I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to feel sorry for Bill O’Reilly. The poor guy has gone and gotten his tinsel garland all in a knot because some American retailers have started calling their stock of Christmas trees by another name this year. They’re not Christmas trees anymore. Nope. To hear those sacrilegious money-changers tell it, they’re “holiday trees.” If you ask me, the whole thing’s a great big tempest in a pot of holiday eggnog. Because where O’Reilly sees a scandalous assault on Christianity, I see nothing more than a canny marketing gimmick. With maybe a dash of diversity thrown in. Let me explain. As the child of a mixed marriage – a Northern European Lutheran mom and an Eastern European Jewish dad – I grew up celebrating two sets of holidays. But I never got confused about which symbols went with which. The Christmas tree was a Christmas tree, and the hannukiyah was a hannukiyah. We loved the holidays equally. My mom, taught her culinary skills by her mother-in-law, was one of the best Jewish cooks around. She joined B’nai B’rith, played a mean game of mah-jongg, and lit the menorah when Hanukkah arrived. My dad did his part, too. He scoured the local tree lot every year, hunting for the perfect specimen. He’d bring it home, place it carefully in the water stand, then watch as my mom, my sister and I hung lights, ornaments and strands of tinsel one by one. I think the guy who dragged the first evergreen indoors would have no problem with that. Because, if you know your history, you know that it had nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity or Christmas. That tree was a tannenbaum. And it found its way into a Germanic household one winter day in the late Middle Ages, not in celebration of Christmas, but as a symbol of life, meant to ward off the energy-sapping dangers of winter cold and dark. But now, thanks to poor Bill O’Reilly’s protestations, Christian America thinks it faces a crisis. As he sees it, corporate America has allowed an assault on his religion because some guy in the marketing department tried to bump up tree sales – or worse yet, tried to show respect to those of us who happen not to observe Christmas, but spend our dollars and pay our taxes just the same. Christians, who outnumber those of all other faiths combined in the American population, are, to hear Bill bewail it, under siege. Disrespected. Disregarded. Lumped into a generic category with all the rest of us mere heathens. I’d give his phony rant more due if he were criticizing the commercialization of Christmas. Now there’s something worth complaining about. But to whine because someone is calling a Christmas tree – oops, let’s be historically accurate and make that a tannenbaum – a holiday tree – frankly, it’s as phony as the synthetic, stringy white beard on the ho-ho-ho face of the local mall Santa Claus. I dare you. Take a walk through your neighborhood and ask someone. Anyone. Point to a tree standing proudly in the nearest living room window, and ask them what it’s called. Marketing, shmarketing. They’ll call it a Christmas tree. And wish you a happy Kwanzaa. Because this is America. Where we can live and believe and celebrate as we wish. And call a tree a tree. Or a bush. Or a tannenbaum. Or Moby Tree. It’s a free country. At least it used to be. Marcy Rothenberg is a freelance writer living in Porter Ranch.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Then we would all breathe in the aroma of pine. And smile. Our Christmas tree was a Christmas tree. Our menorah was a menorah. And these were the holidays. Time enough to enjoy it all. Things were different at our neighbors’ house. They were Jewish, through and through. But each December, they’d cart home a Douglas fir – one sprayed with that lumpy white stuff we California kids took for snow. They would adorn it with big shiny blue globe ornaments, white and blue twinkle lights, and strands of silver tinsel, then invite us in to see their Hanukkah bush. And during the first holiday season my husband and I celebrated together – while we were still in grad school and scraping every penny – another name for the holiday shrub was born. The tree we brought home that year (before we decided to celebrate only Hanukkah in our home), was a funny little thing wider than it was tall, and terribly misshapen. It looked more like a whale when lit up than anything else, and earned a sobriquet I daresay has never been given to another holiday decoration anytime, anywhere. We called it “Moby Tree.” It is in stories like these that I’m sure those advertising geniuses got the bright idea. “If we call ’em holiday trees,” some up-and-comer sales assistant posited, “we’ll expand our target market. We won’t just sell our Christmas trees to Christians. We’ll sell ’em to Jews and Muslims and Buddhists – maybe even an atheist or two. We’ll make a fortune!” Unfortunately for the poor guy, I’d bet my holiday turkey that a good number of trees sold each year already find their way into homes where nary a Christmas carol is sung. Because we Americans – coming as we do from places around the world, bringing a world’s worth of religious beliefs and practices along with us – have a funny habit of incorporating mainstream symbols into our lives. And calling them Hanukkah bushes – or holiday trees – or whatever we wish.