This will appear in the Bernice Banner, Bernice, Louisiana, USA the week of 11/17/2014

Approximately two thousand years ago Jesus was born. Over the years and centuries and millenniums the story of the birth has for the most part remained the same. The actual date of the birth has been lost but that is to no avail as it is the birth that is magical, not a specific day on the calendar. Over time and across a diverse planet the ability to celebrate Christmas has differed. Many times political correctness or the perception of political correctness becomes the law of the land. Prior to my arrival in Saudi the company allowed the employees to put up Christmas lights. Then just before I arrived it was announced by the company that lights were no longer permitted so that the Saudi’s would not be offended. In my own naïve protest I put my Christmas tree in a window that everyone could see. This was probably not a smart move but no one said anything negative and I can say I did not bow to pressures during a holiday I held precious.
We were told to not identify on our customs declarations any imported trees as Christmas trees. Trees came from home identified as holiday trees. Then one night when going to Al Khobar with a friend there was a store with Christmas trees covered in lights. My friend asked for the price. When the store keeper told him the price my friends asked if that included the lights. The Saudi storekeeper broke out into a large grin and stated, “Would you buy a shirt without buttons? Of course it does.” At work the Saudi workers were asking me why there were no lights being displayed on the compound. They said that since they had been children they enjoyed coming into the compound at night and looking at the Christmas lights. It was like driving through subdivisions we have in America with lines of cars meandering through the community observing the lights. It became evident that the protest of putting Christmas lights up in my compound did not come from the Saudi civilians, it came from a perception of my company to be politically correct so as not to offend the civilians. This same mentality is now enveloping our own country.
Each year I like to look for new nativity scenes. Over the years they have slowly disappeared from the shelves of our large chain stores. Last year the only place I could find that carried nativity pieces was Dollar Tree in Farmerville. This year is much the same with a couple of exceptions. Lowes in Ruston had an assortment of nativity pieces. Finally someone is not as concerned about being politically correct as being correct. Then when walking through WalMart they had several boxes of Christmas cards marked traditional. On the cover was not a picture of Santa Clause saying happy holidays but instead was a picture of the nativity. Perhaps we beginning to see a thaw in our Christmas boycott and the pendulum is beginning to swing to a more moderate and tolerant position in our country’s world order.
I feel confident that the board of directors of the major retail stores are in no way proclaiming war on religious America. What they have been doing is allowing those that are against American traditional values to dictate the “proper” position of the massive chains that they represent while the silent majority sits back and allows it to happen. Perhaps this is beginning to change and these boards of directors are doing what is right and just and taking a role of leadership and directing the future of its corporations instead of allowing pressure from outside the company to do so.
Over the next few weeks we’ll explore not the true meaning of Christmas; that will come later. Instead we will look at the traditional Santa Clause and trees and decorations and how they came to be a part of the culture of a country we call America.
Santa is often referred to as St. Nicholas. There was in fact a true St Nicholas, came from Turkey and lived 1,700 years ago. His birthday was celebrated in many European countries. In Spain and the Netherlands he would ask boys and girls if they were naughty or nice. The Dutch called him Sinterklass. When the Dutch came to America to help settle our great nation they changed the name to Santa Clause.
There was no American version of how Santa looked until 1823. In that year a poet, Clement Clark Moore wrote a poem that described our St Nicholas.
“His eyes –how they twinkled. His dimples how merry.
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow”
In 1881 Thomas Nast took these words and drew St. Nick, a.k.a. Santa Clause, and thus the image of Santa Clause was born.
Next week, unless the world blows up, we’ll look at what is becoming the lost holiday, Thanksgiving and explore why Santa comes down the chimney.

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