O Holiday Tree, O Holiday Tree, Thy Inclusiveness Shines So Brightly

GrassTopsUSA Exclusive CommentaryBy Don Feder 12/13/2010

And lo, there came unto me glad tidings: A Christmas tree has never committed an act of terrorism – has never beheaded a hostage (or taken hostages, for that matter), has never flown a plane into a skyscraper, has never blown up anything, and has never shot and killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009.

So, why can’t they just leave the Christmas tree alone? Why must the poor tree suffer a politically-correct makeover – so that no one (God forbid!) feels excluded?

I had sworn off writing War-on-Christmas columns, which increasingly seems an exercise in futility. My resolve weakened when, listening to a Boston television station, I heard a report about the annual “Holiday tree lighting on the Boston Common.”

“Holiday tree”? Hmmm. What major holiday, one celebrated by upwards of 80% of the American people, comes at this time of the year – Groundhog Day, St. Patrick’s Day? On what holiday do celebrants decorate a tree (real or artificial) with colored lights and tinsel – President’s Day, Columbus Day? December 25 is a federal holiday in recognition of what religious observance – Ramadan, Buddha’s Birthday?

And yet, all over the fruited plain (as Rush Limbaugh would say), municipalities twist themselves into balloon-animal shapes to avoid calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree.

On November 26, a “lighting ceremony” for yet another generic “Holiday Tree” was held in Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. According to news reports, the 60 ft. Norwood Spruce was decorated with 25,000 white lights. That’s a lot of watts to illuminate intentional amnesia.

Last year, in Red State Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear (a Democrat, naturally) renamed the “giant evergreen that will brighten the Capitol lawn this winter” a “holiday tree.”

Director of Communications Cindy Lanham explained that the designation “holiday tree” is meant to be “inclusive” of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah and New Years. (But not Kwanza, Ramadan and the Winter Solstice – what kind of inclusiveness is that?)

This is easily one of the lamest excuses ever offered for Christmas-avoidance.

To avoid using the C-word, Kentucky claims its “tree” represents everything from Thanksgiving to New Year. Makes sense. On Thanksgiving, families gather around the table to feast on a stuffed tree. On Hanukah, we play spin the evergreen. (BTW, why isn’t the menorah a Holiday Candelabrum?) On New Year’s Eve, we wear funny trees on our heads and toss pine needles in the air.

In the Tree Wars, common sense occasionally prevails. In 2005, the tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol became the Capitol Christmas Tree again, at the insistence of then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Sometime in the late ‘90s, the evergreen was secularized to Holiday Tree.

It only goes to show, if you want to bring back Christmas, elect more Republicans to public office.

The battle over the name of municipal/state/Capitol trees is one front of the (dare I say it?) War on Christmas, which – according to the establishment media – is an invention of FOX News, Bill O’Reilly and paranoid right-wing Christians.

This year, the name of Philly’s annual Christmas Village (inspired by the German “Christkindlmarket”), with its stalls selling seasonal merchandise, was briefly changed to “Holiday Village,” by municipal order, as a new sign above the lighted entrance proclaimed.

After the predictable uproar, Mayor Michael A. Nutter explained, “I took some time to step back from all this to think about it.” Stepping back from a political abyss, Hizzoner decided it was in everyone’s best interests to revert to the Village’s original name.

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe refused to ride in Tulsa’s 2010 seasonal saunter, because, after 70 years, the city changed the name from Christmas Parade to “Tulsa’s Holiday Parade of Lights.”

Tulsa’s mayor from 1978 to 1984, Inhofe announced, “I’m not going to ride in a Christmas parade that doesn’t recognize Christmas.” There you have it – another cranky Christian who refuses to go along with the senseless charade that a Christmas parade is something other than what it manifestly is.

The current mayor, Dewey Bartlett, pleads, “If it was up to me, I’d call it a Christmas parade, but I also understand that we have a diverse community, and I’m sensitive to the importance of the many cultures and traditions that make up our city.”

Ah, the diversity/sensitivity maneuver. Throw in inclusiveness, and all the bases are covered.

Larry Fox, the parade board’s chairman, concurs with Bartlett’s rationale. “Moreover the parade has always welcomed participation and viewing by all Tulsans, whether or not they celebrate Christmas.” Presumably, this means that if it was a Christmas parade again, non-Christians would have to be blindfolded to prevent them from viewing the passing spectacle. Fox admits that even when the parade was non-inclusive and un-diverse, it always had floats themed to other holidays.

Just how diverse is Tulsa, anyway? Wikpedia notes: “Religiously, Tulsa is overwhelmingly Protestant. The City is located in a geographic strip of high church attendance and widespread belief in biblical Christianity often called the ‘Bible Belt.’”

Would you care to guess the percentage of Christians (Protestant, Catholic, evangelical) in Metro Tulsa’s population? Did I hear 70% -- 80%? In fact, out of 414,827 Tulsans at last count, 98% are Christian.

So, 98% of the population sees their holiday neutered – stripped of religious content – to appease 2%?

Not even. Of the remaining 2% (divided among Jews, Muslims and Unitarians), most have more important things to concern themselves with – like double-digit unemployment and Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons – than the official name of a municipal parade.

Add to the secularization of trees, parades and malls, the schools that ban Christmas decorations and forbid the playing of Christmas music by school bands.

In New York City, the West Village YMCA just gave Santa Claus the cold shoulder. This year, the Jolly Old Elf was replaced by Frosty the Snowman and a penguin sidekick at the Y's annual (what else?) "holiday luncheon." “Frosty is a great winter character who would appeal to a broader number of kids,” Executive Director John Rappaport explained. That’s from an organization whose middle name is “Christian.”

The city of Boca Raton, Florida, allows menorahs to be displayed in public buildings, but not creches. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper claims “nativity scenes are religious symbols,” which somehow violate the mystical “separation of church and state” (even the fetishistic federal courts say they’re okay, when mixed with reindeer and candy canes), but “secular symbols like menorahs and Christmas trees do not.”

Would the Sun Sentinel please inform the state of Kentucky that Christmas trees are secular? If the menorah is indeed a secular symbol (please don’t tell my rabbi), what does it represent – renewable energy?

Liberty Counsel has a list of retail establishments that have purged Christmas from their advertising campaigns and websites, including Banana Republic, Gap, J. Crew, Old Navy, Radio Shack, Sprint and Staples. Some stores won’t allow help to wish shoppers a “Merry Christmas.”

As a Jew growing up in Johnstown, New York (in the Mohawk Valley), I somehow survived the public celebration of Christmas in the 1950s.

In school, we made Christmas decorations and sang carols. In stores and streets, shoppers routinely were wished a “Merry Christmas.” A nativity scene graced the public park. Department stores played Christmas music. Santa Claus came to town in a Christmas parade, sans penguin. Can you imagine such shocking insensitivity?

Sadly, they forgot to tell me to feel alienated or excluded. It was taken for granted that America was a Christian nation (at least in terms of the beliefs of the overwhelming majority) and that Christian holidays (more properly holy days) deserved public acknowledgement. Somehow, I managed to overcome the trauma.

Why should inclusiveness be the shining city on the hill? At some point in our lives, don’t we all feel excluded? Caucasians are excluded from public observance of Martin Luther King Day, which (however much we may pretend otherwise) is essentially a holiday for African-Americans.

Resident aliens may feel excluded by the public celebration of the Fourth of July. (I’m offended by public recognition of Cinco De Mayo, a holiday which belongs south of the border with piñatas and drug cartels.) Do non-vets feel excluded by Memorial Day and Veterans Day?

Most women feel excluded by the Super Bowl and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Men feel excluded by “Dancing With The Stars” and daytime television. I’ve felt alienated from our national government for the past two years.

The Somali Muslim who tried to blow up Portland, Oregon’s tree-lighting ceremony last month should plead aggravated exclusion as an extenuating circumstance.

One of the goals of liberalism is to create a world where no one ever feels excluded – a world of milk and cookies at nap-time, cuddly stuffed animals and somebody-needs-a-hug 24/7.

Christians are the exception.

Christians are the only losers in the sensitivity sweepstakes. No one complains about public lightings of giant menorahs and says they feel excluded because they don’t eat potato latkes at this time of the year.

Obama has Ramadan dinners in the White House (but won’t have a ceremony for National Day of Prayer), and no one writes letters of protest to local newspapers. They should, for other reasons. A menorah never threatened to wage jihad on gentiles.

It’s precisely because Christians are in the majority – as well as America’s historical connections to Christianity – that they are singled out for special treatment.

It doesn’t matter if Christians are offended by the slighting of their traditions. It doesn’t matter that public officials and merchants go to absurd lengths to pretend there’s no connection between this season and one of the two most important days in the Christian calendar – a celebration which accounts for 25% to 40% of annual retail sales and boosts tax revenue accordingly.

It doesn’t matter to the cultural elite that without Christmas, no Christianity, and, without Christianity, no America.

Maybe that’s why Christmas trees are getting the axe. Subconsciously, the left blames Christianity for America, the real object of its rage. Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website, DonFeder.com.