These days it seems like everything is political in the United States, even a holiday season that is supposed to be about peace, rather than disagreement. The fact is, some people want Americans to be thinking about politics this year while they're shopping for gifts.
You can find them on both the conservative and the liberal side of the political fence - people who insist that the holiday season is a perfect time for Americans to let their political voices be heard. Indeed, the fact that this time of year is referred to by some as a "holiday" season is one of the issues attracting attention.
The American Family Association has called on Christians across the country to boycott stores that avoid using the word "Christmas" in their advertising. The word "holiday" has been adopted by many businesses, since not everyone in the United States is Christian. But Randy Sharp, of the American Family Association, says it is disingenuous for retailers to pretend that Christmas is not the reason so many people are in their stores.
"December 25th is a very special day for over 90% of Americans," Mr. Sharp says. "We celebrate Christmas. And we simply want those retailers who are so hungry to take our money and to market to us, to recognize and acknowledge that we're there to shop for Christmas, and we're shopping for Christmas day."
The American Family Association has had some success with this campaign. Two national retail chains - Target and Sears - have started using the word "Christmas" in their advertising as a response, in part, to the AFA's boycott.
Earlier this year, the group called on its members to boycott the Ford Motor Company, because Ford was advertising in gay and lesbian magazines. That boycott was less successful from the AFA's perspective, though, and group leaders just announced they are considering another, more aggressive campaign.
But conservatives are not the only ones expressing an opinion with their pocketbooks. Liberals, too, are calling on people to - as they say - "shop with a conscience." The website buyblue.org, for example, tells visitors about the political campaigns that various corporations have contributed to, and advocates that people buy only from companies that donate to Democratic - or "blue" - candidates and causes.
"There's one thing companies pay attention to, and that's what their customers are doing, and what kind of profits they're making," says Raven Brooks, who manages the site. "So if you're able to send them a message that you want them to be more environmentally responsible, by where you're making your purchases, then that's going to encourage them to pursue those types of activities. And it's all done without any kind of legislation or anything like that."
Buyblue.org launched its "Blue Christmas" campaign in California earlier this month - complete with a man dressed up as Santa Claus in a blue, rather than a red outfit. Raven Brooks says it is still too soon to tell if the group has had an impact on holiday spending this year - but he points to a recent campaign to get Americans to switch their insurance coverage to the Progressive Corporation as a success story.
Last year, buyblue.org visitors shifted more than $300,000 worth of coverage to this highly-rated insurance company. Raven Brooks says he just wants people to understand that every day, they are "casting a vote," so to speak, when they make a purchase.
"Now whether we're consciously voting for something that is in line with our values, or what we'd want our money to say about us, that's kind of a different question," he notes. "But I think every purchase you make is reinforcing certain things."
And that's one of the few points that Raven Brooks and Randy Sharp of the American Family Association are likely to agree upon.