Before Christmas, Peter Brimelow used my article “Happy Holidays? Bah! Humbug!” (Vital Signs, December 2001) to kick off’s annual War Against Christmas competition.  Since then, I have received a steady stream of correspondence—some of it sharply critical, but most of it extremely favorable.

Of course, not everyone liked the essay.  I learned that my piece was “ungenerous,” “unchristian,” “inflammatory,” “malicious, ignorant, and arrogant,” and “so offensive as to demand immediate and forceful rebuttal.”  I also picked up some revealing history lessons, which show that those discomfited by the public celebration of Christmas tend to subscribe to the darkest possible view of Christianity.  For example: “[I]f [the Jews] do not have an equivalent of a Bach Christmas Oratorio, it is because Christians had them penned up in ghettos until the mid-18th century.”  The same correspondent also hastened to underscore “the hatred the Christian has manifested for non-Christians in the last thousand years” and “the arrogance of the Christians in refusing to accept that others may not believe as they do.” 

My essay reminded one Hindu correspondent that “Christians came to these shores running away from persecution only to wipe out the native population and unleash slavery.”  He also implied that the recent spate of killings of Christians in India, though deplorable, was the result of the “aggressive and virulent approach” taken by Christian missionaries there.  If I had written about non-Christians in a comparable manner, I suspect that my essay would have received much more attention than it did.

Predictably, some of my correspondents also thought that the current public assault on the celebration of Christmas represented rough justice for past misdeeds.  Although my Hindu correspondent deplored the commercialization of Christmas and even expressed agreement with some of my points, he also wrote that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander. . . . Most missionary-run schools in India . . . getting tax-payer funded government aid restrain their students from wearing flowers and having forehead decorations since these are seen as Hindu.”  I must confess that it is not apparent to me why American schools should consider how missionary academies are run in India when deciding whether to allow American children to sing Christmas carols.

Another writer thought that my nephew wondering why our family did not observe Hanukkah or Kwanza represented “a small dose of what Jewish children have experienced for decades.  Until recently Jewish children were inundated with celebrations of Christmas in all public places, including schools.”  Of course a Jewish child in America wondering about Christmas simply reflects numerical reality: Most of his fellow countrymen celebrate Christmas.  A Christian child wondering why his family does not celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanza is reflecting a concerted effort to drive signs of America’s Christian and Western heritage out of our public places.

Despite the invective, my critical interlocutors were earnest and generally well meaning.  More to the point, they did not fundamentally disagree with me.  None of them suggested that the alternative holidays fostered by the multiculturalists were being elevated for their intrinsic value rather than their proximity to Christmas.  (Indeed, I was assured that “no Jew denies that Hanukkah has grown in importance out of all proportion to its significance.”)

This critical trickle, though, was overwhelmed by a flood of correspondence from people who liked my essay.  These positive letters came from a broad spectrum of Americans: university professors and secretaries and school teachers, and all manner of Christians—even some non-Christians.  One Jewish writer expressed concern that the public elevation of Hanukkah “does much harm to the sense of perspective that Jewish kids walk away from all of this with. . . . Hanukkah is essentially a holiday to be celebrated in the home and not in the streets or the public places.”

This positive response was not confined to conservatives.  An abridged version of my essay appeared the Sunday before Christmas in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh’s major newspaper.  Since the Post-Gazette has a conservative competitor, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, it is likely that many of the Pittsburghers who applauded the essay were not ideological conservatives.

The positive response I received was extremely heartening, because it reflected my correspondents’ great love for Christmas and their willingness to defend this splendid holiday.  One school-board member said that she would share the essay with her district’s superintendent, principals, and her fellow board members.  She also related a skirmish in the War Against Christmas from her Pittsburgh-area district: One mother was given permission to stage a Hanukkah party for all of the second-grade classes, but another who wanted to speak to the children about Christmas was rebuffed.

One letter to the editor published by the Post-Gazette exemplified the great love of Christmas and the willingness to defend it that I have seen in so many letters.  Bernice Renkawek wrote: “I am ashamed to say that for the past few years, I have found myself becoming so entangled in political correctness that my own holiday has suffered as a result.  I realized this year that it had gotten completely out of control when I didn’t wish my regular bus driver a ‘Merry Christmas’ because I didn’t know how it would be taken.

“I wish Mr. Piatak’s article had been printed sooner.  I wish I had kept my Polish backbone and not given a hoot as to what people would think if I had wished them a Merry Christmas.  And above all, I wish I hadn’t pushed the celebration of the birth of Jesus into the back seat, under a blanket, where it couldn’t be seen and, therefore, wouldn’t offend anyone.

“Mr. Piatak said it quite simply.  The holiday is Christmas.  Period.  And such a beautiful and wonderful holiday it is.  Thanks to him, from now on I will do exactly what I feel in my heart.”

There are many people like Bernice Renkawek out there, who will gladly join in the defense of Christmas and be grateful to anyone who champions this incomparable holiday.  The only question is this: Are any of our public figures brave enough, or smart enough, to seize this opportunity?