Daniel Henninger: How about a cease-fire in the Christmas war?





It was the week before Christmas and all through the house the pundits were hanging each other with flair.

It had to happen. The universal holiday of Clement Clarke Moore's "Night Before Christmas" has been displaced this year by the "war on Christmas."

On one snow-blown hilltop stand the Sons and Daughters of Christmas Past, who believe the phrase "Have a happy holiday" is quashing Christmas. Across this pond of frozen opinions one finds gentlefolk who believe the word "Christmas" offends non-Christian sensibilities.

The Boston Globe's liberal columnist Ellen Goodman threw soot on much of the pro-"Christmas" brigade: "Fox News's John Gibson has killed who knows how many trees to print 'The War on Christmas.' The combined forces of the Catholic League, the American Family Association and Bill O'Reilly have accused Target and others of banning Christmas by wishing their customers a 'Happy Holiday.' "

At the risk of killing the branch of another fir tree, I must print here Justice Harry Blackmun's description of a famous Christmas crèche scene in Pawtucket, R.I. Military historians will recall that the "war on Christmas" saw some of its bloodiest battles when the Supreme Court sought to determine--if I may put it this way--the constitutionality of Christmas.

Justice Blackmun on the meaning of Christmas: "The concurrence applied this mode of analysis to the Pawtucket crèche, seen in the context of that city's holiday celebration as a whole. In addition to the crèche, the city's display contained: a Santa Claus house with a live Santa distributing candy; reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh; a live 40-foot Christmas tree strung with lights; statues of carolers in old-fashioned dress; candy-striped poles; a 'talking' wishing well; a large banner proclaiming 'SEASONS GREETINGS'; a miniature 'village' with several houses and a church; and various 'cut-out' figures, including those of a clown, a dancing elephant, a robot, and a teddy bear."

In short, Christmas as we know it, though I cannot account for the robot.

Set aside the Supreme Court's bizarre crèche decisions. What remains is that Justice Blackmun's description of Christmas in Pawtucket summarizes the progress of the famous holiday from its sacred origins in "Silent Night" onward to its secularized universal presence in Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." The idea that we should slice "Christ" from "mas" is un-American. The American people, who tend toward live and let live if their ever-present betters will let them, have by now transformed Christmas into a day for one and all--a high holy day for Christians and the most wonderful secular holiday imaginable for everyone else. ...


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