Have yourself a merry whatever???

Have yourself a merry whatever???
In the past two months, I've gone to great lengths to include the phrase "Merry Christmas" at the end of nearly all of my correspondence.

I do this because 1) I really DO want people to experience a joyous Christmas experience on Sunday, and 2) I don't want to take a dip in the same hot water being splashed about by President Bush.

G.W. and Laura, according to press reports, recently sent out their Christmas cards.

Except there's something missing. Christmas.

This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy "holiday season."

At least, that's what the press is reporting. I guess I'm not on G.W.'s buddy list. I never got a card.

Many people are thrilled to get a White House Christmas card, no matter what the greeting inside. But some conservative Christians are reacting as if Bush stuck coal in their stockings.

Religious conservatives are miffed because they have been pressuring stores to advertise Christmas sales rather than "holiday specials" and urging schools to let students out for Christmas vacation rather than for "winter break."

They celebrated when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) insisted that the sparkling spectacle on the Capitol lawn should be called the Capitol Christmas Tree, not a holiday spruce.

Then along comes a generic season's greeting from the White House, paid for by the Republican National Committee. The cover art is also secular, if not humanist: It shows the presidential pets � two dogs and a cat � frolicking on a snowy White House lawn.

The president isn't the only political leader to use a rather broad brush to express feelings of good will as the Christmas holiday approaches.

For governors, the split that's in vogue this season is between those offering "Christmas" wishes and those sending "holiday" tidings in their annual greeting cards.

A Stateline.org survey found that 37 of the 50 state leaders � 18 Democrats and 19 Republicans � are sending wishes for a happy � nameless � holiday. Nine governors � two Democrats and seven Republicans � are explicit in wishing the joy of "Christmas."

In the "bah, humbug" category are the governors of Minnesota, Nevada and New Mexico; they aren't sending official cards at all. And because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) hasn't decided when or whether to send greetings of the season.

While the majority of governors' cards also use all-inclusive holiday language, their messages can't be categorized as neatly as Santa's naughty and nice list.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds does a good job of covering all of the bases, without even using the word "Christmas" in his card. Again, according to news reports (the Lias household hasn't gotten a card from him, either) his mailings read: "May the sounds of joy fill your home with warmth and your heart with happiness this holiday season." The Rounds' cards also include Psalm 95:2 "Let us come before Him with thanksgiving, and extoll him with music and song."

A national poll released Dec. 15 shows more Americans prefer the greeting, "Merry Christmas," to the secular "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" by a margin of 60 percent to 23 percent.

You can include me in that 60 percent.

But a 45 percent plurality says it doesn't matter much either way, according to the survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which like Stateline.org is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

I think you could count me among those in the 45 percent plurality, too.

People critical of the Bush's Christmas card, I'm afraid, may not have enough to do this holiday season. Perhaps they need to ring bells for the Salvation Army, or deliver meals to shut-ins or feed the hungry in a soup kitchen.

By being in touch with so many people who really need their help, think of all the opportunities these critics will have to express a sentiment I share � their wish that we experience the true meaning of Christmas Sunday in the company of people we love.

It can't get much merrier than that, can it?

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