Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say that there are bad people who want to make Christmas go away. They say it must be true because they heard about it on Bill O'Reilly's show. Please tell me the truth, will Christmas come this year?

-Virginia O'Hanlon

Don't worry, Virginia. Christmas is in no danger of disappearing.

I can understand the consternation you and your friends must feel at the notion that this beloved holiday might cease to be. At your age, it is important to believe what adults say, so it pains me to tell you that some adults are abusing their position of trust on this matter.

I'd like to say that the host of Fox News Channel's "O'Reilly Factor" really believes that Christmas is in danger of being rubbed out by, pick any three, atheists, liberals, Christian-haters, Kwanzaa celebrants, Islamofascists, secular humanists, leftist documentary filmmakers, communistic billionaires, gay decorators who are sick of all the red and green, and Jews who didn't vote for George W. Bush.

But he doesn't, really. And neither do Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, John Leo, Cal Thomas or those radical clerics Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. By exaggerating the significance of a few odd stories from around the country, and throwing in untrue interpretations of others, they are exacerbating the skepticism of a skeptical age.

They are doing this to encourage their followers to think the worst of fellow Americans who have done nothing to them except to hold different opinions on a handful of political issues. If this is how they celebrate a holiday founded on peace and brotherhood, Virginia, you might want to hide in the basement when these guys party down for Guy Fawkes Day.

They love to tell how a performance of "A Christmas Carol" banned at a school in Kirkland, Wash., because Tiny Tim says "God bless us every one." Apparently they didn't talk to the school principal, who explains the play was banned because the non-scholastic organization putting it on intended to charge students admission - a violation of the school's policy on outside building use.

But the first version fits the fake story line better, so that's the one you hear repeated more often than "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

And did Macy's, as the "defenders of Christmas" claim, ban its employees from saying "Merry Christmas?" Decide for yourself - the "banned" words appear on Macy's home page.

And I'll bet the store's customers have been routinely serenaded with Christmas carols since at least Halloween. Do you hear what I hear, Virginia: "We Wish You a" Š what were those two words again? I doubt any Macy's customers are busy trying to get that overplayed anthem "O Kwanzaa Tree" out of their minds.

Even if you give complete credence to the half-dozen or so shaggy-dog stories O'Reilly and his ilk are peddling, you end up with something less than the kind of groundswell it would take to overturn the Western world's most celebrated holiday. Are the British aware that Christmas is in danger? How about the French or the Germans?

Part of the alleged anti-Christmas jihad is the idea that the atheists, liberals, secular humanists, etc., see above, are trying to take religion out of the holiday. If they knew any history, they might steer clear of that particular story line.

Through most of the 17th century, Puritans in America banned the celebration of Christmas, even supporting laws that levied fines on people who stayed home from work on Dec. 25. Sure sounds like Christmas had to defend itself against Christians for a lot of years.

Virginia, from the time I was your age I was always told that the real danger to Christmas was too much materialism - letting shopping and decorating elbow aside the spiritual meaning of the holiday.

But big retailers buy big advertising on cable news outlets, their associated entertainment networks, radio stations and websites. That's why the screaming head brigade emphasizes a fake liberal-atheist campaign to stamp out the holiday instead of the more pertinent threat posed by over-commercialism.

Indeed, O'Reilly and his fellow travelers, in their eagerness to pit Americans against each other, are turning Christmas into something that sounds a lot more like the "Seinfeld" show's "Festivus," a holiday made up by George Costanza's dad that is marked by the "Airing of Grievances."

No Christmas, Virginia? No way! It has prevailed against the Dark Ages, the Puritans, the great wars of several centuries and two terrible Ben Affleck movies based on the holiday, "Reindeer Games" and "Surviving Christmas."

A thousand years from now, nay, 10,000 years from now, it will have survived the small number of church-state tussles that spring up around it every year.

Not to mention O'Reilly's attempts to "defend" it from mostly imaginary enemies.

Heck, Christmas won't even be damaged by this year's release of a holiday CD by tone-deaf "American Idol" contestant William Hung. If a copy of that turns up in your stocking, Virginia, make sure you're first in line outside the used CD store on Dec. 26.

Apologies to Francis P. Church, and Happy Kwanzaa to Bill O'Reilly.

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