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Why Can't Los Angeles Over-Commercialize Christmas Better?

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In a seeming attempt to surpass LA Times columnist Joel Stein in hate mail and death threats, fellow LA Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez recently wrote that his biggest problem with Christmas isn't that it's overly-commercialized - but that he has to listen to annoying people whine about how over-commercialized Christmas is.

And Greg, as usual, has a valid point, once he qualified he was talking about only one of the two different Christmases's celebrated in this country.

First, of course, there's the centuries old Christian holiday observed in the churches. Then there's the 19th Century Christmas shopping holiday observed in the shopping malls that has now become the world's largest economic event. It is also an economic event that Los Angeles must take better advantage of if we are ever going to pay for this city's coming billions of dollars of deficits.

Unfortunately, not only can't the leaders of Los Angeles ever properly implement even basic economic development projects - but we can't even properly commercialize, much less properly overly-commercialize, Christmas.

Contrasting the holiday displays in the shopping districts of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica or Pasadena will those in LA will quickly show why we are less unsuccessful in attracting Christmas shoppers and their lucrative sales tax revenues.

But still, much as Scrooge needed Marley to show him how to properly celebrate the true Christmas of his day - even I who already well knew the economic realities facing Los Angeles never fully understood how much the true over-commercialization of Christmas was needed in our city until one of the saddest days of my life. That was the day my mother - whose favorite time of the year was always the entire Christmas season - was taken off her cancer treatments by her doctors so she could enjoy her final months in relative comfort. That was also the day I decided to take her to New York for her first - and last - Christmas Week in that city.

We started with a double decker bus tour of the holiday decorated areas of Manhattan, then saw the Rockettes, and the tree - and the skaters - of Rockefeller center.

We later saw the history of Christmas in New York at two different museums about New York, ate roasted chestnuts and soft pretzels on the sidewalks, enjoyed season appropriate Broadway musicals and took a horse and buggy ride along 5th Avenue after touring FAO Schwartz's Toy Store.

But most of what we did was totally free and unstructured. We walked the sidewalks, window shopped and toured stores and museums. We watched people from every part of the world enjoying the same things the two of us - and all the native New Yorkers - were also enjoying; and that was observing the commercial Christmas spirit in others in the perfect commercial Christmas setting.

And that's one thing Los Angeles can learn from New York. How to so overly commercialize Christmas that parts of the city can seem more like a Christmas theme (yes - the dreaded T-word) park than the real city it is the rest of the year, with the one exception that the admission was free to all. I still, though, must admit - there is one cautionary warning I must add to this seemingly perfect vision.

If LA ever learns how to property overly-commercialize Christmas, there will always be that one danger lurking in hiding that besides providing the necessary jobs and the tax revenues we so desperately need, the original message of Christmas might also sneak in, like the dog in the manger, and undermine the true meaning of our overly-commercialized Christmas with the original holiday's subversive feelings of hope, peace and good will to all.

So be warned of that always present danger - but still manage to try have and have yourself a very Merry and overly-commercialized Christmas.