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Volume 13, Issue 50 ~ December 15 - December 21, 2005

Burton on the Bay

By Bill Burton

Merry X-mas to All

To understand everything makes one tolerant.

—Germaine de Stael: 1807

De Stael’s words make sense, but I ask, can anyone show me that person who understands everything? I have my own thinking on the tolerant:

Tolerance is a two-way street.

Sadly, for quite some time at this time of year, tolerance has become a one-way street.

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of tolerance is: Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs and practices differing from one’s own.

As my 78th Christmas approaches, I sense from listening to the radio and reading the daily press that this special holiday is being relegated to — and I hesitate to write this — just another holiday. Why, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m politically or otherwise correct in wishing a stranger a Merry Christmas.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like X-Mas

The other day I did some Christmas shopping (stocking up on a few winter items for myself) at Kohl’s in Severna Park. All around me were shoppers shopping for gifts for others. The spirit of Christmas nearly inundated the scene. Nearly. Something was missing.

Piped throughout the massive department store was nondescript music except for one tune: All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth. Where were the traditional Christmas carols?

A few minutes later, a courteous young floor-woman cheerily helped me locate an insulated shirt. As she prepared to head off to assist other shoppers, she said “Have a nice day.” Recalling what I’ve been reading and hearing of late, I politely asked, “What’s with Christmas: aren’t you allowed to mention it?”

She paused a moment, then said equally politely, “We’re told to keep things neutral. There are some people who might be offended.”

I didn’t say it aloud, but I thought to myself: Ye Gods, neutral! Offended. Christmas neutral?

Here I am living in a country in which the overwhelming citizenry is Christian at some level or other — and people can’t say to one another Merry Christmas.

I did say aloud “Well I’m going to wish you a Merry Christmas anyhow. Thank you for your assistance, and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

She started off, then paused, turned around and with a big smile said, “And a Merry Christmas to you, too.”

Know what? I’m sure we both felt better at the moment. I know I did.

Christmas Cheer Means Good Business

I was flabbergasted.

There I was in a department store, the one I switched to from upscale and pricey Nordstrom several years ago, a popular and prosperous department store, at a time when, The Wall Street Journal tells us, department stores gain 30 percent or more of annual sales and profits.

Yet here they are in the name of some kind of correctness or other, muffling the mention of Christmas, the holiday that richens their coffers and those of their stockholders.

They’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too. The way I look at it, when shoppers are in a holiday mood, hear the traditional carols of the season and wish each other a Merry Christmas, the true spirit of the holiday prevails.

When shoppers are in a festive mood, they shop more. It’s not like shopping for Labor Day or back to school. Among the ways Christmas is special is its spirit of giving. Banish that spirit and banish some sales and profits, as the national chain Macy’s learned to its distress last year.

Christmas Without

Wishing a Merry Christmas is not akin to being a missionary trying to convert others. The season celebrates the birth of an extraordinary man who is revered by millions around the globe. The far right or the far left, like it or not, must appreciate that Christmas has evolved into more that just a religious observance. It has become a tradition among many non-Christians as well as Christians.

I’ve not heard complaints about the Irish (and would-be Irish) attired in green jubilantly wishing others a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Or about citizens parading on our streets on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Why is it that Christmas has become taboo?

I’ve read and heard that some municipalities have ruled out decorating their streets for the sake of correctness. A family in California is said to be preparing to go to court to have their neighbors refrain from decorating their lawns for the holiday.

Tell me, can you imagine what this time of year would be like without all the lights, boughs of holly, wreaths, lighted candles in windows, mistletoe, candy canes, Christmas trees, tinkling Salvation Army bells and all?

Whatever happened to tolerance?

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Society is changing, in both subtle and ever so obvious ways. Just keeping up with what we’re supposed to do, or not supposed to do becomes a matter of confusion. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, it’s a no-win box.

You can’t win. In recent years, I’ve had mothers react with disdain when I’ve talked Santa Claus with their youngsters. I was told, sometimes curtly, they don’t recognize fictional characters.

Christmas without Santa? Come on. To many kids, Santa personifies giving in the holiday season.

I think of the late Francis P. Church, an editor at the old New York Sun, who in 1897 reassured Virginia O’Hanlon there was a Santa Claus. Schoolmates were laughing at her because she still believed.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” he wrote in that memorable editorial. “Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

He closed: “The most real things in the world are those which neither children or men can see … and yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Ah, but we see fewer Santas in stores these days, unless they’re to generate income as kids have their pictures taken on his lap.

Now that Christ is being taken out of Christmas, will the abbreviation X-mas become the norm?

Religion is a personal thing to me. I’m not much of a church-goer, just a non-denominational Christian who fully realizes that to the right there are more than a few who gripe that Christmas has become too commercialized.

To all, I say loosen up, enjoy the spirit of the holiday. And might I add: Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to all. If merchants want my business, they’d better stop considering it just another sales booster. Festive shoppers make cash registers sound like Christmas bells. Enough said.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.