‘X' marks the secularist

| 29 Sep 2011 | 10:41

WESTFALL - “Xmas” is not a new holiday. It has been around for quite some time now. Xmas celebrators write their Xmas cards every year, decorate their Xmas trees, and exchange their Xmas presents. Mitchell Kolvanbach would have you believe there is nothing wrong with it, and his two four-foot-signs along Route 6 prove it. For the past 18 years, he has been selling his trees everyday during the holiday season on Ruben Bell Drive, down the road from Home Depot. He even met his wife-to-be on the job. According to Kolvanbach, his trees are a step above the rest: trimmed, drilled, cased, and loaded onto your car at no extra cost. He said that people have complained about his Xmas signs but said, “I run a seasonal business, and for me to go and change the sign … it’s just not worth it.” “People say they want to keep the Christ in Christmas, but do they really?” he asked. “People are out shopping, spending thousands of dollars on Christmas presents. Is that what Christmas is really about? The times are a lot different today.” A few years ago, Kolvanbach had “Christmas Trees” signs out. Now, they are tucked away inside his truck, making room for the new “Xmas Trees” signs he had made last year. He said the new signs let his customers known in the blink of an eye where he is and what he is selling. About a mile from the forest of Christmas trees, the Applegrill in Matamoras solicits customer to “Book your Xmas party now.” Lena Steele, manager of the restaurant, claimed she did not have enough letters to spell out “Christmas” so she used the abrreviated “reference” instead. She said she had no complaints, and she personally does not find it offensive. “If you are religious, you know Christ is in Christmas, anyway,” she said. Christmas warriors, nonetheless, are on a crusade across the country to remind people of the “true reason for the season.” Father Gus Riccardi of Saint Joseph’s Parish in Matamoras is one such man. He argues that it goes beyond the “disrespectful” pseudo-abbreviation. Xmas, he said, it is a metaphor for where the secular society is headed in removing Christ from Christmas. “Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. It is the beginning of the story of our salvation,” Father Riccardi said. “Today (Christmas) is distorted; we have too much commercialism. Everyone is losing sight of what Christmas is all about.” Businesses are essentially crossing Christ out with an “X,” he said. “It is almost like an insult to God.” He said that an overlapping “X” and “P” translate to “Christ” in Greek Cyrillic alphabet, but this is not what you see on the signs. “Sometimes, some good people don’t realize exactly what they are doing.” Father Riccardi noted that only about 45% of registered Catholics in his parish attend church services regularly, and he said that this may be at the root of the problem. “Not enough people are going to Church … they need to turn back to God,” he said. For the Christian tradition, the symbolic significance of “Xmas” is both more visible and ominous than the signs themselves, Father Riccardi said. But to the average shopper, Christmas-mass-Christian, and ambitious entrepreneur, this just may not matter as long as the tree is up and there are presents underneath it.