- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2006

Go ahead, say “Merry Christmas.” Americans want it that way, according to a new survey, which found that 69 percent of us prefer the traditional greeting over a generic “happy holidays,” which garnered a mere 23 percent of the vote.

There are some partisan differences, though. The survey by Rasmussen Reports found that 85 percent of Republicans prefer “Merry Christmas,” compared with 61 percent of Democrats.

“The growing trend of political correctness runs against the tide of popular opinion,” the survey of 1,000 adults stated. It was conducted Nov. 18-19 with a margin of error of three percentage points.

Other polls had similar findings. A survey of 1,000 adults conducted by America’s Research Group released yesterday found that 53 percent were “bothered” if merchants omitted “Merry Christmas” in their stores and signage. A CNBC survey released Monday also found that “most Americans said they prefer ‘Merry Christmas’ to the more nondenominational ‘Happy Holidays.’ ”

The Alliance Defense Fund is riled up over the Christmas cause. The Arizona-based legal group, which specializes in defending religious liberty, has lined up 930 attorneys nationwide to challenge “improper attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas” on public property or schools.

“It’s ridiculous that Americans have to think twice about whether it’s OK to say Merry Christmas,” said ADF spokesman Alan Sears. “Thanks to the [American Civil Liberties Union] and its allies, Christmas isn’t what it used to be. It’s time to repair the damage that such organizations have done to America’s favorite holiday.”

There still are wide contrasts around the nation. While the U.S. Capitol showcases “The Capitol Christmas Tree,” New York state will light “The Empire State Holiday Tree,” for example. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is still trying to appease locals offended by his decision to discourage producers of “The Nativity Story” from sponsoring a downtown Christmas festival, on the grounds that such an event might “offend” people of other faiths.

“What manner of spirit visited City Hall?” the Chicago Tribune asked in an editorial yesterday. “The ghost of George Orwell?”

Meanwhile, some retailers have lightened up on secular leanings. Wal-mart, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s and others are vigorously embracing Christmas this year after previous bans of the “C-word” resulted in several public relations disasters. Wal-Mart has even tailored their in-store Christmas music from region to region to foster “the Christmas spirit,” according to spokesman Tom Redwine.

“Last year, the Christmas wars bordered on the absurd, and perhaps we’ve turned the tide,” observed David Jeremiah, senior pastor of California’s Shadow Mountain Community Church.

Best Buy, Eddie Bauer and Pet Smart are among those which continue to embrace “happy holidays,” prompting protests from the American Family Association and the Liberty Counsel, which maintains a list of “naughty and nice” merchants who openly celebrate — or ban — Christmas.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann traded potshots this week over Mr. O’Reilly’s criticism of Crate and Barrel, which does not encourage employees to bid a “Merry Christmas” to customers.

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