SOURCE: Vision Media Productions

December 12, 2007 03:00 ET

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Special Report From Vision Media

An Unusual Perspective on the Controversy That Sometimes Surrounds the Christmas Celebration

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - December 12, 2007) - In the US, as soon as the refrigerator door closes on Thanksgiving's leftovers, the neighborhood race begins to be the first family on the block to get Christmas lights up. At the same time, malls open their doors to eager hordes, and by closing time on Friday shelves and displays have been mauled -- leftover sweaters and socks strewn helter-skelter across every surface, including floors. Triumphant shoppers return home after dark to find the streets twinkling with colorful lights and lawns adorned with the most unlikely gigantic balloon figures and holiday scenes. And it's getting to be that way elsewhere in the world. Christmas arrives well before tradition calls.

From now until December 25, few will be left untouched by the Christmas spirit even though it has little to do with religion and the Bible. Santa, who is apparently technologically savvy, has created multiple Internet sites offering (for a small fee) to mail children personalized letters or make personal telephone calls. This could be a clue that he's feeling a bit of a financial pinch this year, and may explain why, despite his busy schedule, he found time on December 6th to visit an Oregon City homeowner, accompanied by a gun, to demand money and valuables. But he's a jolly sort after all, and upon being told there was no cash in the house he apologized and left, good-naturedly wishing the homeowner a "merry Christmas" anyway. Apparently in better financial condition two days later, he turned up in Las Vegas with more than 7,000 of his mates to run a 5-mile race in an attempt to break a record previously set by racing Santas in Liverpool, England.

But of course not all Santas are so mean or silly. Many will be collecting money to help the poor, or distributing gifts for disadvantaged children all over the world. In fact, so much good comes out of the Christmas season, it leads one to wonder why the annual controversy over its questionable beginnings? Everyone knows Christmas really has nothing to do with Christianity. So should we let a few Grinches spoil an otherwise pleasant and joyful occasion? Vision writers Brian Orchard and Alice Abler approach the subject from a unique angle in a special report, "Ghosts of Christmas Past."

Orchard's contribution, "Christmas: Does It Matter?" covers the holiday's origins, pointing out the importance of tradition to many cultures and asking, "What is really important when it comes to celebrating religious beliefs?"

Abler presents a detailed biography of the holiday's central figure -- not a baby in a manger, but a large man in a strange suit. She writes, "Today we may know him as Santa Claus, but the omnipresent, omniscient, jovial fellow's image evolved gradually through the years, adapting itself to different cultures around the world. Old rituals and beliefs interwove with new, resulting in a colorful tapestry of traditions with many common threads. Eventually, through increased travel and access to the written word, plus predominantly American influences from television, movies and other media, the modern, more singular image emerged." This image has become one that, like the tooth fairy, most parents consider to be among the few "white lies" it is permissible -- even advisable -- to tell their children, even with the knowledge that one day this technical untruth will inevitably be discovered. As closely as Santa has become tied to a day that is ostensibly about the birth of Christ, it is no wonder so many children grow up to send belief in Jesus the same way as Santa -- into the dustbin labeled "little white lies we grow out of believing."

In addition to exploring the fascinating history of the holiday we know as Christmas, this new report from Vision Media presents an unusual perspective on the controversy that sometimes surrounds its celebration.

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