In defense of secular Christmas traditions

December 24, 2009

In response to Garrison Keillor's column "Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone" (Dec. 16): While I respect your point of view expressing your dislike of the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, I did find your comment about "Jewish guys writing Christmas songs" very offensive. The anger you voiced in that paragraph was hateful, and I, as a longtime fan, was saddened to hear it.

I assume by "Jewish guys" you are referring to Irving Berlin? "White Christmas" was written in 1942 and was an important song for many families separated by war. The wish for that song is not unlike your desire to light some candles and sing softly. It's the dream of the Christmas of one's youth, the implication of a simpler time.

Or perhaps it is Johnny Marks, composer of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," that has provoked your ire. Does the fact that an artist is Jewish mean that he cannot create something beloved for all observers of Christmas?

While you may find the observance of secular Christmas offensive, many people find much joy in this celebration. People take the time to wish you "Happy holidays" and families reunite, often for the only time during the year. Were it not for Christmas cards, I would have lost touch with dozens of friends. Without that strand which connects us, I would not feel that I could call on them when visiting their city. That thin, annual contact allows us to stay in touch.

The observance of Christmas has evolved, as it has evolved for centuries. While I agree that the constant barrage to spend spend spend is distasteful, how can I impose my values on someone else? In a country that values the separation of church and state, everyone is free to observe holidays as they see fit.

In this season of Christmas, I would urge you to demonstrate tolerance so that all celebrate Christmas in their own fashion. To paraphrase the Golden Rule, perhaps you could learn patience and tolerance and allow the celebrations of others, the way you would want them to allow the celebrations of your family.Lyn Diamond, Tipton, Ind.

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