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Trying To Find The 'War On Christmas'

Trying To Find The 'War On Christmas'

 Here's me (Mrs. Claus) stopping at the Fire House in the West Village on Christmas Eve night.

Here's me (Mrs. Claus) stopping at the Fire House in the West Village on Christmas Eve night.

My name is Mrs. Claus, and I can’t locate this “War on Christmas” described by some elected officials in and around the White House.

Maybe I need a new prescription in my spectacles. When I fly my energy-efficient jet over New York City, I see so much red and green I don’t spot the battle.

But I admit to being snowblind.

My soul mate is a fourth-century Greek saint, a secret gift giver and protector of children. Together, our legend combines the stories of immigrants and visions of artists into an all-year industry of cookies and carols. At the North Pole, we can’t sense a battle against our thriving brand, although we do spy fewer polar bears.

Maybe December is different in Washington, D.C., but during my annual visits to New York City, the holiday reigns in such a wonderfully diverse metropolis. From morning to night, Christmas follows me in a continuous loop of carols, whether I’m in Duane Reade buying throat lozenges or the corner deli picking up baking supplies. True, I do have a head of white curls that prompts people to wish me Merry Christmas, but I do hear the phrase in common vernacular, even among my non-Christian brothers and sisters.   

During this morning's skate in Bryant Park, a 55-foot Norway spruce towered above the Winter Village and my favorite booth: the Mrs. Claus Café. From this marvelous rink, I saw Christmas every in direction, from light displays in neighboring skyscrapers to bell ringers by the New York Public Library. At Rockefeller Center, “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular” featured my cute husband and the world famous Rockettes, who performed in several shows even after his big night around the world.

All those eye-high kicks and technological embellishments represent a different time than the year 1647, when English Puritans banned the holiday in a real war on Christmas.

Unlike 1659, when the city of Boston outlawed the holiday, seasonal blessings push into every conceivable cranny: as tinsel lining gas station windows, Muzak in elevators and garlands on horse-drawn carriages. In the 18th century, much of the United States still didn’t celebrate. Today, there is no where you can escape Dec. 25, a federal holiday since 1870.

I often ponder letters expressing grief and loneliness sent to me from around the globe. Tidings can be overwhelming to people who don’t recognize the holiday or who may be experiencing loss. Nothing can trigger sadness more than worrying about finances or believing that everyone else is engaged in healthy family bonding.

I wonder how my Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and non-believer friends feel this time of year when Christmas dominates. Because Christians make up the largest religious group in America with more than 228,182,000 followers, according to data from the 2008 U.S. Census, it makes sense that Dec. 25 is this nation’s predominant holiday. Yet, 81 percent of non-Christians honor the day too, according to the Pew Research Center.

In my experience, “Happy Holidays” is the most inclusive, respectful greeting to new acquaintances who may observe other holidays—like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa—that also involve gifts and light during the darkest nights of the year.    

As a Christian, I believe the birth of Jesus represents a love note to all of humanity. Yet when I allow spiritual space for those who feel differently, my personal faith grows stronger without diminishing anyone else’s traditions.

“Merry Christmas” is a statement of exaltation that rumbles deep in the bones and creates harmony. Say it joyfully, but first consider your company. Not everyone wants to hear the phrase, for many reasons.

As we say at the North Pole: Sing your truth, but always take the temperature.

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