- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

Psst. Make ready to receive a top-secret message, sent in violation of official Holiday Patrol safety procedures and without permission from the Calendar Terminology Clearance Board.

Merry Christmas.

We repeat: Merry Christmas.

Uh-oh, there goes the alarm. Quick, hide behind this Tannenbaum, and remember — nobody read us our Carmen Miranda rights, and therefore we just forgot to use “(fill-in-the-blank)mas,” the “C-word” or “the Day That Comes After Dec. 24” — TDTCAD24 — a recent board-approved designation for the aforementioned time period, appropriate for use by both genders and several age groups.

Merry TDTCAD24. Yes, of course. And a Happy NY.

Well, don’t worry. Americans can rest assured — with sugarplums dancing in their heads — that the word Christmas has not been banned entirely from the public discourse.

Why, Wal-Mart has given it the nod. The retailing giant caught considerable criticism earlier this month after introducing a politically correct “Home for the Holidays” marketing campaign. It has since reconsidered.

“There seems to be a growing misperception regarding the use of the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ at Wal-Mart,” spokeswoman Sarah Clark noted recently. “Wal-Mart would like to clarify that it has no policy that prohibits an associate from wishing customers ‘Merry Christmas.’”

Meanwhile, Christmas also lives at the very bureaucratic core of the U.S. government, where the Census Bureau lurks. The nation’s statistical repository, in fact, has fearlessly assembled a compendium of facts and figures — 12,000 press releases, give or take a few dozen — that address “Christmas.”

As we count down to the big day (168 hours from now, give or take a few minutes), let us repair to the parlor, listen to the 1948 version of Bing Crosby singing “Oh Holy Night” and consider these swell facts from our Census pals:

There’s one spot on the entire planet named Christmas, and we’ve got it. That’s Christmas, Fla., population 1,162.

The agency is in a merry mood, adding that the nation also boasts North Pole, Alaska (population 1,659); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,201); Santa Claus, Ga. (238) and Noel, Mo. (1,476).

We send 1.9 billion Christmas cards and decorate 20.8 million Christmas trees. The champion evergreen supplier, the bureau notes, is Clackamas County in Oregon, source of 2.6 million of them.

Good old Clackamas County. Must be right near Clickamas, just south of Clockamas and adjacent to Cluckamas. Maybe it’s even on the list of approved substitute names for Dec. 25, right along with TDTCAD24. Yes, of course. Merry Clackamas.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau doesn’t overlook the irony that one country in particular controls our yuletide decorating destiny. Aside from a few inevitable clickers from Clackamas and maybe Vermont, we purchase most of our Christmas tree ornaments from China — $561 million worth.

“China was the leading country of origin for such items,” the Census notes rather delicately. “Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($69 million worth) during the same period.”

China also is the main supplier of our stuffed toys, electric trains, puzzles, roller skates, sports footwear, golf equipment and basketballs.

Oh, dear. Well, maybe we’ve cornered the market on fake deer antlers for dogs and pizza wheels. Then again, maybe not.

Humor is not lost among our friendly statisticians, though. We also imported $291,085 worth of goodies from Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Pacific Ocean. “Perhaps some of these were ‘Christmas gifts from Christmas Island,’” the waggish agency notes. It has no data from the North Pole, however.

Meanwhile, the Sunshine State is laying claim to the first Christmas in North America. Tallahassee marks the site of the first Christmas ever celebrated on the continent — way back in the 16th century, shortly before Wal-Mart opened its first New World location, according to local historical accounts.

And the city has proof.

“Tallahassee has been identified as the official site of the First Christmas by the discovery of rare copper coins, fragments of armor and a fossilized pig’s jaw that were part of conquistador Hernando de Soto’s 1539 winter encampment,” explains John Citron of the city’s visitors bureau.

Yes, of course. A fossilized pig’s jaw.

Finally, should electronics offer better proof that Christmas is alive and well, consider this official notice issued by the U.S. military:

“There is one other definite sign today that the Christmas holiday season is here: 2005 marks the 50th year that the North American Aerospace Defense Command — or NORAD — has tracked Santa Claus on his journey around the globe.”

Interested in joining the NORAD trek next weekend? Visit www.norad.mil — and have a merry week.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and the occasional fossilized pig’s jaw for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at jharper@washington times.com or 202/636-3085.

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