- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

“Hey, Mom. Check out the tacky Christmas house,” my daughter says as we drive home from the grocery store. “They’ve already started putting out all their junky decorations, and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.”

Ah, yes. The humbling moment when you realize you are raising a holiday snob.

Clearly, I’ve spent too much time through the years driving around town bashing the early onset of lights and lawn ornaments that pop up in mid-November.

In my effort to observe Thanksgiving - my favorite holiday because there are no gifts, no lights and no incessant Thanksgiving songs - I’ve conveyed to my children that there is moral high ground on which to stand, holiday decor-wise.

So Amy’s snarky comment doesn’t surprise me as we drive past the house whose owner has collected what seems to be every light-up plastic creche, every life-sized Santa-and-his-reindeer display and every inflatable snowman ever sold at Wal-Mart.

Worse, there appears to be no logical placement for all this stuff. It’s scattered across an expansive side yard in an arrangement recalling an obstacle course for elves or perhaps an all-Christmas yard sale.

Extension cords crisscross the lawn like snakes. Everything lights up, causing one to speculate on the energy dependence America suffers from this holiday display alone. And it doesn’t just light up through December. It stays lit past Valentine’s Day.

Typically, I would respond to Amy’s remark with an equally condescending, if not socially correct, reply, such as, “Well, some people just can’t wait to pull their giant aluminum snowflakes out of storage and set them up on the roof with plywood sawhorses and bright orange extension cords. Who are we to judge?”

Tempted though I am to pile on my holiday snobbery, I don’t do it.

Instead, I tell Amy about the ad campaign taking place for the American Humanist Association - in which Metro buses sport placards depicting a cool dude in a Santa suit saying, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.”

In an effort to teach Amy skills in media literacy, we talk about what the ad means and why the humanists launched their campaign.

We speculate on what their goals are. We talk about why they used a traditional image of Christmas - the Santa suit - and Christmas colors of red and green.

We discuss why they didn’t put the name of their group on the ads, only a Web address for the ad campaign.

It’s a lot to absorb, but even an 11-year-old can figure it out.

Amy concludes the humanists may want to promote “being good,” but they also want to spread disbelief in God. While they’re at it, they seem to disrespect the traditions of Christmas by using images that evoke the Christian holiday in their campaign.

“That’s really disturbing, Mom,” Amy says. “A lot more disturbing than a bad Christmas display.”

I agree.

“Makes me think there’s no such thing as a bad Christmas display,” I say. “If some folks want to celebrate the birth of Christ with a neon creche and a 12-foot ‘Noel’ sign in colored lights, more power to them.”

So that’s it. No longer do I look down my nose at the hyper-decorators - the folks who will plug in their nativity scenes this weekend and leave them lit until Presidents Day.

In a world where humanists use clever billboards to promote the hopeless, helpless message of Godlessness, I’m thinking we need all the Christmas we can get.

• Visit Marybeth Hicks at www.marybethhicks.com.

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