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Demeaning of Christmas

A NEW LINE of holiday cards invites senders to roll December into an interfaith snowball of a greeting called "Chrismukkah."

Bad idea. There is enough mushing together of what should be clearly defined seasons. Retailers start hauling Christmas out of the sack in August, and come Halloween a person can feel inundated by little drummer boys.

Christmas should not be the marzipan that eats autumn. It should shine beautifully in its place as a time that is holy to Christians and as a December season of giving for believers and nonbelievers alike.

Christmas is not Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light. Hanukkah is not Santa Claus in a yarmulke, or a reindeer with menorah antlers, or a snowman swirling in matzoh ball soup, or a bright red and green "Merry Mazeltov!"

These cards, marketed by Michelle and Ron Gompertz -- a Protestant/Jewish couple in Livingston, Mont. -- were created this year with a well-intended sense of humor that, unfortunately, drops like a fruitcake.

The new cards compete with a similar line from a Raleigh, N.C., company called "MixedBlessing" that has been in business for 15 years, and with Hallmark and American Greetings, which also offer dual-purpose cards for people who want to say more than "Happy Holidays."

Saying less might be better -- especially when the alternative can be cloying or even insulting. The Gompertzes seem to know they're on sensitive ground, given the website space they devote to explaining the effort.

Under a "disclaimer" section, they say: "We respect people's different faiths and do NOT suggest combining the religious observance of Christmas and Hanukkah. We passionately believe in religious freedom and tolerance, along with our right to worship as we please, especially at a time of growing anxiety about separation of church and state, and religion fueled by fundamentalist violence around the world."

Whew! Maybe they should switch to Fourth of July cards.

December should be a time of rejoicing in individual traditions and beliefs. To amalgamate them -- even in fun -- is to miss the point.

There is a similar melding impulse in some classrooms, and in children's sports, where tamping down differences and giving everyone an award is considered healthier than encouraging people to make their unique mark in the world. The hit movie "The Incredibles" mocks the trend with a family of superheroes forced to blend in to be accepted.

Trying to blend two ancient cultures into a modern fuzzy "Chrismukkah" diminishes the power of both into Tradition Lite. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and whatever else a person celebrates should have its own distinctive season -- accompanied by appreciation for all the bold, rich designs that make up the human mosaic. 

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