Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Congresswoman Davis Rewrites Dictionary; Makes Include and Exclude Synonyms

It seems to me that Virginia Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis and others on the anti-holiday bandwagon have merged the meanings of "include" and "exclude" in their efforts to put the "Christ" back in Christmas.

Those of us who use Happy Holidays as a greeting do so to "include," that is, to "accommodate, add, admit, allow for, append, bear, build, build in, carry, combine, comprehend, comprise, consist of, constitute, contain, count, cover, embody, embrace, encircle, enclose, encompass, entail, enter, have, hold, implicate, incorporate, inject, insert, interject, interpolate, introduce, number, number among, receive, subsume, take in, teem with, or work in" everyone who is celebrating this time of year regardless of what they are celebrating.

We are not trying to "exclude" or "ban, bar, bate, blackball, blacklist, block, bounce, boycott, close out, count out, debar, disallow, drive out, eject, eliminate, embargo, estop, evict, except, expel, force out, ignore, interdict, keep out, leave out, lock out, obviate, occlude, omit, ostracize, oust, pass over, preclude, prevent, prohibit, proscribe, put out, refuse, refuse admittance, reject, remove, repudiate, rule out, set aside, shut out, sideline, suspend, throw out, veto, or ward off" Christians who are celebrating Christmas.

No matter what the good Congresswoman says, I'm going to continue to see include and exclude as antonyms, and I'm going to include everyone in my holiday greetings.

And, what's this thing these folks have about the Christmas tree anyway...the history of Christmas trees as a Christian symbol is relatively recent, promoted actively in the US only since the late 1800's and not "universal" as a tradition until the 1920's. A bit of history:

The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrive, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.

The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.

Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.

Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.

Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.

The Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio, adds Robson.

But the custom spread slowly. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church. Schools in Boston stayed open on Christmas Day through 1870, and sometimes expelled students who stayed home.

The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.

What's the big deal about including everyone in the magic of the season by calling the tree a holiday tree?

Sometimes me thinks that the gentlelady doth protest too much.

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