NEW YORK (AP) — Deck the halls and man the battle stations. The fight has resumed.
I'm referring, of course, to the so-called War on Christmas, a yearly call to arms by those whose Christmas cheer is under siege. Or so they claim ... fear ... and warn.
This annual uproar may have escaped the notice of some Christmas observers.
Those are people who mean no disrespect to Christmas by replacing "Merry Christmas" with the more inclusive "Happy holidays." Those are people who are able to forgive as good intentions gone awry the occasional misguided stab at political correctness. ("Holiday tree"? Really?!)
Those are people who might be surprised to learn that Christmas is under threat of a power grab by atheists, libertines, elites, advocates for gay rights, pro-abortion rights and drug legalization, plus garden-variety left-wing wack jobs.
In short, those are people who aren't watching Bill O'Reilly.
No one is more vociferous in leading the Christmas pushback than this Fox News Channel superstar, whose seasonal war cry on "The O'Reilly Factor" has become a Christmas tradition of its own.
Every right-thinking person needs to "stand up and fight against this secular progressivism that wants to diminish the Christmas holiday," he fulminated recently to that night's guest, Fox News personality and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. "We have to start to fight back against these people."
"You know, Bill," Huckabee said gently, "the nature of most Christians is not to get into a fight and a squabble."
"But you're gonna LOSE!" warned his host.
Turning the "No-Spin Zone" into a holiday war zone, O'Reilly is all for keeping Christ in Christmas.
At the same time, he proclaims that everyone — no matter their faith — should call a Christmas tree "a Christmas tree" and knock off their whining.
"No intelligent person could possibly see a secular display of Christmas as an imposition of religion," he declared. "A Christmas tree is a secular symbol. It has nothing to do with Christianity."
And there's more where that came from.
"It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion. It is a phil-o-so-phy," he told his audience, stretching out the word as if speaking to small children.
Never mind that Webster's New World College Dictionary defines "Christianity" as: (1) Christians collectively; (2) the Christian religion; (3) a particular Christian religious system; (4) the state of being a Christian. No mention of "philosophy."
But in the No-Spin Zone, at least, O'Reilly's facts trump everybody else's as he milks this Christmas controversy, treating this "war" as if it were something new that can be won if he sermonizes loudly enough.
It's nothing new, according to Stephen Nissenbaum, author of "The Battle for Christmas," an absorbing 1996 cultural history of the holiday. Bottom line: The holiness of Christmas has always been challenged by earthly practices. Through the centuries, spirituality and paganism have coexisted at Christmas time uneasily.