If the Christmas mail was once a Christian post, it is now overwhelmingly post-Christian. The saint who replaced the Saviour in our greetings is a secular Santa, a nylon-bearded imposter in whose lap we place our children that they may be taught to pray selfishly. Of course our adult Santa-cult moves on a higher plane. We have the sticky Santa-mentality which appears in this litany from a would-be popular song: “May Santa fill our hearts this Christmas with love for ev’ryone ev’rywhere.…”

Such gush almost invites the off-beat and off-color cards that will make a beatnik out of Saintnik, with bongo drums under his beard.

Other cards in the best of taste also avoid any Christian sentiments. A series designed by international artists for UNICEF cautiously restricts its greetings to “Happy New Year” in the five languages of UN. Purchasers who want to say “Merry Christmas” may have this personal message imprinted for an extra charge.

One set of designs links Christmas Eve in Canada with the Devali feast in India; international understanding finds a “Time of Joy” in every culture. After looking up the Devali lamp festival, I must admit it has features that could be much admired here. There is spectacle in scores of lamps floating down the rivers. A forthright ceremony known as Sharada puja might be even more popular. Since the feast honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, this ceremony centers on the businessman’s account-book, which is put on a stool, given various marks and sacred inscriptions, then topped with a rupee while a lamp is waved before it. The closing incantation is to secure a thousand profits in the coming year.

This sort of thing might close out the Santa season beautifully. It could be adapted, I ...

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