part of my Faith. As for the non-holiday, Kwanzaa, I will discuss that in a post sometime in December. Before you call me a racist, read that log when it is posted. (Here's a bit of a teaser though - the actual origin of Kwanzaa was distinctively antichristian.)