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Yule Laugh, Yule Cry: Brands Sleigh Opponents, Restore "Christmas"

Posted by Dale Buss on December 2, 2010 12:30 PM

Like any good politician, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter always has his finger to the wind. And that’s why he asked the organizers of the city’s German Christmas Village at City Hall to put the word "Christmas" back in their sign this week.

He's also part of a trend that is seeing Americans yearn for a broader restoration of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” greetings over mundane and secular dronings like “Happy Holidays.”

In asking for the return of the sacred descriptor "Christmas" to the signage, Nutter (a man who knows a thing or two about loaded names) bucked those who’ve made church-state complaints about it in recent days. 

Leading the charge in the so-called War on Christmas — which even has its own anthem, Christmas with a Capital C — for dropping the generic "Holiday" language: the Christian-right American Family Association.

"We’ve had a complete flip," Randy Sharp, the AFA's director of special projects, told Ad Age. The group often has boycotted companies it views as stomping on "traditional values."

That's why it's been coaxing and cajoling (others might say, "shaming" and "bullying" via its "Companies Against Christmas" boycotts) US retailers and other brands into re-embracing religious-tinged seasonal language by including the word "Christmas" in holiday promotions and merchandising.

Sharp says in the past five years the group has seen the percentage of retailers recognizing Christmas in their advertising rise from 20% to 80%. Lowe’s “Family Trees” were renamed “Christmas Trees” in 1997, and Walmart.com's former Holiday Shop is now called a Christmas Shop.

Lowes.com, interestingly, still calls its seasonal merchandise a Holiday Shop. And Wal-Mart corporate marketing appears to studiously avoid uttering the word "Christmas" this season in lieu of vague warm and fuzzy language, including in one TV spot aimed at military families, and another commercial that shows a family around a Christmas tree but refers to "this," not Christmas, as the "Happiest Day."

At latest count, eleven Holiday-observing brands are currently on the AFA's 2010 "Naughty or Nice" list of "Companies Against Christmas" it urges shoppers to boycott: Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, CVS Pharmacy, Gap, Hancock Fabrics, NASCAR, Office Depot, Radio Shack, Staples, SUPERVALU, and Victoria's Secret.

One retailer that made its 2010 "naughty" list — Dick’s Sporting Goods, for its online “Holiday Shop” — had triggered the AFA to make it the target of a Christmas-shopping boycott. Lo and behold: that section of Dick's website is now called its Christmas Shop.

Clearly, the return of “Christmas” is a development that some folks will rue. But to others, their names might as well begin with "Ebenezer" and end with "Scrooge."

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