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CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: Merry Christmahanukwanzakah!

December 26, 2005

Have you seen the ads for Virgin Mobile at the movie theater?

Decidedly tongue-in-cheek and inyour-face, the ads from the upstart cell phone company take a wellaimed potshot at our obsession with political correctness.

In an apparent attempt to make everybody happy, the company has created Christmahanukwanzakah, a new holiday, taking Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa-the Christian, Jewish and African-American end-of-year celebrations-and rolling them into one.

Among other things, the movie-theater ads re-create a politically incorrect telethon, featuring a number of unlikely characters, including a singing Hindu Santa Claus and a gay elf, who is identified as such and played by a woman. Relatively tasteless, the ad is saying, "Don't take yourselves so seriously, people. Live and let live." While some may be greatly offended, I say, "Right on." I understand the importance and necessity of inclusion and mutual respect in our diverse culture. America is, in fact, a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. As it becomes more so, which it certainly will, we need to accept and respect our differences and find ways to acknowledge-even celebrate-them.

When a major U.S. retailer feels pressured to identify Christmas trees as holiday trees in its marketing materials, I, for one, think things have gone too far. And, on top of that, the bickering over this kind of issue has gotten out of control.

Stop for a moment. Let's think about what this season is all about.

For Christians, it's about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. For Jews, it's about celebrating religious freedom and victory over the Hellenistic Syrians. The two holidays vary in terms of importance in their respective religions, but both are significant and widely observed. Kwanzaa is a bit different, in that it's neither political nor religious. It celebrates the traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce and selfimprovement. And, as kids today say, it's all good. Religion is a personal thing. By its very nature and in accordance with the reality of the world, we can't all celebrate this season religiously together at the same time and in the same way. So, let's each celebrate our own religion with those who share it. Here's what we can celebrate together. Because December is a time for religious observance for many, certainly we can all focus on our own spirituality, whatever it is. Celebrate it. Let's ask ourselves: Are we living the values we espouse? Are we living lives that our creator-whoever that may be-would approve of? The family gatherings associated with the holidays are certainly reminders of what is really important in our lives on Earth-our family and our friends, and the love we share with them. Let's take this special time to be thankful for the love and good times we share. Let's have more.

The end of the year is a natural time to not only look back and take stock of what we have, but to look forward. We are on the cusp of a new year, a new beginning. Let's think about the things we want to accomplish and the changes we want to make to improve our lives and the lives of those we love and those with whom we work.

We could even take some time to think about our goals for our careers in the coming year.

Most important, I think, is that we all take the time to actually enjoy it. Let's try not to get caught up in the politics and bustle of it, or the crass commercialism that has polluted the purity of it. January and 2006 and all the challenges they will bring are just around the corner.

Slow down for a change. It'll do you good.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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