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Why the Taliban gave me a Christmas tree

Political correctness, under the guise of tolerance, tells us not to say, "Merry Christmas." But I've seen that the spirit of Christmas is transcendent – across cultures, nations, and even religions.

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Walking my cat (no leash) and viewing Christmas decorations in my neighborhood last year, I came to a house bedecked with evergreen boughs, red ribbons, and strings of colored lights. I was taken aback. I knew the woman who lives there is an Iranian, a Shiite Muslim. “Strange,” I thought.

When her husband appeared in the yard, I commented on the oddity of Christmas decorations at a Shiite household. He shot back, “I’m Jewish.”

“Whoa! You’re Jewish, your wife is an Iranian Muslim, and you decorate your house for Christmas?” He shrugged and said, “Hey, we see Christmas as an international holiday.”

“Only in America,” I muttered, following my cat.

IN PICTURES: White House Christmas

Except that’s not true. My neighbor was right: Christmas is international – secular and religious.

Christmas Eve in the Holy Land

At this time of year, I often recall the Christmas Eves I spent in the Holy Land, while on assignment for CNN. The night before Christmas, my TV crew and I would make the annual pilgrimage to Palestinian Bethlehem to broadcast church services and celebrations – live from Manger Square. It was wall-to-wall celebrants. Many were Muslims who just wanted a good party. In a land where Palestinians have little to celebrate, Muslims had no guilt about making merry over Christianity’s central holiday.

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