Sunday, December 11, 2005

Things That We Know Have Always Been There

I'm sometimes amazed at the actual timing of things that we know have always happened.

Right now we are going through a discussion of Christmas traditions and Presidential observances of them. Some folks have their knickers in a twist because the White House Christmas card doesn't mention Christmas even though it hasn't seen that word used since 1992 during the other Bush administration. Wisconsin has had a Holiday Tree for nearly 20 years and the state hasn't been struck by divine retribution.

We just assume that presidents have always sent out massive quantities of cards but that isn't exactly so. LBJ sent out cards to 4,000 of his closest friends and supporters. Richard Nixon, realizing the political usefulness of the Christmas greetings expanded his list to 40,000. The traditon has grown through presidents red and blue to the point where Clinton sent out 400,000 and Bush43 is sending out 1.2 million cards this year. The fact that some are upset about the message on them means that his list could use some culling.

It was FDR who first sent out a Christmas card according to Mary Evans Seeley, author of Season's Greetings From the White House. The Kennedys sent out 2,000 cards in 1962.

Likewise, we all know that there has always been a Christmas tree at the White House. Nevermind that Franklin Pierce was the first president to introduce the Christmas tree to the White House in 1856 for a group of Washington Sunday School children and the first national Christmas Tree was lighted in 1923 on the White House lawn by President Calvin Coolidge. The Hoover library site has a gallery of Christmas tree themes from the White House.

Here's the kernel of my argument. Traditions are fluid. Observances and language change. A holiday is what we make it. My Christmas is not enhanced or diminished by the actions or words of John Gard, George Bush, Bill O'Reilly or anyone else. Target cannot ruin my celebration anymore than Wal-Mart could make it better. Well meaning but overzealous nannies have gotten us into this mess. In a rush to not offend anyone we have gotten to a place where everyone acts offended.

Look at the pretty tree. Note that it has a place in the traditions of the people of our country. Now put some energy into making this a better place to live.

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