Monday, November 22, 2010

The Battle for Christmas - 2010

First a bit of background - municipal Christmas displays used to be common and elaborate. During the 1980s, a number of lawsuits were filed by anti-Christian groups (seriously, has the ACLU ever filed an anti-Jewish lawsuit) demanding that Christmas displays be removed as an unacceptable endorsement of religion. At the same time, fringe groups like the KKK sued for access to put up their own religious symbol (a cross covered with KKK slogans). Civic leaders retreated and regrouped. During the 1990s, Christmas displays were replaced with non-specific "Winter holiday" displays featuring images like candles, trains, teddy bears, and the "holiday tree".

For some reason, private retailers followed this example. During the early 2000s more businesses than not sold "holiday gifts" and "family trees". This offended many people including religious groups who saw it as suppression of their religion. It also offended secular types like me who saw this as hypocrisy - these stores are pushing us to buy Christmas presents from them even while refusing to acknowledge the name of the holiday. This is especially bad form for the Christmas tree department since no other holiday is celebrated by putting up a tree.

This even spread to public speech to the point that friends were afraid to wish each other a "Merry Christmas", going for the "Happy Holidays" instead.

So, after a few years of public backlash, where do we stand? Christmas is back. Most stores now include the word in their advertising and, presumably, are allowing employees to use "Christmas" when talking to customers.

The American Family Association has a list of Naughty or Nice chains graded on their use of "Christmas". Radio Shack stands out since they advertise a lot on TV. On the other hand, they are now "The Shack". If they can't say their own name, maybe it is expecting too much for them to say "Christmas". Maybe they could compromise and wish people a happy "C-Day". CVS always devotes a couple of isles to decorations and wrapping paper so they qualify as major hypocrites.

So, Christmas is back. Now let's work on Thanksgiving. This year, the term "Black Friday" has taken over. This is Black Friday week. Retailers were hoping to make this Black Friday month. I expect someone to refer to Thanksgiving as "the day before Black Friday" or "the start of Black Friday weekend".

I'm a traditionalist. When I was growing up, my mother drilled into me that Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving were gauche. I can understand why stores are pushing the season - they have a financial state in it. I don't have any sympathy for individuals who have their tree up before Thanksgiving. I can understand stringing the outdoor lights while it is warm but you don't have to plug them in.

It looks like Christmas has become socially acceptable again. Now lets push to get some respect for Thanksgiving.

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