The war over the “war on Christmas” has always been a lopsided battle. On one side, a vocal set of conservative culture warriors works itself into a frenzy every December, pouncing on high-profile targets who prefer using the word “holiday” where “Christmas” used to suffice. The other side is a less-passionate, unorganized set of actors: elected officials, school administrators, office managers, and retail workers who, for the most part, just want to make sure everyone feels welcome during the holiday season. The annual bout of wintery bluster is tiring; at this point, both sides should work to defuse the controversy instead of fanning the flames.

The conservative attack dogs ought to remember that the Christmas spirit is best expressed through charity, forgiveness, and merriment — not shouting from the bully pulpit or through a bullhorn. And those attempting to tiptoe along the perilously thin line of political correctness should instead avoid twisting themselves into absurd positions. Such was the case last year when Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee refused to call a tree decorated with lights, bulbs, and tinsel a Christmas tree. Instead, he preferred the term “holiday tree.”

The Rhode Island controversy flared up again last week, when Chafee's spokesperson announced that, this year, the governor would not be attending the state's tree-lighting ceremony so that he could focus on more important matters. In the end, tempers rose for naught: It turns out that Chafee's representative had misspoken; the governor attended the ceremony.

Religious activists and the media are now trying to pin down whether Chafee will again dig in his heels and refuse to use the term Christmas tree. They should drop the issue, and Chafee — as well as other public officials who find themselves in similar lose-lose situations — should brush aside the questions. Ignoring the "war on Christmas" is the best way to eliminate it altogether.