Chinese university denounces Christmas as 'kitsch,' foreign

A Chinese university did its best to keep students from celebrating Christmas.

The school in northwestern China denounced Christmas as "a 'kitsch' foreign celebration unbefitting of the country's own traditions," reports Reuters news agency. 

To make sure students didn't ignore the ban, the Modern College of Northwest University in Xian forced its students to spent Christmas Day watching Chinese Communist Party propaganda films.

It goes without saying those films did not include Kirk Cameron's "Saving Christmas." The movie has been a surprise hit throughout the United States this holiday season -- held over nationwide beyond its scheduled two-week limited run.

Preventing the spread of Christmas celebration was the intent of the Chinese school, which "strung up banners around the campus reading: 'Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China, oppose kitsch Western holidays' and 'Resist the expansion of Western culture,'" reported Reuters.

A state-run Chinese newspaper reported that students were warned they would be punished if they did not attend a mandatory three-hour screening of propaganda films with teachers standing guard to stop students from leaving.

"There's nothing we can do about it, we can't escape," the student was quoted as saying.

"An official microblog belonging to one of the university's Communist Party's committees posted comments calling for students not to 'fawn on foreigners' and pay more attention to China's holidays, like Spring Festival," reported Reuters.

"In recent years, more and more Chinese have started to attach importance to Western festivals," it wrote.

"In their eyes, the West is more developed than China, and they think that their holidays are more elegant than ours, even that Western festivals are very fashionable and China's traditional festivals are old fashioned."

Christmas is not a traditional festival in officially atheist China, however, it is growing in popularity, particularly in more metropolitan areas where a growing number of people are celebrating the holiday, giving gifts and decorating their homes.

"Western culture, particularly in the form of U.S. pop culture, is wildly popular with young, educated Chinese, which occasionally causes discomfort for the generally quite conservative ruling Communist Party," noted Reuters.

The Xian university isn't the only Chinese entity opposing Christmas. "Wenzhou, a city in the wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang, has banned all Christmas activities in schools and kindergartens, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Inspectors would make sure rules are enforced, it added," according to Reuters.

Didn't you enjoy this year's Christmas carols?

Didn't you love it this Christmas -- when once again even the most secular radio stations played songs praising Jesus? You may be surprised that the most recorded Christmas carol of all time is "Silent Night," according to Time magazine, whose staff  searched the records of the U.S. Copyright Office.

That's exciting, considering the annual debate over Yuletide celebrations -- the focus of this year's surprise movie hit -- Kirk Cameron's "Saving Christmas."

In it, the movie-maker and actor helps a fictional brother-in-law understand the real reason for the season. But there's no mistaking what Silent Night is about -- which explains its popularity. It has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects. During the famed World War I truce, it is the song that was sung simultaneously in English, French and German by troops fighting on both sides of the trenches in 1914.

The carol has been recorded by Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Sinead O'Connor, Josh Groban, Kenny Chesney, Bing Crosby, Emmylou Harris,  Amy Grant and hundreds of other artists.

It was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Germany, a village on the Salzach river. Young pastor Joseph Mohr had written the lyrics in 1816, but asked the local schoolmaster and volunteer church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber, if he could write music that could be played on guitar since the organ was out of commission that evening.

The two performed the carol  during the service on the night of December 24, 1818.

The original manuscript has been lost. However a version in Mohr's handwriting was discovered in 1995 and dated by researchers at around 1820.  In 1859, Episcopal priest John Freeman Young at Trinity Church, New York City, gave parishioners his English translation -- which is most frequently sung today.

It's still among the top 50 carols heard each year on the radio, according to WCBS radio -- competing in popularity with Gene Autry's "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer," the Harry Simeone Chorale's rendition of "Little Drummer Boy," "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" sung by Brenda Lee, John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)," "Merry Christmas Darling " byThe Carpenters, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" by Bing Crosby and "The Most Wonderful Time of The Year" by Andy Williams.

Most of the top 30 carols were written in the 1940s and 1950s, noted the Washington Post.

To explain why older numbers were so much more popular, Time observed, "songs that are no longer under their original copyright are considerably more prominent on modern Christmas albums, given that one needn't share the holiday windfall."

But there's more to it than copyright. In the Slate article "All I Want for Christmas Is a New Christmas Song," Chris Klimek noted the last time a new Christmas song took off on the charts was in 1994 with Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

"I love Christmas carols," writes Shereen Lashua. "I look forward to singing them especially at church. That’s why I was shocked to hear a young man make a comment about having to sing 'the requisite number of Christmas songs.'

"I bet he doesn’t know that "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" was written by Longfellow during the Civil War. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s son had been crippled in the war, a few years before this poem was written. His wife had died a few years before that. She dripped sealing wax on her dress, igniting a blaze. Her husband was there and put out the blaze, but his precious companion died from her injuries. As the war raged on and he grieved his losses, he wrote,

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Did you know God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman was "written as a modern alternative to stuffy old church songs?" asks Lashua. "It was well received and became a popular hit. Charles Dickens referenced it in A Christmas Carol, adding to its popularity.

God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay, For Jesus Christ our Saviour Was born upon this day, To save us all from Satan’s power When we were gone astray: O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy.

"One of the most prolific hymn writers of all time, Isaac Watts, wrote Joy to the World," notes Lashua. "Christmas carols are not just a meaningless holiday tradition that we are required to include in our celebrations. They are hymns of praise. They are a reminder of the goodness of God. Christmas carols are a call to celebrate God’s goodness in the midst of winter and the winters of the soul.

"These ancient hymns connect us with our heritage and our brothers and sisters who have travelled the road before us. They are songs of God’s triumph over the power of sin and death."

Was Santa Claus actually born in upstate New York?

As we all know, yes, there is a Santa Claus -- a historical St. Nick, that is -- none other than the great Christian forefather Nicolaus of Myra, Turkey. Moviemaker Kirk Cameron tells his story in "Saving Christmas," this year's surprise Yuletide hit. The film -- predictably denounced by critics, militant atheists and Scrooges nationwide -- has defied its detractors, being held over weeks after its scheduled two-week run, which had to be expanded to additional theaters.

Cameron tells how the true-life Kris Kringle has been revered for centuries for his generosity. What few people realize is that in the year 325, he was one of the bishops bold enough to answer the request of Roman Emperor Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea where he was a staunch defender of the faith and one of the authors of what today is known as the Nicene Creed.

So, what about the claims of journalist Carl M. Cannon, the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics, who says today's jolly old elf was born in the city of Troy, New York?

"Christmas Week 2014 has been fraught with contention in New York, but before we blame the politicians," writes Cannon, "we’d do well to remember that it was in the pages of a New York newspaper that Santa Claus first appeared on these shores some three years before Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence."

What sort of secular revisionist history is this? Is Cannon serious? Yes, and he says Santa Claus was birthed by American politics. What?!?

It is "a matter of historical record that Americans owe their familiarity with St. Nicholas in part to the rivalry between Jefferson’s devotees and the Federalist Party," writes Cannon. It was "in 1823 that an anonymous poem appeared (yes, in a newspaper in New York state) that fleshed out the image of Santa Claus -- the 'right jolly old elf' -- whom children of all ages carry in their heads to this day."

Cannon correctly points out that until then, St. Nicholas had not been associated with reindeer or elves.

Then, Cannon notes that "writing under the satirical pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker," famed American  author, essayist, biographer, historian and diplomat Washington Irving, best remembered for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," authored a 1809 satirical book that kicked off the American Santa phenomenon.

Irving called it A History of New-York From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. "Much of Washington Irving’s satire eluded the author’s audience," writes Cannon. "His readers were simply mesmerized by tales of a guardian saint named Nicholas, who is depicted shimmying down chimneys to give leave presents for children on Christmas Eve. Irving drew on the traditions of early Dutch settlers who had brought with them from Holland tales of 'Sinterklaas' and his sleigh," writes Cannon.

But that was just the beginning of the American version of St. Nick, continues Cannon. Flying reindeer "first make an appearance in 1821 in a volume titled The Children’s Friend, one of the first books published in America," writes Cannon. Then, two years later, "Orville L. Holley, editor of an upstate New York semi-weekly newspaper named the Troy Sentinel, published an anonymous poem titled 'A Visit From St. Nicholas.' You know it by another name, taken from the first line of the poem: '’Twas the Night Before Christmas.'

"Its author was later revealed to be Clement C. Moore, a local theologian and scholar."

Political cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrated the poem -- creating "the image of Saint Nick that dances in our heads to this day," writes Cannon:

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly, That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!

And although Kirk Cameron is correct about the historic St. Nicholas, now you know -- as Paul Harvey used to say -- "the rest of the story."

Now this, just in from the atheists!

Nah, scoffs the Washington Post, there's no war on Christmas. It's all in the mind of well, you know ... "Kirk Cameron can breathe easy: the War on Christmas is over. Jesus won," writes the Post's Chris Ingraham. "That's the implication of a new Pew Research Center survey."

Conservatives such as Fox News talk-show hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have long warned of a “War on Christmas,” citing moves by retailers, public schools and local governments to remove references to Christmas from displays and celebrations.

But Cameron had nothing to worry about when he created this year's Yuletide hit, "Saving Christmas," writes the Post reporter.

Why not?

Well, Ingraham reasons that nearly three-quarters of Americans -- 73 percent -- believe that Jesus was literally born to a virgin, according to the Pew survey. "This is especially surprising when you consider that only one third of Americans say that the Bible is the word of God and should be understood literally.

"In other words, about 40 percent of Americans say the Bible should, in general, not be taken literally, but they nevertheless believe in the virgin birth. In addition, 81 percent say Jesus was laid in a manger, 75 percent say that the three wise men brought him gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, and 74 percent say that his birth was announced by an angel to the shepherds."

"In all," writes Ingraham, "Pew reports that 65 percent of Americans believe all four key elements of the Christmas story are to be taken literally. This is more than the percentage who express confidence in evolution, global warming, or the efficacy of vaccines.

"Another sign that the War on Christmas is over: 72 percent of Americans say nativity scenes should be allowed on government property. 44 percent say nativity scenes should be allowed even if symbols from other religious faiths are prohibited. Only one in five Americans say nativity scenes shouldn't be allowed on government property at all.

"Or take this datapoint, from 2012: when asked whether they prefer 'Merry Christmas' or a generic holiday greeting, a plurality said it didn't matter. Among those with a preference, Americans preferred 'Merry Christmas' by a 4-to-1 margin. Even non-religious Americans prefer 'Merry Christmas' by nearly 3-to-1.

"So, looking at this data, it's hard to find a true War on Christmas," writes Ingraham, who in typical Washington Post tradition chose to ignore a news release delivered to its front desk that AtheistTV has unveiled its “War on Christmas” line-up on their little-viewed television channel.

The line-up features “original programs proclaiming the truth about Christmas on December 24 and December 25, featuring scholars and celebrities from the atheist community,” writes Valerie Richardson in the Washington Times.

“Christmas is hard for many atheists, so we will provide programming free from superstition and fairy tales that allows families to watch together and not worry about being preached at,” American Atheists President Dave Silverman said in a statement.

AtheistTV’s slate of “holiday-inspired specials” probably won’t make anyone forget “A Charlie Brown Christmas,”  notes Richardson. "They include a speech by Council for Secular Humanism Executive Director Tom Flynn and an episode of the atheist viewpoint titled, ‘Is Christmas a Religious Holiday?'”

There’s also the “Xmas 2009” episode of The Atheist Experience and episodes of The Atheist Voice with The Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta, according to the press release.

The AtheistTV channel was launched worldwide on July 29 and can be accessed via Roku set-top boxes or as a free online stream at www.atheists.tv, the release said.

And you thought your neighbor's Christmas display was over the top

Why do some people spend a small fortune decorating their home with Christmas lights? "Extravagant Christmas lights are part of a tradition that has been around in the UK for the last two decades," writes Tess Reidy in the British newspaper the Guardian.

In Queens, New York, retired firefighter Kevin Lynch covers his house and lawn with more than 300 giant plastic figures, 100 animated characters and 300,000 lights to entertain the masses. He even hired an electrician to install 30 outlets outside his house and on the roof, specifically to support his obsession.

Lynch told Daphne Sashin of CNN that the greatest part of his elaborate display is the people who come to see it. "The joy and the happiness it brings to little kids and adults is fantastic."

After 18 years of decorating, he has no plans to stop. "It's a tradition. If I don't put the lights up, I will have thousands of people ringing the bell thinking someone died."

It's exactly that kind of enthusiasm that Kirk Cameron applauds in this year's Yuletide cinematic hit "Saving Christmas." His film struck a nerve with movie-goers nationwide -- the movie had to be held over past its scheduled two-week run.

He applauds traditions that some Christians question. In San Francisco, vintage '50s and '60s elves, pixies and reindeer decorate Amalia Martinez's apartment.

"She and her fiance," writes Sashin, "have spent the past six years collecting dozens of classic Christmas decorations to dress up their abode, which they call 'Popville,' a reference to Andy Warhol's factory. The aluminum tree is illuminated by a bright rotating color wheel, and the big-eyed Blythe dolls get to have their very own tree."

In England, "for a brief period of December the A3, that great, dreary long road that goes from Portsmouth to London, becomes an intermittent bracelet of lights as people living on the busy road transform their houses into multicolored Christmas extravaganzas," writes Reidy. "Elsewhere, all over the country, suburban homes, discreet, grey and bleak for most of the year, suddenly stand out from the rest, with a facade of illuminations, Christmas messages, Santas and snowmen."

But in Pennsylvania, homeowners on Fairley Road in Ross Township complain that their neighbor, Bill Ansell, has taken the tradition too far.

He keeps up his lights year-round. However, he hates Christmas. His lights are designed to mock the season -- and annoy his neighbors.

“Any opportunity he has to make our life a hardship, he does,” resident Chris Hebda told ABC News' “20/20.”

“He's an angry person that's very unstable,” resident Pamela Heck told reporters Joseph Diaz and Alexa Valiente. 

Ansell's display includes a beheaded choir, a Mickey Mouse hanging from a noose and a urinating Santa Claus that lights up at night.

Hebda complains that his family has had to stare at the unpleasant decorations for the past six years. Fairley Road is a unique cul-de-sac; a circular street with Ansell's house right in the middle, surrounded by six other homes. That makes it hard to avoid his handiwork.

“There was a Virgin Mary here, and he placed a knife through her head, right there on the edge of our driveway,” Chris's wife Joanne Hebda told “20/20.” “I thought it was a terroristic threat.”

To make matters worse, his neighbors said, Ansell also tacked up profane signs all over his house attacking the township and neighbors personally.

The worst sign, the neighbors said, included disparaging remarks about neighbor Tom White's late wife, posted the day after she died.

“Why would somebody even do that?”

One sign on Ansell's home may offer a clue as to why. It says, “This display is dedicated to Ross Township. Shame on you for destroying my display that brought so much joy and happiness to so many people.”

Years ago, Ansell's home was known for its lustrous lights and dazzling display that attracted many onlookers.

But one Thanksgiving, Ansell's neighbor Pamela Heck was so blinded by the lights that she asked him to turn them off while her family had dinner.

“It was very unpleasant between us after that,” Heck told “20/20.”

From that minor dispute grew a war, according to neighbors. At night, they say he blasts floodlights into their windows.

Ansell wouldn't speak to “20/20,” but two years ago, he told Pittsburgh's WPXI-TV, “I used to have a beautiful Christmas display, they hated it. This is my display now. I don't think it's against the law to exercise your right to have your own display.”

In August 2014, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, upheld a court order requiring Bill Ansell to clean up his yard and take down the vulgar signs.

To date, Ansell has not complied and township officials won’t say if and how they will enforce the order.

The Hebdas said they have repeatedly complained to the township Board of Commissioners, but so far haven't seen anything done. The lack of action is what frustrates the neighbors most.

For years, Ross Township has fined Ansell for the debris and signs on his property. But, he has not paid any of those citations. There is currently a 6-month-old court order demanding that he clean up his yard, which he has also ignored.

The local government won't say how it will specifically enforce the rules, and the Hebdas aren't waiting around to find out and will be renting their home out for much less than it should be.

“It's a move for, you know, for our lives ... to have normalcy again,” Joanne Hebda said.

“I had to cash in my retirement. There's no hope here in some ways, and there's no one to help us,” said Chris Hebda.

England's Christmas is threatened by ... streakers?

Reverent Christmas observances in Britain  are increasingly the target of irreverent pranksters -- who are disrupting such solemn events as Midnight Mass.

"Priests are voicing growing fears," writes John Bingham for the Telegraph, "because of invasions by raucous drinkers and even streakers."

"Streaking in December in England?" asks  a staff writer at Healthista. "You have got to be bonkers."

American filmmaker Kirk Cameron examines a number of such threats in his film "Saving Christmas." The hit was held over beyond its scheduled limited run in a number of venues nationwide -- and new theaters were added -- despite a campaign by activist atheists to slur the movie. He says Christmas is also threatened by Christians in many cases -- believers who preach that celebrating Jesus' birth is sinful.

British clergy didn't blame atheists or fundamentalists.  Instead, drunks and exhibitionists were cited. A survey by the British Catholic magazine, the Tablet, discovered 50 venues where festivities have been scaled back or cancelled altogether due to disruptions in years past.

"Priests at more than 50 deaneries – groups of parishes – across England and Wales contacted this week confirmed," wrote the Tablet's Joanna Moorhead, Liz Dodd and Katherine Backler, "that there has been a decline in the number of churches offering a Mass that ushers in Christmas Day on the stroke of midnight.

"In some pastoral areas it will not be offered at all, while in many the first Mass of the nativity is now scheduled for as early as 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve."

Many priests reported problems with drunks infiltrating services that begin just as the pubs close.

Some congregations have been forced to boost security, effectively putting bouncers "at the doors to deter those overcome with festive excess from making unscheduled appearances," writes Bingham.

"Monsignor David Hogan, of St Bernadette’s, in Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough, estimated that less than a quarter of parishes in his area now offer mass at midnight on Christmas Eve.

“Last time we had it, we ended up with a drunk trying to get the doors off the church,” he told the Tablet.

“So we’ve made the decision not to have Mass when people are pouring out of the pubs sloshed.”

"One parish in York has brought the mass forward to 8 p.m. after last year’s service was interrupted by a streaker," writes Bingham.  "Meanwhile a church in Havant had to call police three times after drunken yobs threw bricks at worshipers during Christmas prayers.

But other churches are holding firm with tradition. Father Michael Marsden of Our Lady of Lourdes in Hessle, East Yorks, who will be presiding over the only midnight mass in his immediate area, said: “Going to midnight mass at Christmas used to be one of the hallmarks of being a Catholic, it is sad if that is changing.”

Christmas carolers threatened with arrest!

It seemed like a great idea -- a group of high schoolers taking a merry Christmas flashmob to a retail super-center. However, they didn't expect to be confronted by a modern descendant of the Grinch and Ebeneezer Scrooge. "A shocking video that has gone viral after being posted on Facebook shows a group of caroling kids being thrown out of an Oregon Walmart store and being threatened with a call to the police," writes Dominic Kelly on the website Opposing Views.

The video was first posted on Facebook by a singer's mom, Stacy Kerns. A large group of teens can be seen nervously gathering in front of the checkout counters at a Walmart in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The kids break out into song, belting out Christmas carols and attempting to bring some holiday cheer to the shoppers.

After all, similar Yuletide flashmobs have been well received -- even became international sensations, such as the Philadelphia Opera Company's gathering of 600 singers from schools, churches, community chorales and barbershop quartets at Macy's department store in Philadelphia. Without announcement, they broke out into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah -- to the delight of shoppers and 8.7 million viewers on YouTube.

It inspired imitators worldwide, such as the college kids who brought the Hallelujah Chorus to a shopping mall's food court in Canada. Their YouTube video has been seen by 45 million viewers worldwide.

But not everybody likes Christmas joy -- as moviemaker Kirk Cameron has learned all too well -- as his fun, family-friendly film "Saving Christmas" has been targeted for derision by militant atheists ... and even well-meaning Christians who are convinced celebrating Jesus' birthday is a sin.

In the Oregon Walmart, the high schoolers were rudely interrupted and threatened with arrest. The joyous strains of "Jingle Bells" gave way to memories of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

“My daughter and the Henley chorus were doing a flash mob at our Walmart and the co-manager told the kids in the middle of the song to leave it they would call law enforcement,” Kerns wrote on her Facebook video post. “Make this go viral people please!!!!”

Kern’s wishes have come true, as over 3,000 people have now shared her clip on Facebook, resulting in more than 140,000 views. It's also been picked up on YouTube.

"KOBI-TV reports that a spokesperson for the Walmart store has refused to comment but did say that the group wasn’t invited to sing on their private property," writes Kelly. "After the incident in Walmart, the kids were able to successfully bring their Christmas carol flash mob to a Fred Meyer store nearby."

Can you save Christmas from the dreaded annual office party?

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So, you dread going to the office Christmas party? You're not alone. Only about 25 percent of those polled say they look forward to the annual event. It seems everybody has a horror story -- such as the friend in accounting who had a little too much wassail and took over the microphone to sing each and every song she had ever written about why bosses are scum.

Or the mild-mannered consultant who annually did a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde transformation after a sip of eggnog and one year (his last) began chasing the CEO's wife around the buffet.

"Christmas parties can be a well-earned chance to let off some steam," writes Alan Tovey in the British newspaper the Telegraph, "but the risk of them turning into alcohol-fueled obstacle courses full of career-threatening moments means a fifth of workers detest the annual events."

A dislike of such Christmas festivities brings on the bah-humbugs in film star Kirk Cameron's new movie Saving Christmas. Kirk shows his Scrooge-like brother-in-law the joy of the season -- and demonstrates that Christ is where He has always been: at the center of our Christmas celebrations and traditions.

But in the movie, Kirk helps his brother-in-law escape a Christmas party -- the fantasy of thousands. After all, who looks forward to having to pretend to like the boss for an entire hour? In a survey of 700 employees, a surprising number admitted to “hating” the shindigs, writes Tovey, "rather than seeing them as the chance to spread some seasonal cheer.

"A quarter of those questioned said they looked forward to and enjoyed the parties. Four out of 10 were ambivalent about the events, while one in eight said they went only because they felt they had to," according to research by LondonOffices.com.

"Top reasons for dreading the events included poor restaurant choices, feeling pressured to get drunk and having to spend even more time with co-workers they already disliked," reported Tovey.

However, not showing up is dangerous, according to the survey.

"Do you want to get ahead/get promoted within this company?" asks one respondent on Yahoo Answers. "The last big company I worked at, I opted out of the Christmas party because it was close to 200 miles from my house and I couldn't afford a hotel, and really didn't want to go."

However, four months later, she regretted the choice. "They had layoffs and four of us that chose not to attend the party were all let go. Coincidence? Hardly. My former boss told me that the final decision to choose us 4 was the 'lack of team spirit' we exhibited by not showing up. So, moral to the story, you better go."

Another respondent advised: "Just do what I have done for years... go to the party, get a glass with a soft drink in it, walk around the room and speak to everyone there so they will remember seeing you. Then QUIETLY leave. Just don't make a big issue out of it. They will remember seeing you and nobody will know when you left, so it gives you a lot of latitude if someone asks you about it later."

A third of those polled actually said they "would not trust a colleague who did not attend" the office Christmas party. Others said that failing to show up to a festive party was a sign that a person was not a team player. As a result, six out of 10 workers said they always attended office Christmas parties. Only one in 20 said they refuse to go at all.

Perhaps their attitudes demonstrate why Cameron is intent on saving Christmas. If it resumes being a Christ-centered celebration of God's love for mankind, perhaps Yuletide events wouldn't be dreaded quite so much.

Why would anybody prank the baby Jesus?

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It was a nativity lover's dream -- more than 1,000  angels, wise men and shepherds gathered around Mary, Joseph and the holy baby at a park in Provo, Utah. They set a new Guinness record for the largest live nativity scene. Incredibly, there were no Grinches demanding that everybody quit having fun.

Everywhere you looked, it was "Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, angels, shepherds... and a lot of angels really," organizer Austin Craig told CBS affiliate KUTV.

It could have been a scene out of Kirk Cameron's new movie "Saving Christmas." Originally scheduled for only a two-week release in a few select cities, the film has drawn crowds -- and been held over, prompting the addition of new theaters.

And just like the beloved, centuries-old tradition of displaying nativity scenes, the film has had its unexpected Scrooges -- such as activist atheists urging their social media followers to fill several public movie critique sites with scurrilous "reviews."

Similarly nationwide, nativity scenes have been under attack -- again by pranksters. Police are investigating "kidnappings" of the baby Jesus in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida.

In Fargo, North Dakota, manger scenes are displayed in stores -- without the infant Messiah.

"Because of frequent thefts, local stores selling nativity sets have taken to keeping the newborn king behind glass or in storerooms, out of reach of shoplifters," reports Archie Ingersoll in Fargo for the Forum News Service.

"They like to steal baby Jesus," said Susan Hendershott, manager of Lee's Hallmark in Fargo. "That will catch up with you someday."

While other figurines are stolen, too, baby Jesus is the most popular target of thieves, Hendershott said.

"I don't even put all my nativities on display anymore," she told Ingersoll. "We've had to lock them up."

At Scheels Home & Hardware in Fargo, the earthly father and virgin mother -- a holy family set for $74.99 -- sit on a shelf adoringly hovering over a small sign that says, "PLEASE ASK FOR BABY JESUS."

Hurley's Religious Goods, which may have North Dakota's largest selection of nativities, boasts 40 styles ranging in price from $20 to $5,000. "You usually sell the holy family and the stable, and people can add on to them," said store owner Jeaninne McAllister.

At her Sioux Falls, S.D., store, theft has prompted a change in policy, she said.

"We don't put the baby in the set anymore," she told Ingersoll, admitting she was at a loss to explain why someone would swipe the swaddled son of God.

"Baby Jesus theft, of course, is nothing new," writes Ingersoll. "It's a longstanding prank that continues to plague churches with holiday creches. Some churches have even gone so far as to plant GPS tracking devices in their baby Jesus figurines to catch thieves."

Back in Provo, the Daily Herald reports that a Guinness World Record judge determined there were 1,039 participants in their world's largest nativity -- along with a camel, donkey and sheep.

That tops the record of 898 people last year at a nativity scene in the United Kingdom.

Most of the Ogden volunteers showed up dressed in white, to play the part of angels, in a massive heavenly host lining a hillside behind the manger, reported CBS affiliate KUTV in Salt Lake City.

So, it just goes to show that there are angels out there -- even if the pranksters are louder and seem to get more media attention!

Most Americans prefer "Merry Christmas" over neutral holiday greetings

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If you feel like proclaiming "Merry Christmas," you're not alone. In recent years, a popular campaign to promote traditional Christmas greetings has shamed those who proclaim "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings."

"It turns out a majority of Americans support the Christmas comeback trend," reports Husna Haq in the Christian Science Monitor.  Among them are Texas state legislators, who passed a special law declaring that schoolteachers may declare "Merry Christmas" without fear.

"When asked whether they prefer stores and businesses to greet their customers by saying 'Merry Christmas,' or less religious terms such as 'Happy Holidays' and 'Season’s Greetings,' 57 percent of Americans picked 'Merry Christmas,'" according to a Pew Research Center survey. Only 27 percent picked less religious terms.

For years, "Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has publicly and frequently railed against what he calls the 'War on Christmas,'" notes Haq, calling for an end to the "Happy Holidays Syndrome," which O'Reilly calls "an insult to Christian America." In 2013, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin published a book on the subject,  Happy Holiday IS a Merry Christmas.

And, of course, this year, TV and movie star Kirk Cameron has packed theaters with his surprise cinematic hit "Saving Christmas," which extols the merits of celebrating Christ's birthday without apology. The movie was scheduled for a limited, two-week run around Thanksgiving, but has been held over nationwide and extended into new theaters.

For more than a decade, the American Family Association has chided major retailers who omit the word "Christmas" from their December advertising, encouraging supporters to boycott stores on the "Companies Against Christmas" list.

This year, reports Haq, Lowe's, Walmart, and Hobby Lobby received the organization's 5-star rating for "promoting and celebrating Christmas on an exceptional basis." On the other hand, Barnes & Noble, Family Dollar and Pet Smart landed on the "naughty" list for using neutral language supposedly unoffensive to America's religious minorities.

"The organization's campaign has worked," notes Haq. "In the past five years, the group has seen the percentage of retailers recognizing Christmas in their advertising rise from 20 percent to 80 percent, according to Randy Sharp, director of special projects at the American Family Association. One clothing retailer that changed its policies – thanks in part to the organization's campaign – was Gap Inc., which sent a letter to the AFA explaining its new policy.

"Starting today, every Gap Outlet window will have signs that say “Merry Christmas” along with Christmas trees and wreaths throughout their stores," Bill Chandler, Gap Inc.’s vice-president for global corporate affairs, said in a personal letter to Buddy Smith, executive vice president of the AFA.

In Texas, "Merry Christmas" has special protection.

"Texas lawmakers sent notices to schools," writes Jim Forsyth for Reuters, the British news agency, "informing them that new legislation allows students and teachers to dress in festive garb and say 'Merry Christmas' all they want without fear."

"Legislators in Oklahoma and Louisiana have proposed similar bills," observes Haq.

The "Merry Christmas Law'" passed nearly unanimously, reports Forsyth, backed by lawmakers "who feel that seasonal religious festivities have come under attack because of political correctness. It also covers the Jewish celebration of Hanukah."

"We hope to see fewer school districts being naughty and more districts being nice," the president of a group called Texas Values, Jonathan Saenz, told Reuters.

"That allows parents, teachers, students and school administrators to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah in public schools without fear of censorship, litigation or persecution," the co-author of the bill, State Rep. Dwayne Bohac told a local Austin ABC affiliate.