The ''War on Christmas'' crusade, like any war, hands out its own medals and awards.
In this case, it isn't a Victoria Cross or a Medal of Honor. Nor is it an Oscar or an Emmy, though you'd think the histrionics by the ''War on Christmas'' commanders would merit some kind of performance award.
It's the ''Ebby,'' the Ebenezer Award, bestowed by the Becket Fund to "the most ridiculous affront on the Christmas and Hanukkah season." Ebby nominees include the people who took down the Christmas trees at the Seattle airport after a rabbi complained, and a Florida school principal who canceled her school's play, ``A Penguin Christmas,'' because it seemed too religious.
This year's Ebby winner, as the press release declares, is Chicago mayor Richard Daley, who banned a film about the nativity from sponsoring the city's annual Christkindlmarket, an event whose name refers to the Christ child. [Daley later reversed himself].
So: we have an award named for Ebenezer Scrooge given by the Becket Fund, named for St. Thomas Becket, to people who violate the spirit of the holidays.
Let's look at those names again. Ebenezer Scrooge waged his own war on Christmas not by whacking at nativity scenes with his walking stick or putting rat poison in the eggnog, but by being crabbed and narrow of outlook -- parsimonious, suspicious, greedy, and as selfish of spirit as of pocket.
Scrooge was transformed not by public displays of holiday images -- after all, it only made him angrier that everyone he passed wished him a hearty Merry Christmas, and Victorian England at Christmastime was ablaze with glowing churches and religious symbols -- but by being shown the stark consequences of his churlish and shriveled spirit, both to his own life and legacy, and to the world. He awoke on Christmas morning a changed man, full of fellow feeling, true generosity and a love of humanity that had nothing to do with whether or not there was a nativity scene in the lobby of his bank.
Now, as to Thomas Becket, St. Thomas Becket, the martyr. He was chief minister to King Henry II, ''the lion in winter,'' who appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury. The appointment changed Becket: he renounced the lush life for a hairshirt and penitential floggings. He washed the feet of the poor every morning, fed them, and sent them on their way with money. He was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral four days after Christmas. The trappings of faith, like the trappings of secular power, were of no interest to Becket. Faith in practice was.
So who should be the real candidates for "Ebbys''? People who fret and fuss over what the political correctness of amounts to the set decoration of the holidays -- or those who dishonor the true spirit of the holidays, people with power and parsimony cohabiting in their hearts? Why not Ebbys for the pension fund raiders instead? The cost-plus war profiteers? The corporate cold-shoulder crowd? The health-care providers who provide neither health nor care? The White House ''bring it on'' bunch?
Those are my Ebby nominees. Who are yours?