As shoppers milled about and children stood in line to see department-store Santas, roughly 100 people rallied in a dark corner of downtown...

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As shoppers milled about and children stood in line to see department-store Santas, roughly 100 people rallied in a dark corner of downtown Westlake Park Saturday to protest what they view as moves to bury Christmas.

“I’m not out to evangelize,” said Paul Goertz, a Marysville construction worker who organized the event. “I’m out to save Christmas.”

Goertz and his supporters said they were dismayed, for example, by Seattle’s decision to light a 60-foot “holiday tree” — not a Christmas tree — to kick off the season at Westlake Center last month.

Standing on a shadowed stage under a large “Saving Christmas” banner, Goertz, 47, said he’d become irate earlier this month after hearing a radio report that Medina Elementary School officials had decided to remove a “giving tree” as a result of one parent’s complaint that it had religious connotations.

Protester Amy Brevick, 18, of Fall City, said Christmas has “been part of our nation’s history,” and that she doesn’t appreciate the voices of a small number of dissenters drowning out the vast majority. “It’s being taken too far,” she said, referring to stuff such as Christmas-tree lots now being called “holiday-tree lots.”

“In America today,” said Taryn Clark, 18, of North Bend, “we don’t need a grinch to steal Christmas. We’re stealing it ourselves. We are the grinches.

“Today we have ‘holiday trees’ and ‘winter break.’ … If we continue on this path, we’ll soon have to get rid of candy canes, poinsettias … gift-giving … even the word ‘holiday,’ which many people seem to forget comes from ‘holy days.’

“America without Christmas,” Clark said, “would be like America without baseball … [or] ‘Monday Night Football.’ It wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be America.”

Another rally speaker, Cliff Tadema, 50, of Anacortes, said he was looking on the Web the other night and found a Gallup Poll showing that “97 percent of the people love celebrating Christmas and are not concerned with using ‘Christmas’ as something to celebrate. …

“It’s all about the celebration of the birth of a baby, one who had attributes that all of us are interested in,” Tadema said. “Every religion is interested in the attributes that Jesus Christ demonstrated … attributes like love and forgiveness, like faithfulness and friendship, like care and compassion, like peace and giving. That’s what Christmas is about, and that’s what all of us should be happy to celebrate.”

Not everybody was buying it.

Glen Griffin engaged a couple of protesters in debate, believing they were part of what he said he views as a bogus, right-wing conspiracy to blame liberals for secularizing Christmas.

A self-described liberal who supports Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union, he later explained that he’s “active in all those organizations that are accused of being at war with Christmas.

“We’ve got no problem with Christmas!” Griffin insisted. “I mean, I understand why the right wing is doing it, because it’s a good fundraising tool.”

Still, Griffin, 37, of Seattle, said he backed off a bit after listening to the Christmas demonstrators explain their grievance about the “holiday tree,” which he considered legitimate. Noting he’s Jewish, Griffin said it’s no “big deal” to him.

“But if it matters to them, and they want to speak their mind about it, great,” he said.

Peter Lewis: 206-464-2217