Keep Christ out of this Christmas

As strange as this sounds, I am here to sing the praises of the Baltimore Sun editors who to conceived and executed the following A1 Christmas season feature that -- praise the Lord -- contains absolutely no religious material or sentiment whatsoever (with the possible exception of Baachus and there may be a golden calf in here somewhere). No, this story is about the real American Christmas, to one that rocks our world from Black Friday until Christmas Day, before our culture rolls into the holy days known as the NFL playoffs.

While reading this thing, I kept waiting for the moment when the "C" word would or would not be used, in place of the safe, secular "holidays" incantation.

The premise for this story is that it's hard to get American men to do their duties this time of year, which means heading to the nearest shopping mall and doing their part to keep their marriages and/or families united and the nation's economy intact. Something must be done.

The answer is to combine alcohol, cigars, grilled fat, credit cards and jewelry. Thus, the headline:

Looking for every sale, retailers inject testosterone into holiday shopping

Malls and other businesses try to lure elusive guy shoppers with manly mainstays like booze and beef

And here is the heart of the matter -- the reason for the season.

Clergy may want to sit down. Ready? Now proceed into these summary paragraphs.

... (If) men won't go to the malls, the vendors are coming to them — either that or doing everything to make their shops as tavern-like and man-friendly as possible.

"If it wasn't for a strong Christmas and men coming in and purchasing from the certain places, like the jewelry stores, I'm not so sure they'd be in business," says Nancy Hafford, executive director at Towson Chamber of Commerce and planner of the shopping district's men's event for Dec. 22. "They tend to buy larger gifts, they just do."

To attract the swaggering, Grillo & Co. jewelers on Allegheny Avenue will be pitching an outdoor tent for men's night where guys can puff on stogies and quaff wine, lest the diamonds and pearls start to sap anyone's virility. ...

Manor Tavern advertised its first attempt at men's night by pointing to bourbon, single malts and — the piece de resistance -- manly one-pound slabs of prime rib. If there was a salad included, the tavern kept that to themselves.

When I say that this is a totally religion-free Christmas story, what I really mean is that it is a story free of the messages of Advent, Christmas, Chanukah or any other religious season that I am aware of. I am also not joking when I say that I am thankful that the editors put absolutely zero religious content into this awesome materialist mash up.

This is a Christmas story for everyone whose Christmas is completely based on the rites of mall and Mammon.

My question is simple: Should the story have said as much? Should it have embraced its anti-Christmas vibe and run with it? This is, after all, The Holidays as they are now defined in mass media. Should the The Sun have proudly stated the obvious, for those who believe?

Put the cash in Christmas. Go ahead, name it and claim it.

Even barrel-aged bravery couldn't embolden guys to approach the spa stand.

"I was over there and saw 'breast enhancement' and walked away fast," said a still-unnerved Bill Varnell of Glen Rock, Pa. "No way."

Varnell did buy some spices -- a packet of the "flat iron steak rub." "My wife loves my cooking," he said.

It was a quiet night for Laurie Imhoff, who came from Catonsville to try to sell quilted purses and bags. She suspected what with the drinks and all their buddies around, the men were having trouble focusing.

"I can't imagine my husband ever going to something like this," she said. "I think it's a neat concept because they don't like going to malls." ...

Clearly, newspapers have a challenge when they are covering these kinds of stories.

This is A KIND of Christmas story, after all. It's hard work and somebody has to do it. This may even be the dominant story that has to be written. However, isn't this really THE HOLIDAYS story? Or is that an editorial statement?

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