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Oy to the world

THERE IS A grave concern, on news shows and Op-Ed pages, that we are about to lose Christmas. Though no one outside the media is at all interested, I figure jumping in will make my editors think I’m smart.

The debate began with the printing of Fox News anchor John Gibson’s book, “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought,” which is ranked 285th on Amazon.com Although I did not actually read the book, I can gather from the pithy title that it must be quite a read. Seriously, the guy couldn’t even afford an editor for the title?

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 8, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 08, 2005 Home Edition California Part B Page 13 Editorial Pages Desk 1 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
Christmas: A Dec. 6 column by Joel Stein said that Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson had “organized a boycott” of stores that used the phrase “Happy Holidays” rather than the phrase “Merry Christmas.” While it is true that the two have criticized these stores, and O’Reilly has posted a list of them on his website, they have not called for a boycott.

Gibson is upset that people are afraid to express true Christmas spirit because of unrelenting liberal pressure to take religion out of government, politics and public places. In fact, Gibson and fellow Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly are so upset that they have organized a boycott of Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears and Costco for using the phrase “Happy Holidays” in their ads instead of “Merry Christmas.” I’m guessing those places also stopped selling Brylcreem.

Jerry Falwell is supporting the catchy-named “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign” that has lawyers ready to sue anyone who won’t let them do Christmas wherever they want. The Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign newspaper ads tell you to call “if you are facing persecution for celebrating Christmas.” I’m thinking too much time spent studying Jesus can give you a persecution complex.

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As a Jew, I don’t care that much about Christmas. It’s hard to celebrate someone’s birth when you supposedly killed the guy. It would be like Arnold Schwarzenegger giving gifts for Tookie Day.

We Jews find it a little embarrassing that adults can still make such a big fuss over Christmas. To us, Jesus was just a cool guy everyone liked because he died young. And even 16-year-old girls eventually take down their James Dean posters.

Still, I agree with Gibson to this extent: Christmas is a Christian holiday, and trying to eliminate the religious aspect is insulting. There’s nothing more annoying than people telling me I should get a tree and string lights in front of my house because these aren’t religious symbols. Or telling me that kids get off school for “winter break,” presumably so they can worship winter. It’s an infuriating inability to see through the eyes of the other.

TELLING ME to enjoy “season’s greetings” is a condescending way of trying to pressure me into something I’m not part of. It’s one thing to be subjected to someone’s metaphysics. It’s another to be wordy about it.

I get that I live in a Christian nation. And I’m fine with it. I like you guys. I think it’s adorable that you ring giant, white pipe cleaners around streetlights and make everything taste like peppermint and thought the world was going to end when the calendar went to three zeros in a row. It’s like living with children.

I’m grateful that our Constitution separates religion from our law and our non-Kansas schools. But that doesn’t mean the culture of a country with a higher percentage of Christians than Israel has Jews isn’t going to be all into the Jesus thing. That’s why Christmas is a national holiday and Yom Kippur isn’t. And that’s why Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand put out Christmas albums.

Last Thursday, a group called Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, where founding member Jackie Mason spoke out against the war on Christmas. He basically argued that if people can’t say “Merry Christmas,” then he won’t be allowed to wish people an “Exceptional Purim.” That one doesn’t translate from Yiddish well.

So please, go nuts with your celebration, with your lying to children about where presents come from and your beverages made from raw eggs and your desperate use of greenery to get women to kiss you.

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No, there’s no war on Christmas. But this attempt to be inclusive by tamping down on the Christ birth stuff, while well intentioned, is just making us non-Christians feel worse. All I want from you is to admit -- whether you’re religious or not -- that these customs are inexorably tied in to the birth of your savior. Then I’ll be happy to celebrate your culture with you, if you want me to. Because it beats my people trying to persuade me to whoop it up over a story about an extra-long-lasting candle and a toy that’s so obviously just a badly made top.


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