Originally created 11/22/06

Wal-Mart shifts back to traditional greeting



Christmas isn't just a Happy Holiday after all.

At several area stores this shopping season, including a change of heart at Wal-Mart, Dec. 25 will be recognized as Christmas, and it will be merry, too.

"In all candor, we learned a lesson last year by downplaying the word Christmas,'' said Dan Fogleman, a Wal-Mart spokesman, referring to the store's Home for the Holidays campaign last year, which this year will be replaced with more references to Christmas.

Wal-Mart also is encouraging its workers to use a variety of glad tidings, including "Merry Christmas,'' and the store will change its "Holiday Shop'' area from last year to the "Christmas Shop'' this year.

Other area stores will continue their past practice of using "Christmas" and allowing workers to greet customers with any appropriate seasonal saying.

"The images and themes used in our advertising and marketing have included Christmas in the past, and you will continue to see and hear these words, images and themes in the future,'' said Joshua Thomas, a Target spokesman, in an e-mail. "We do not have a policy telling team members how to greet guests. Our team members are able to use their own judgment in offering a welcome greeting.''

Other area stores that say they have no policy against a Merry Christmas greeting by workers include Kmart, Sears, Macy's and Kohl's.

"Kohl's does not have a policy. It's really whatever the associate is comfortable with,'' said Julie Lando, a Kohl's spokeswoman, but added, "We are definitely embracing the Christmas spirit.''

Best Buy spokeswoman Dawn Bryant said Best Buy workers are allowed to greet customers any way they choose, including "Merry Christmas," but the company's promotional efforts are limited.

"We're not using the word Christmas in our advertising, but you will see images of Christmas trees, Santa Claus and things that feel like the holiday season,'' Ms. Bryant said, adding that one commercial uses the Happy Holidays saying. "The idea is that we're celebrating the entire holiday season, just not pulling out any one specific holiday.''

And when it comes to whether Dec. 25 is Christmas or a holiday, Columbia County recently had its own conflicting reference. On a recent meeting agenda, there was an item for the planting of a new tree for a "Christmas tree lighting event.'' On the same agenda item, the 20-foot tall Carolina Sapphire cypress was referred to as a "holiday tree.''

So, do officials plan to have a holiday tree or a Christmas tree for the county's Christmas tree lighting event this year?

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a Christmas tree,'' Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said. "It doesn't really occur to me ever as a holiday tree.''

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.