Happy, Merry

Like all seasons, the annual pre-Christmas holiday culture war must come to an end, and so must this blog. All told, this year was far calmer than past--there have been fewer examples of people throwing down in lawsuits (or fisticuffs), fewer boycotts and protests of stores that wished folks "Happy Holidays." That's not to say these things haven't gone on; the blog you've been reading has certainly documented that. But this year was certainly slightly toned down compared to past years.

Why? There are many possible reasons, not least of which is the fact that so many retail stores did include "Christmas" in their marketing and advertising this year.

But what better way to end this year's blog than with this story out of Goleta, California. John Dickinson, the manager of the toll-free phone hotline for the Santa Barbara visitor's guide has been fielding hundreds of calls from children who mistake "Santa Barbara" for "Santa Claus." Instead of acting like a Grinch, Dickinson is playing along, happily asking the children if they've been naughty or nice, and asking them what they want for Christmas.

Happy, Merry, everyone.

Would the Founding Fathers Have Fought Christmas Wars?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has assembled an impressive collection of information on the Christmas wars in historical and cultural context.  Read this transcript of a recent roundtable discussion about how the founding fathers understood the role of religion in the public square, and how those insights might guide a modern conversation about the holiday culture wars.  Or, explore this backgrounder that details the history of holiday displays and the federal courts.

While you're in a political mood, check out's annual roundup of governors' holiday cards. Did your state wish you "Season's Greetings," "Merry Christmas," or "Joy, Hope and Happiness?" 

Unto Us a Komodo Dragon is Born?

Flora the Komodo dragon, a resident of Chester Zoo in England, has never mated, yet is expected to hatch eight babies, possibly on Christmas. In what zoologists are calling a possible "Christmas virgin birth," Flora's offspring represent the largest species known to self-fertilize.

Peace on Earth...and in Iraq

The Catholic peace group Pax Christi has a Christmas wish that has to do with a real war--the war in Iraq.  The group has called on President Bush to declare a Christmas day cease-fire in Iraq. The goal of the cease-fire would be to demonstrate that the administration is genuinely considering changes in strategy that might halt the escalating violence in that country.

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