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A pastor in Raleigh, N.C., took out a full-page newspaper ad in November exhorting Christians to shop only at stores that included "Merry Christmas" in their promotions. (来源:老牌的英语学习网站 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

In Mustang, Okla., parents last week voted against an $11 million bond for schools, after the superintendent excised a nativity scene at the end of the annual Christmas play. They then erected their own manger outside the auditorium, with signs saying "No Christ. No Christmas. Know Christ. Know Christmas."

And in Kansas, The Wichita Eagle published a correction this month, noting that the tree lighted at Winterfest was the "Community Tree" not a "Christmas tree." After protests, the mayor last week declared himself "not a politically correct person" and announced that next year there would be a Christmas tree.

If the demands to "Bring Back Christmas" - or, in the words of one group in California, "Save Merry Christmas" - seem louder and more insistent this year, they are. The debate over how to celebrate the holiday without promoting religion is as perennial as a poinsettia. This year, however, conservatives, who have long pushed to "put the Christ back in Christmas," say they have been emboldened by election results that they took as affirmation that most Americans share not only their faith but also their belief that the nation has lost bearings.

But the demands to bring back Christmas are not simply part of an age-old culture war, with the A.C.L.U. in one corner and evangelicals in the other. There is also a more moderate force, asking whether the country has gone too far in its quest to be inclusive of all faiths. Why, they ask, must a Christmas tree become a holiday tree? And is singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in a school performance more offensive than singing "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel"? "It's political correctness run amok," said Lynn Mistretta, who with another mother in Scarborough, Me., started BringBackChristmas.org. "I'm not for offending anyone, but we're excluding everyone, and everyone feels rotten about it."

Over the years, schools, governments and even department stores have toned down the mention of Christmas after complaints from Jews and others who felt excluded by a holiday they did not celebrate. "The basic proposition is that people have the right to send their children to the public schools without having them evangelized for someone else's religion," said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Those opposed to even secular celebrations of Christmas, he said, "see the increasing strength of the religious right and worry about everything they've gained over the last generation being rolled back."

But even many liberals say there is silliness in the way schools in particular try to avoid offending anyone. One school chorus in Chicago, for example, sang "We Wish You a Swinging Holiday" instead of a "Merry Christmas."

It's not just Christmas. Ms. Mistretta and Lynn Lowry say their frustration started with Halloween, when the Scarborough schools said their children could not wear costumes. In February, they observed "Friendship Day" to avoid talking about the saint in Valentine's Day. And in December, instead of Christmas, it was a literacy parade with children dressing as their favorite literary characters (sending parents to find Halloween costumes.) Ms. Mistretta said her son came home saying he was afraid to wish his friends "Merry Christmas."

She acknowledged that many non-Christian parents recall feeling excluded as children, and don't want their own children to feel the same way. "It makes me sick to hear of any child feeling that way, 30 years ago, today, or in 30 years." she said. "But there's no way we can respect each other's traditions if we don't talk about them."

In Maplewood, N.J., some parents worried that they'd become a national laughingstock after the school district banned Christmas carols, even instrumental versions, sending the brass ensemble and choirs to rehearse new repertoires just days before their performances this month. Even "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was out, because it mentions Christmas Eve.

"It's worse than silly, it's a great disservice to music education," said Tom Reingold, the father of two, who is Jewish. "There's a way to teach music and not make it coercive."

John W. Whitehead, president of the conservative Rutherford Institute, calls it the new Golden Rule: Thou Shalt Offend No One.

"I think what you're seeing is people are waking up and saying, 'Wow, you can't sing a Christmas song anymore,' " said Mr. Whitehead, whose group has for the first time in almost a decade re-issued its "Twelve Rules of Christmas" booklet outlining ways to legally include religion in Christmas displays and observances. "What really burns them is, they see Kwanzaa, they see Hanukkah, they see Frosty and they see Rudolph, but they don't see 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful.' "

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