Well, it’s that time of year and the annual battle between secularists and religionists has again been engaged.   Will we be having a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday?

Here in Durham, neighbor to the liberal hotbed of Chapel Hill, the “Christmas” trees that once graced the lobbies of the Wilson and Davis libraries at UNC’s Chapel Hill campus during December are now being kept in storage.  You can ask a custodian to let you in to take a look at them if you want.

Sarah Michalak, the associate provost for university libraries, told the local newspaper that she made the decision “after several years of complaints from employees and others.”  Ahhhhhh … “others.”   It’s been my personal observation that when someone says “and others,” that usually means “and n’others,” which means it was a personal, unilateral decision.   My guess is that you can chalk up the complaints to Ms. Michalak herself, after she had a couple of lattes with grinchy professors who don’t like people who have faith in something that doesn’t have tenure.

Michalak added, “It doesn’t seem right to celebrate one particular set of customs.  We strive in our collection to have a wide variety of ideas.”   She should have added, “Except Christmas.”

It was The Clintons I believe who first named (I was going to say christened) the White House tree “The Holiday Tree,” after many years of service as the National Christmas Tree.  Since so many Christians and non-Christians have been calling these delightful evergreens Christmas Trees for  hundreds of years, I got to wondering what changed.

With curiosity nipping at my toes I learned that it was the discovery of Fragment 3872-J,  a little known scrap of Dead Sea Scroll that  sheds light on the season we used to call Christmas, and by extension the trees we  use to  celebrate  it.

The scroll  reveals that one of the Three  Wise  Persons  had  traveled  afar from a land  that worshipped another God and it wasn’t Jesus Christ.   This Wise Person said she was alienated by the name Christ  and  her  feelings  were  hurt  by  the  celebration  in  the  manger.   Being  good virtual  Christians, Joseph and Mary charitably changed their newborn’s name from Jesus Christ to  the more inclusive Jesus Holiday.

Thus the Holiday Child was born, but His true name wasn’t known until the discovery of Fragment 3872-J.   The History Channel tells us it’s possible that the Knights Templar hid the fragment along with the Grail, billions of dollars of gold and jewels, secret codes, maps to safe houses and a book of biblical recipes they felt would undermine growth of the Christian faith and the politically correct holiday we used to call Christmas.

Fragment 3872-J also discloses that a lowly shepherd, who was milking a goat at the time, asked the offended Wise Person why she bothered to come to Bethlehem in the first  place and she answered, “because they gave us time off at the office.”

Since the inevitable elimination of Jesus from his own birthday is just around the corner, I say let’s go all the way and get it over with.   Without Christ, the only reason for celebrating the season is the gift-giving.

First, let’s remove the disturbingly exclusionary religious star that often tops these trees and replace it with a symbol even liberals and the ACLU can accept  — the dollar sign.  What could be more constitutional in this multi-cultural, diverse, church-state separated, anti-traditional, sophisticated, intellectual, secular,  democratic country of ours!  If one thinks that a dollar atop our tannenbaums is crass, an appropriate alternative might  be  an  attractively designed gift certificate.

We must then eliminate all but constitutionally appropriate decorations for this religiously neutered tree.   Surely decorative lights don’t violate the constitutional provisions of separation of Church and State — unless someone says they do, and then the courts will say they will.

Candles  are  also  out, of course.  Even though  they’re an essential item on liberal  dinner tables, next to the chardonnay.  They can’t shake their  nasty  association with Catholic Churches.  This goes double for angels, which are a religious  creation  from  the  get-go  and should  be  banished.  In their place I’d suggest small  icons  of  celebrities advertising  gift  giving  products — cut outs of  the Olsen  Twins  wearing their fashion line, Teri Hatcher coloring her hair with Clairol, Donovan McNabb eating some Chunky Soup and Michael Phelps listening to music on his new Matsunichi thingie.

Which  brings us to Santa Claus.  If he’s not a constitutional  problem now,  he  will  be when the church-averse warriors  of  the  ACLU realize  that  he  was once “Saint” Nicholas.  “Saint,” as you  know,  is  an official trademark of the Catholic Church and some high protestant denominations and Santa is suspiciously close to that offensive word.  The dilemma is that Santa does bring our kids all those toys, which is clearly in the domain of the secular.  What to do!

The answer is simple.  A name change, to something neutral like, oh, say,  Roger.  Roger Claus.  Or perhaps something more appropriately  childish  like  Chip  or  Scooter.  Scooter Claus is  especially  good  because  Santa won’t  have  to change the monograms on his towels.  Other  cultures could create culture-specific Clauses like Akeem Claus, Moishe Claus and Jomo Claus,  to name a few.  Noam Chomsky could call him  Adverbial  Claus, were he inclined to think about him at all.

To  complete  a totally neutral Holiday season,  all  decent,  Christian haters  need to monitor Holiday music.  That means no Christmas Carols  unless  offensively  religious  words are changed or removed.   Some examples  already  in  the works  are  “Silent  Night, Mellow Night,” “Aliens We  Have  Heard  On High,” “Oh, Come All Ye Lemmings.”  Irving Berlin’s classic would now be “I’m Dreaming Of a White Snowfall.”

Christmaphobes  will  be  pleased  to learn that  a  version  of  Charles Dickens  classic titled “A Holiday Carol” is on its way.  In it, Scrooge  is visited by spectres of Holidays past and future and finally rejects Christmas when  he is confronted by the Ghost of Richard Dawkins.  And we should re-title that classic Christmas film “Miracle On 34th Street”  to “Rationally Explained Event On 34th Street.”

These changes should be made quickly, I think, the way you rip off an adhesive bandage in one yank rather than the lengthy, more painful gradual removal.   It’s worth remembering, however,  that once you’ve taken Christ out of Christmas there’s no putting Him back.  The only alternative is to continue fighting to keep Him around.

Oh!  Merry Christmas, everyone.

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