The group's founder, Manuel Zamorano, insists that he doesn't have "any desire to hurt anybody's bonuses, anybody's income, anybody's Christmas. But I don't want these retailers to simply use us and sell to us at Christmas and never actually say 'Merry Christmas.'"
To that end, he urges that people boycott all Federated Department Stores, including Macy's and Bloomingdale's, until they incorporate the phrase "Merry Christmas" into their advertising.
A spokeswoman for the chain, who may get a lump of coal this year, shrugged off calls for customers to refuse to shop at the stores: "People are always boycotting. It's sort of like get in line and take a number."
RNS reports that the chain has no "formal policy" on "Merry Christmas" and that it encourages "clerks to be inclusive of all shoppers." Translation: Though the advertising will be as secular as Santa, clerks will not be disciplined for saying Merry Christmas to shoppers, unless, you know, someone takes offense.
But reporter Kevin Eckstrom finds the protesters much more interesting than the protest. He explains,
While Zamorano's boycott has yet to pick up any real steam, his campaign reflects a growing resentment among many Christians that creeping secularism now has its sights set on Christmas. It's part of the annual "December dilemma" for people who say the birth of Jesus Christ is increasingly overshadowed by excessive commercialism.
Frustrated over nativity scenes that are unwelcome in public squares, Salvation Army kettles that have been banned from Target stores and school "holiday" plays that feature Hanukkah songs but no "Away in a Manger," they've had enough. And Macy's will be the first to pay.
But the story ultimately comes down on the side of the take-Christ-out-of-Christmas crowd:
"I don't know if it ever had an extremely strong religious component in America," said Karal Ann Marling, a University of Minnesota art historian whose book, "Merry Christmas!" chronicled the evolution of Christmas. It has always been "more secular than sacred," she said.
In early America, religious celebrations of Christmas were shunned by many Puritan-minded Protestants, and Dec. 25 was a relatively quiet feast day for liturgical Catholics and Anglicans. It wasn't until about 1850 that trees and gifts entered the scene, and merchants really caught on by the 1880s, around the time Macy's unveiled its landmark storefront windows brimming with holiday goods.
Leigh Schmidt, a professor of religion at Princeton University, said there have always been "mixed motives" for celebrating Christmas, from families who celebrate its sacred roots to retailers mindful of their bottom line.
"They're all overlapping," he said. "The churches get more into it, the family customs become more involved, the stores start to get into it. It all goes together, it all overlaps."
Bah humbug, says Zamorano, who insists he will not budge.