With Thanksgiving behind us, and Black Friday in the rear-view mirror, it's time to center our hearts and minds for what's really important this season — the war on Christmas.
That's right. We now have less than a month to display our anger, to note the stores that have been naughty and nice (in using the word "Christmas" rather than "holidays"), and to get frothy about coffee companies that choose to depict individuals living a variety of lifestyles on their cups.
President Donald Trump is trying to do his part.
As early as July, at a Kennedy Center event, he drew a direct line between a Founding Father and himself — similar to the comparison former President Obama made of himself with Abraham Lincoln — in stoking the war.
"Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleague at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer," Trump said. "I remind you that we're going to start saying 'Merry Christmas' again."
He brought up the subject again in October at the annual summit of the Heritage Foundation.
"You're gonna be saying Merry Christmas again," he said. "You go to the stores, and they have the red walls, and they have the snow, and they even have the sleigh and the whole thing."
But, he added, "They don't have Merry Christmas. They don't have Merry Christmas. I want them to say, 'Merry Christmas, everybody.'"
It's not clear what has been keeping Americans from saying "Merry Christmas," but if something has been we're glad the president has gotten out in front of the issue and given people that freedom back.
Trump may have to write an executive order for the "naughty" stores, though.
In case he doesn't, or is prevented from doing so by the courts, the American Family Association (AFA) is out with its annual "Naughty or Nice" retailers list. It has reviewed websites, media advertising and in-store signage to determine which stores are Christmas-friendly. Now you'll know which ones to avoid, so you can save some anger for the alternative lifestyle cups (which we'll get to).
Fortunately, most stores from A to Z (or from Academy Sports & Outdoors to Zappos.com) are on the "Nice" list. For instance, you've got mall stars Belk, Dillards and JCPenney, discounters Big Lots, Dollar Tree, Kmart and Wal-Mart, and big-box home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's. Did you think Hallmark and Toys R Us could exist without using the words Christmas? Of course not. They're on the list, too.
The "Marginal" list includes retailers such as Kohl's, Old Navy, Sears and Starbucks but also, gasp, Amazon.com, where you've probably already ordered more than you should have without knowing the company, according to the AFA, "may use 'Christmas' sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it."
The "Naughty" list has, among others, office supply giants Office Depot, Office Max and Staples — nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a new Swingline stapler — plus retailers like Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Stein Mart. Oh yes, and Victoria's Secret. So that puts it off limits for shopping by the purveyors of sexual harassment who wouldn't want to be seen in an anti-Christmas store.
Meanwhile, Starbucks has stirred up Americans again by commercials over its holiday — well, the company was on AFA's "Marginal" list — cup. The animated commercial begins with the caption that "the holidays mean something different to everyone." It includes depictions of several mixed-race couples, including one with a man wearing a cap often worn by Muslims. It concludes with two women leaning close over a cup and reaching out to hold hands as fireworks explode in the background. On the cup, two hands are shown clasping, with a heart in between.
The company has not denied the hands represent a lesbian couple and in a news release said "we aim to bring our customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season and we will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world."
Are you angry yet? If not, you've got nearly a month before the Christmas and holiday advertising comes down and before the coffee cups telling us how to live our lives are put away.
We believe, with the AFA, that "there are secular forces in our country that hate Christmas because the word itself is a reminder of Jesus Christ [and] want to eradicate anything that reminds Americans of Christianity."
But we also believe, in a country with a capitalistic economic system, retailers are allowed to make their marketing decisions and consumers are allowed to make their purchasing decisions, both generally without restraints. If we don't like what the retailer stands for, we won't shop there. And if enough people don't shop there, the retailer eventually will close.
For those who have chosen to be conscientious objectors to the Christmas war, we would encourage you to use the next month to consider how a baby born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago changed (and continues to change) the world, how if we didn't receive a single Christmas present we'd still be better off than most everybody else on Earth and how by stepping out in faith daily we still have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others.