Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Culture Wars 2008

The Holiday Gift Season started last week with Black Friday and will continue another three weeks until the Winter Holiday. Cities and states are lighting their holiday trees. Businesses are counting on retail sales to rebound from last year.

The most surprising thing this year is that some companies are using the term "Christmas" again. Starting a few years ago, most retailers scrubbed the word from their lexicon. Lowes had specials on their Holiday Trees. A search on other company's web sites for "christmas" was redirected to "holiday".

All of this was pretty silly. The only reason people are buying presents is to give them at Christmas. Hanuka and Kwanzaa represent a tiny fraction of the gift-giving public. According to legend, the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because that is when companies' books go from the red (loss) to black (profit). Without Christmas sales, our retailers would be out of business.

That's why they start putting up decorations and playing music sometime in November. They want to put you in the mood to shop early. Studies have shown that people who shop early are more likely to buy extra last-minute gifts in late December.

But a few years ago retailers got it into their heads that shoppers might be offended by a reminder that there is a religious root to the holiday. So they rechristened (an ironic word in this context) Christmas into the Winter Holiday. They were following the lead of governments who had been hit with lawsuits to ether banish Christmas from public-owned spaces or to allow the inclusion of offensive images such as a KKK-sponsored white cross. The thing is that private enterprises are not under the same restrictions. They can wish you whatever greeting they want.

Things got so bad that many people felt self-conscious about wishing private individuals a "merry Christmas", opting instead to wish them a "happy holiday", even when they knew that they were talking to Christians.

Things are a bit different this year. As shown here, some retailers are now using "Christmas" outright or including it somewhere in their ads. Not all are, though. Banana Republic and Old Navy are still forbidding the word.

My suggestion is that people do their Christmas shopping at stores that use the "C" word. Stores that cater to those who are offended by the word can have all of the Hanuka and Kwanzaa shoppers. See if they stay in business.

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