A Christmas-related rumor leads to the true meaning of Christmas, according to Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley.

I would estimate that 90 percent of the emails I receive at work I delete without ever opening.


No doubt that sounds rather callous, but why waste a part of my day reading a press release sent out by the St. Joseph Convention Bureau? The odds of it containing any pertinent information are only infinitesimally better than my chances of winning a Pulitzer Prize.


I would not complain a bit if my cyber mailbox never again saw a political email intended to convince me that some candidate, or public official, was in fact secretly the antichrist. Neither would I mind not receiving any more emails offering products guaranteed to make me some hunk of a man that I never was on my best days. That would require a miracle, not Internet snake oil.


At home, the types of emails I rarely bother looking at are forwards. Most come from well-meaning friends and family members, whose feelings I hope to not bruise by admitting publicly that most of their forwards I ignore.


Still, I must confess that there are times when I’ll look at one with a compelling title, or which has been recommended to me by my email-screening wife, Nancy. On rare occasions such a forward will actually contain information with some relevance. Many other times forwards contain wild claims that I’m supposed to pass along to everyone on my email list.


Not long ago the Henley email account, along with 24 other souls, received a forward from a family member that contained a Christmas-related story intended to enrage any good Christian. It claimed that a talented artist, who for several years had painted ornaments for hanging on the various White House holiday, not Christmas, trees had been told to stop submitting any ornaments with a religious theme. It suggested a move was afoot in Washington to take us from our “religious foundation” as quickly as possible.


As I read the email, one sentence jumped out at the nitpicker in me: I thought you should know what the new residents in the W.H. plan for the future of America.


New residents? The Obamas? Hmmm.


During a little Web research, I found a site whose objective is to address urban legends, such as the one which had been forwarded to the Henleys’ cyber mailbox.


Apparently this rumor has been making the rounds since July 2009. Why such a Christmas rumor would be started in July I can’t answer.


It was noted that the story is based on one anonymous, secondhand account. Its validity is questionable since generally it is White House policy not to ask the same artists to submit ornaments on consecutive years so that more people around the nation are given a chance to contribute.


It was suggested that the rumor regarding the White House Christmas tree had its roots in a controversy surrounding decoration guidelines for the Capitol Christmas tree enacted during the Bush administration. Such a ban on religious-themed ornaments was in effect in 2007 and 2008 before Christian and conservative groups got the U.S. Forest Service to rescind the policy after threatening a lawsuit for violating the First Amendment.


Were it not for the fact I invested time researching the rumor, I would have found the whole thing laughable. This time of year has absolutely nothing to do with what sort of ornaments are in the branches of your Christmas tree. It has everything to do with what’s in your heart.


Merry Christmas.