GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 7, 2012

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Naming Christmas as focus of 'holiday' events

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — This is the time of year, of course, when we cover a lot of “holiday” events, either through photos, stories, both, or in our community events listings.

And any of these events truly span all of the late-year holidays, from Thanksgiving through Hanukkah, and then right through Christmas to Kwanzaa and New Year’s. Yet more and more it seems, people seeking to make various events more inclusive will simply use the term “holiday,” when it’s clear that the event is geared toward one specific holiday: Christmas.

In these politically-correct times, it seems that more and more people are shying away from referring specifically to Christmas, especially when it comes to holiday parties, holiday business promotions and other festivities. And indeed, in our coverage of Gloucester’s Santa Claus Parade, we referred to the events of the day “ringing in the holiday season” and “lighting up holiday spirits.”

Yet, we also made sure to refer to the Canadian spruce tree that graces Kent Circle for what it is — Gloucester’s Christmas tree. And our headline that accompanied Friday’s didn’t refer to the buoys being painted for today’s Lobster Trap Tree decorating and lighting as “holiday buoys,” or some other such designation. The headline noted that the students were painting “Buoys of Christmas.” And they were — for the Lobster Trap Christmas tree.

Was that politically incorrect? Was it discriminatory or exclusionary against those who may not celebrate Christmas? Not in my view. Yet you may well ask, shouldn’t the Times be more general in portraying all Christmas-related things at this time of year as simply celebrating the “holidays?” In other words, why did your community’s newspaper do that?

In the case of the trees and lighting ceremonies, let’s remember these trees for what they area: the city’s live and Lobster Trap Christmas trees. And frankly, the same goes for many of the celebrations in which we all engage around this time of year.

Christmas is, after all, a specific holiday, and when events are geared around Christmas, we will say so.

We will also provide specific coverage of the other holidays that dominate the calendar these days — including Hanukkah, the annual “Festival of Lights” that begins tonight. Indeed, our Taste of the Times coverage, both in Wednesday’s print edition of the Times and online at gloucestertimes.com, featured not just foods of the “holiday season,” but some of the traditional foods of Hanukkah. And we anticipate including more Hanukkah-related coverage next week.

Many events, of course, are true “holiday” events, including, in many ways, the Santa parade. Yes, Santa Claus is a figure of Christmas, but the parade was held just three days after Thanksgiving, at the start of the “holiday” shopping season, and holiday shopping is not exclusive to Christmas.

Often, however, public officials and many folks within our schools — understandably trying to appeal to everyone in every instance — will simply use terms such as “holidays” and “season’s greetings” without ever referring to Christmas at all. That, quite frankly, can offend those who do celebrate Christmas, as some letter writers have noted this week. And there doesn’t seem any need to do that, either.

If we’re covering an event that organizers say is simply celebrating “the holidays,” we’ll use that term in the coverage — and assume that includes the celebration of New Year’s as well. But when it comes to Christmas trees, Christmas cookies or, in a few weeks, last-minute Christmas shopping, we certainly plan to recognize the holiday that the celebrations are all about.

And, along with extending our best wishes for a Happy Hanukkah this week, we’ll wish everyone a Merry Christmas as well.

As always, let me know what you think.

Questions? Comments? is there a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3438, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.