Another holiday season, another saga in the "War on Christmas.” Officials at Seattle-Tacoma airport took down 14 Christmas trees because a rabbi threatened to sue in federal court. The rabbi later said his intent was not for the airport to get rid of the trees, but to include a menorah as well. The draft of the lawsuit cited a 1989 Supreme Court decision, upholding the dual display of the menorah and Christmas tree in public places as expression protected under the First Amendment. The airport has since put the trees back up as Holiday trees. I hope menorahs will follow.
In Chicago, New Line Cinema, the studio behind "The Nativity Story," was dropped as a sponsor of “Christkindlmarket,” a public Christmas festival that takes place at Daley Plaza in Chicago. In an official statement, Jim Law, executive director of Mayor Richard M. Daley's Office of Special Events, said "th[e] very prominently placed advertisement of the movie would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza."
Keep in mind that there is a nativity scene in Daley Plaza and that vendors at this festival sell religious-themed items. So why are Chicago officials straddling a fence in order to avoid the obvious — that "Christ" has something to do with "Christmas"?
The Supreme Court has ruled that advertisements are generally protected as free speech, as long as the primary motivation is pecuniary. Well, New Line Cinema wants to sell tickets to its movie — doesn't it? Why? To make money, of course.
How we express our “Season's Greetings” has befuddled big business. This year, No. 1 retailer Wal-Mart opted out of a generic holiday campaign, in favor of one that includes the word “Christmas.” "We, quite frankly, have learned a lesson from last year," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Linda Blakley told USA Today. "We're not afraid to use the term 'Merry Christmas.' We'll use it early, and we'll use it often." Now, if you google "Wal-Mart and Christmas," the No. 1 result is "Christmas at Wal-Mart."
Target, another gigantic retailer, was threatened last year with a boycott 700,000 strong. This year, Target relented and its advertising campaign included the word "Christmas."
Groups like the Committee to Save Merry Christmas, located in Orangevale, Cali., argue that they are in the midst of a battle for Christmas every holiday season. According to their Web site, their goal is "to bring back the words 'Merry Christmas' into the national market place." To achieve these ends, they have divided major retailers into two categories: "Christmas Honoring Retailers" and those "Retailers Refusing to Respect Customers Who Honor Christmas." This group requests that Christmas supporters shop only with retailers who say "Merry Christmas" and boycott those who refuse to welcome Christmas shoppers.
And actors are weighing in on the debate. In a column for WorldNetDaily.com, Chuck Norris said he believes "we have sold out to a neutered nativity — taking no sides to the slow elimination of 'Christmas' in retail and culture." But what exactly is "neutered nativity" and should we care? With all the issues we face as a nation and as a world leader, we need to focus our energy on more important debates and let Christmas be.
So, if a Wal-Mart greeter, Target cashier, or co-worker says "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," "Happy Hanukkah," or any variation on the seasonal sentiment, I'm not going to complain. If non-Christians at the Christmas festival in Chicago see the trailer for "The Nativity Story," they'll just probably be bored rather than angry. And let there be both Christmas trees and menorahs at the Seattle airport.
My favorite Christmas card this year sums it up for me ... it said "Happy Everything.” So, I say to you and yours this Holiday Season, "Have a very Merry Everything and a joyous New Year."
1. Calling Christmas by Its Name, ABC News; (last accessed 12/6/06)
2. Tom Charity, Review: The greatest 'Story' ever dulled , CNN.com
3. Don Babwin, 'Nativity' Booted From Ill. Holiday Fair , AP, November 27, 2006
4. Kate Zernike, The Nation: Holiday Wars; Merry Whatever , New York Times, December 19, 2004, Section: 4
5. Bethy Joyner Waldron, Why avoid using 'Merry Christmas'? The Christian Science Monitor, December 1, 2005
6. Chuck Norris, Just say 'Merry Christmas!', World Net Daily, December 6, 2006,
7. Wal-Mart: We're not afraid to say Merry Christmas, CNNmoney.com, November 9, 2006 (last accessed December 6, 2006)
8. Jayne O'Donnell, Wal-Mart wishes you a Merry Christmas — No more generic holiday greetings from No. 1 retailer , USA Today, November 9, 2006, Section 1B
Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985. In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.