OK, that's not particularly politically correct. But then, I've never been one to care much for PC. I'm not remotely interested in catering to hypersensibilities.
This isn't some obscure little holiday. This is Christmas, the most important holiday in the United States and most of the western world.
The United States is known for its diversity. Almost every religion in the world has adherents who live in this country. And each deserves respect for their beliefs.
But the truth of the matter is that this is a country that is overwhelmingly Christian, and if Christians of this nation can grant respect for the beliefs of others, then those others need to grant respect for the beliefs of Christians. At least once a year.
Sure, most of us aren't churchgoers. Less than a third of the Christians in this country attend church on a regular basis (only the Mormons and Assembly of God can claim that over half its declared members attend church each week, according to the research polls I've seen lately). Yet, this season seems to bring out, more than any other time, the core faith that most of us have. Church attendance is up, but more importantly, the Christian spirit of giving, of helping those less fortunate, is stronger than at any other time of the year -- and everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike, benefit from that.
Locally, you can see it in the Cheer Basket and Giving Tree programs, run by secular organizations in the spirit of a Christian tradition to offer help where needed, to brighten the lives of others in need.
I like Christmas. It's a wonderful excuse to go out of my way to give the people I love, the members of my family and my close friends, special presents that, in and of themselves, may mean nothing, but which represent the fact that I care about them and want to do something that I hope will make them happy. (Really guys, if you don't like that new sweater, remember, it really is the thought that counts).
The joy is truly in the giving, and genuinely (I keep insisting to them) I don't personally need anything. I'm hard to buy for (my hobbies and interests are a little odd), and I'm old enough that I've got just about anything I want (or can reasonably expect to have short of winning the lottery).
A handmade, barely legible scrawl of a Christmas card from a grandchild means more to me than a new car or plasma TV ever would. I know my kids try to find that "special something" for me, but there have been years when things have been tight for them and all they could afford was a card and some heartfelt thoughts. I keep those cards in a special place and treasure them like they were gifts of gold, frankensense and myrr.
There are other reasons I enjoy the season, and many of them have to do with watching all my kids as they've grown up and started building their own families.
I can remember one of my girls, for example, when she was in that obstinate age which passeth all understanding that we call teenagers, decrying the material emphasis of Christmas and insisting that no one should ever give presents to another, because that's not what the season was really about.
In some ways, Jennifer was right. It is a hugely material time of year (and often is the profit margin for many businesses). In fact, the emphasis on presents is probably why it is so popular (even if overdone). In terms of the Christian religion, Easter is actually more important, as it was at that time that Christ fulfilled the prophesies (if you're Christian) and took the world's sins upon himself, while at the same time offering all men hope for the future and a life everlasting. No, Easter should be the real high holiday for Christians.
But Christmas, with its promise of presents, especially among the young that those of us who are older cater to so much, has become the biggie. We love doting on our children and grandchildren. It's a wonderful excuse to spoil them.
Which is why I laugh at Jen sometimes, now that she has a child of her own. She may still decry the materialism of Christmas, at least when it comes to getting something herself, but when it comes to her little one, this kid is going to wind up with more toys than Santa could ever possibly stuff in one huge sack. He's going to need two sleighs and a dozen more reindeer.
I remember when all of the kids were focused on the presents as they were growing up. Today, even if they're strapped for money, all they want is enough to make their own children happy. Not one has asked for anything for themselves and they all deny that they, themselves, need anything. Maybe it's part of growing up.
Yet they give so much, not just during the holidays. One of our grandsons has a minor learning disability. He's a great kid, but he'll have to grow up before he realizes how much his mother, whom I am so proud of, spends of her time to help him. She helps him with his homework every night, she drives him three times a week to Boise after school to get him the extra help he needs. She will do anything necessary to help her son succeed. And she does it by giving of herself.
I think all of us know someone like Angel, a mother, or a father, who goes the extra mile when their children need them.
But for all that special giving, she's still going to shower that kid with presents. Like most parents, she just wants him to be happy.
I guess, in the long run, for me at least, children have been the greatest gift of all. And I see the understanding of that gift in my children, as they work so hard to be good parents (and, I'm proud to say in my unbiased opinion, doing a pretty good job of it, all of them).
I see that special sense of caring, the "gift" as you will, that parents have, when it comes to raising the next generation.
So maybe Christmas really should be the "big" holiday for Christians. It is, after all, a time we celebrate new life, new beginnings, and futures of great majesty yet to be fulfilled. In that respect, the presents we give are such a tiny aspect of the season, a very small "thank you" for all the joy our children bring us.
So on behalf of myself, my wife Rita, and all our family, I hope you all enjoy the season to the fullest, in particular the special gift of family you'll find gathered around the tree, either physically or in spirit.
Have a very Merry (and very correct) Christmas.
(Editor's note: I ran this column last year, but everything in it still applies. And I can't urge you enough to never forget the "reason for the season").