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Milt Hankins: Don't get caught up in phony 'War on Christmas'

Dec. 15, 2013 @ 07:33 PM

A few nights ago I watched as the U.S. Air Force Band staged a holiday flash mob at the National Air and Space Museum. (YouTube.com) They played "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Joy to the World." The experience was glorious -- despite one sour note! I couldn't avoid thinking about the "War on Christmas."

One recent day, at the local post office, I heard a lady ask the clerk if the post office still had the Christmas stamps with the manger scene. The clerk said, "We're out of those, unfortunately, but we still have the stamps with the angels on them." It was a wonderful experience. The "War on Christmas" came to mind.

A coincidence happened at the same post office that day. A well-known lady in our town, whom I knew did NOT celebrate Christmas because of her religious persuasion, left the counter while several people wished her a "Merry Christmas."

I recall, ages ago, when I was a youngster, my mother sent our Christmas cards, which often featured the words "Seasons Greetings" across the front. Sometimes, they read "Happy Holidays!" As far as I know, no one ever suggested we were anti-Christmas.

For the past several years some broadcasters have made a point of bringing up what they call the "War on Christmas." A few weeks ago, Fox Nation announced, "Once again this holiday season, the right to celebrate Christmas is under attack." Note, if you will, the redundancy. Even Fox Nation used "holiday season" interchangeably with "Christmas!"

It is absolutely, perfectly within bounds to wish your Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist friends "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings." Not only is it permissible, it is the proper, polite thing to do. Are we declaring war on Christmas simply because we respect other peoples' right to celebrate their own religious holy days?

I have Jewish friends. I wish them "Happy Hannukkah." When I greet folks whom I do not know well, or whom I have no idea what their personal beliefs are, I try to say, "Happy Holidays." Better to be inclusive than to be embarrassed or to embarrass that person who would feel obligated to set me straight with "I'm Jewish," or "I do not celebrate this time of the year."

Folks, there is NO war on Christmas, period! It's a silly protest, which (if it accomplishes anything) inadvertently causes our mind to wander away from the joys of the season, as it did with me in the examples I gave.

If I choose to celebrate Christmas in its truest and best sense (i.e. Christ Mass), I must do away with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, mistletoe, the holly and the ivy, wreaths and hundreds of secular songs like "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I'll have to ban Black Friday and ask the department stores to take down their meaningless decorations.

That, my friends, would be a true "War on Christmas" don't you think? Instead, I'll continue to enjoy the Christmas season, try to forget about the phony war, and wish everyone "Happy Holidays!"

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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