By Gustav Niebuhr
Just how old is the idea that segments of corporate America are trying to erode the spiritual integrity of the most commercialized federal holiday of the year? Maybe it’s the fault of my cultural antennae, but it’s only been very late in the run-up to Christmas Day this year and last that I’ve been aware that some people seem very concerned that the giants of American capitalism are not giving the holiday its due.
Didn’t all this start with a series of reports on some news channel about salespeople saying, “Happy Holidays” or even “Season’s Greetings?” That’s what I thought, anyway. But I guess it’s a bigger phenomenon.
Until earlier this week, I was unaware that the American Family Association, for instance, features “naughty and nice” lists of major retailers on its website. Said merchants are judged on which ones use the term “Christmas” in their advertising and how often they do. Guess what? Amazon.com, Bass Pro Shops and Costco, among many others, get in the green (“nice”) list. But Barnes & Noble, CVS Pharmacy and NASCAR, are on that shorter list of the red (“naughty”). I know what you’re thinking–NASCAR?
I get out and about, but I’m trying to remember if sales clerks since Thanksgiving have offered me any sort of holiday recognition when I’ve entered a store or handed over my credit card to close a transaction. I suppose expressions like, “May I help you?” “How are you?” “Thank you” and “Have a nice evening” don’t quite clear the bar in question. But I count them as courtesies, which (Heaven knows) we can all stand to have more of in our lives.
So what is this war on the spirit of Christmas? Maybe I can imagine, care of a recent incident in a shopping district I patronize. As I slowed down to snag a parking place (I was sure another car was backing out), a driver came right up behind me and sat on his horn, blasting away. I thought he could have swung around me. But I guess he wanted to make a point.
So I rolled forward, letting him be about his way. And as I did so, I put down my window to wave. All five fingers. “Happy Holidays!”
Someone’s got to keep the seasonal spirit alive.