By Connie Leonard
(LOUISVILLE) -- It's only a subtle difference of a few words for some, but saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" has become a big battle for others. What's now known as "The War on Christmas" has become a national debate. As WAVE 3 Investigator Connie Leonard reports, the fight has led to boycotts of major department stores and legal wrangling in the courts.
You may be joyful this time of year but nowadays it's best to be careful what you say -- because it could be taken the wrong way.
The phrase, "Merry Christmas," was once a common greeting this time of year, but it has fallen out of favor lately, replaced with "Happy Holidays," much to the dismay of many.
In fact, many religious groups fear they're not hearing "Merry Christmas" enough these days, and even fear an organized attack to take "Christ" out of Christmas.
Squabbles over nativity scenes on public squares as happened in LaGrange are now old news. The focus now is on major chain stores like Target and Wal-Mart, where customer greetings changed from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" -- a move that has some shoppers planning boycotts.
But others, like Anthony Mudd, are cheering the change. "I think it's a good thing because it's celebrating everyone -- the holidays and traditions."
Bongshu Cao says so many people have so many beliefs that Christmas doesn't include everyone. "Religion is so big," he said. "Everyone has their own opinion."
Those opinions and frustrations have lit a fire under many people, from 84 WHAS radio talk show host Francene -- "Christmas is being extinguished and I don't like it" -- to the Today Show, where it was noted that schools call no longer refer to the time off at the end of December as "Christmas Break." It's "Winter Break" now.
Even Bill O'Reilly has an opinion: "This is insane! It's Christmas!"
John Gibson, O'Reilly's colleague at Fox News, has a new book called "The War on Christmas" on store shelves just in time for holiday shopping.
In one recent segment, Gibson cited a school in Plano, Texas that went as far as banning the colors red and green to push out Christmas.
Gibson says the legal battles nationwide to protect religious freedom caught his interest. "I found it amazing when you find out what's going on, when somebody started banning Christmas trees."
Jerry Falwell and his group, "The Liberty Council," are asking churches to help finance lawsuits against so-called Christmas discrimination in public schools.
In an angry e-mail we received from 73-year-old Howard Mayberry, he wrote that WAVE said "holiday" in our broadcasts too much.
In person his real beef was with department stores.
"These corporations have adopted it as their official policy -- they're junking Christmas."
On a recent trip to area malls, we discovered Mayberry may have a point. Finding Christmas cheer was a little difficult this year, with only the occasional Santa and Christmas tree.
"Sale" signs, however, are in abundance -- just ask employees like Nick Carter. "In retail, you don't feel like Christmas is Christmas anymore."
Since the 1990s, the tree at Capitol Hill has been called the "Capitol Holiday Tree." But House Speaker Dennis Hastert is trying to change it back to the "Capitol Christmas Tree." The White House still refers to its tree as the "White House Christmas Tree."
By the way, as far as Jefferson County schools are concerned, officials told us they teach students about all celebrations of the season, from Christmas to Hanukah, to Kwanza and as well as Muslim or Buddhist traditions.
Online Reporter: Connie Leonard