long with egg nog, carolling and yuletide celebrations, 'tis the season for bitter and protracted cultural war-style quarrels over the meaning of Christmas. Here are six of this year's most memorable battles:
1. Jesus killed Santa
Nipomo, California resident Ron Lake caused a neighborhood ruckus after setting up a Christmas display in his front yard showing Jesus pointing a double-barrelled shotgun at the dead body of Santa Claus. Neighbors protested the display, which was located next to a school bus stop, claiming it upset children. Lake responded to the uproar, saying the display was "an expression of [his] repressed creativity," in which Santa represented the commercialization of Christmas. (View the Jesus-shooting-Santa display)
2. 'Nude' Mary and Joseph ad
A billboard in downtown Auckland, New Zealand, showing Mary and Joseph semi-nude in a bed and featuring the caption "Poor Joseph — God was a hard act to follow" created an fuss among local residents. The conservative Family First organization called the billboard "irresponsible and unnecessary," while St Matthews-in-the-city church, which paid for the billboard, said the unorthodox message was meant to challenge fundamentalist interpretations of Christ's birth. "What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about," said Archdeacon Blynn Cardy. "Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?" (See the "nude" Mary and Joseph billboard)
3. The Gap's ecumenical holiday ads
When the Gap clothing company released a bright, wintery ad featuring the multi-cultural cheer — "Go Christmas! Go Hannukah! Go Kwanza!" — the conservative American Family Association described it as "dismissive and disrespectful" to Christians and urged members to complain. After Gap released a new ad with a simple "Merry Christmas" message, however, the AFA cancelled their boycott. (Watch the Gap ad)
4. Mandatory Christmas carol in public schools
A Tea Party activist and substitute teacher from Redding, California, sparked debate this month after attempting to round-up support for a ballot initiative which, if passed next year, would require public schools in that state to play Christmas carols in the classroom. "We were having Christmas without Jesus," she complained. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, an advocacy group, called the initiative "blatantly unconstitutional."
5. Second-grader 'suspended' for drawing Jesus on cross
The internet was abuzz this month after an 8-year-old Taunton, Massachusetts boy was allegedly sent home from school and subjected to psychological evaluation after drawing what appeared to be a picture of Jesus on the cross. The Taunton School District rebutted the claims in a written response, saying, "This report is totally inaccurate, and the student was never suspended," adding that the image of the drawing circulated by the media was "not the same drawing discovered by the teacher." Regardless, the school district approved a request by the boy's father, Chester Johnson, to have the child moved to another school. (Watch a report about the "suspended" boy)
6. Yuletide pap smears
CBS launched a series of eyebrow-raising public service announcements this holiday season, encouraging couples to gift each other prostate exams and pap smears. Some bloggers dismissed the the "CBS Cares" PSAs as ridiculous: "An Xbox 360 is a gift," says Gabe Delahaye at Videogum. "This is a routine medical exam." Others were more supportive: "In some ways, this is genius," writes Azaria Jagger at Gawker. She admits, however, that, "You have to be really comfortable with each other to pull this off." (Watch the CBS Christmas PSA)
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