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The joy of Christmas past.

The classic 1947 Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, is the story of a man named Kris Kringle, who gets himself hired as Macy's department store Santa, then directs parents to whichever store carries the objects of their youngsters' sugar-plum-filled heads' desire--be it Macy's, or its arch-competitor Gimbel's. In one scene, Kringle, who believes he really is Santa, explains his motivation to Macy's personnel director, Doris Walker: "You see, Mrs. Walker, this is quite an opportunity for me. For the past fifty years or so I've been getting more and more worried about Christmas. Seems we're all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster, and look shinier and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle."

Even in 1947, apparently, Christmas was not quite what it once had been.

This writer was born the year alter Miracle on 34th Street was released and, thanks to a doting grandmother who enjoyed taking me by bus into Manhattan during the Christmas season, I enjoyed firsthand many Christmas experiences popularized on the silver screen: visiting Santa (and seeing his live reindeer) at Macy's; seeing the towering Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center; watching the skaters on the adjacent outdoor ice-skating pond: and enjoying a walk along Fifth Avenue, with its elegantly decorated store windows. As we walked, we would take in the sounds of Salvation Army bell ringers and the smell of chestnuts and pretzels being roasted over the charcoal fires of pushcart venders.

Such Christmas visits were not all about secular trappings, beautiful though they were. My grandmother, being a devout Catholic daughter of Italian immigrants, had an entire "collection" of favorite churches in the area. No visit to Manhattan would be complete without at least a brief visit to a neighborhood church, and at Christmastime that included visiting the Nativity scene set up with plaster wise men and shepherds bringing their gifts to the stable where the baby Jesus lay.

In the public school 1 attended in third grade, we began each day with Bible readings, and we not only celebrated Christmas very openly, but the teacher also invited a Jewish boy to bring a menorah to school to explain how his family lit an additional candle on each night of Chanukah. Some people are under the misconception that the attack on Christmas originates with non-Christians, but I have found this to be untrue.

No, the attack on Christmas does not come from non-Christian people of faith--it comes from anti-Christian people of no faith. In a recent column, "Christmas--Going, Going ... Gone?" Don Feder, the president of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, wrote, "The secularist assault on Christmas (unwittingly aided by the perpetually aggrieved and sensitivity-whipped) is one front in the war on America's Judeo-Christian heritage." At an office Christmas party I attended in New York in 1971, several of us Christians stumbled verbally, since we were uncertain about how to greet our Jewish coworkers as we departed for our separate homes. As we wished a young Jewish man named Bruce Richenthal a "Happy Chanukah," he replied warmly: "For you, it's Christmas, Merry Christmas!"

The news this season has been filled with articles about the culture war centered around Christmas. For example, ABC News reported that members of the Columbia High School brass ensemble in Maplewood, New Jersey, "were not allowed to play Christmas carols at their holiday concert this year--not even instrumental versions."

Another article that is of particular interest to readers of THE NEW AMERICAN appeared on the Internet magazine Falling into the denial side of the controversy, it is entitled "How the secular humanist grinch didn't steal Christmas," by Michelle Goldberg. The article started off with quotations from a 1959 John Birch Society pamphlet by Hubert Kregeloh entitled "There Goes Christmas?!" The pamphlet was effectively used to derail an organized movement to have department stores substitute UN symbols for traditional Christmas decorations. (Bamberger's in Newark, New Jersey, had been used as the pilot operation the previous Christmas.)

"The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand," the pamphlet explained. "They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda. What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations."

Once getting the players correctly identified, Michelle Goldberg advanced an unsupportable assertion: the Christian Right is currently waging the same war against a "nonexistent enemy" that the JBS waged in 1959. To which we reply, "Yes, Michelle, there is a secular humanist Grinch!"

There is hope, however. On December 3, my wife and I watched the Downtown Crestview (Florida) Christmas Parade. The parade's theme was "Christ--the Light of Christmas."
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Title Annotation:THE LAST WORD
Author:Mass, Warren
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 26, 2005
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