A year without the war on Christmas

GREG BEATO writes a column about pop culture for Las Vegas Weekly.

THE DAY AFTER the midterm elections, the stage seemed set for the bloodiest war on Christmas yet. Democrats were taking over Congress, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a favorite "secularist progressive" scapegoat of conservative pundits, soon would be sworn in as speaker of the House. How would she use her power to destroy the sugar plums dancing in Bill O'Reilly's head? Would reinvigorated coastal cosmopolitans try to destroy Christmas once and for all, hunting down workplace secret Santas, forcing brewers to produce kosher versions of their annual Christmas ales?

But just as it was beginning to look a lot like the holiday that dare not speak its name, Wal-Mart came out of the Christmas closet and embraced the Christ child's birthday with explicitly merry greetings and full-frontal shots of Christmas trees in its December ads. Target followed suit with a plan to sell limited-edition angel ornaments, with the profits going to the Salvation Army.

Meanwhile, Hollywood, ground zero of Christianity-hating secularism, continues to stuff theaters and basic cable with pro-Christmas fare such as "The Nativity Story," "One Magic Christmas," "A Season for Miracles" and so on -- pictures that rarely win big ratings or substantial box office and that the movie industry apparently produces out of simple Christmas cheer.

And the Democrats have yet to outlaw those pine-tree air fresheners that look like little Christmas trees.

For the yuletide soldiers who've re-upped for the annual fight against the war on Christmas, all this peace on Earth presents a problem. Two years ago, Jerry Falwell explained how Jesus-hating secularists were scheming to "steal Christmas from America." O'Reilly, Fox News' most dependable yule log, called their efforts an attempt to "destroy religion in the public arena" and open the floodgates for the progressive agenda.

Secular America's insufficient merriness was such a hit with Fox viewers that the network renewed the war on Christmas story in 2005. According to MediaMatters.org, Fox aired 58 segments on the subject during one frantic five-day holiday binge last December. In O'Reilly's mind, apparently, only a thin line of theologically frank Hallmark cards was keeping us safe from "gay marriage, partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs [and] income redistribution through taxation."

This year, however, the Catholic League alone has found much success in sussing out new dangers. In the spirit of St. Nick, the religious watchdog group is making a list and checking it twice via its "Christmas Watch" website, which encourages volunteer elves to snitch on naughty "retailers, schools, websites, towns and municipalities that refuse to acknowledge Christmas as part of the 'holiday season.' " Currently, the list features a mere 33 "Grinches," which, given a U.S. population of about 300 million, means we're statistically safer from Christmas attack than Whoville.

As the Who's learned from experience, even one hairy green secularist can do tremendous damage. Still, unless someone discovers new weapons of 'mas destruction soon, peace and joy could erupt at any moment.

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