WOODY: Heed those humbugs

LARRY WOODY/ Columnist

Christmas gets more complicated every season.

Earlier this year, for example, there was a work-stoppage at Santa's North Pole's production plant when the elves went on strike. The little fellows claimed St. Nick was running a sweat shop, forcing them to work non-stop to meet the impending Christmas rush.

The half-pint handymen demanded a, uh, "short" break.

Also, they objected to the term "elves." They prefer "size-challenged."

They were joined in the picket line by the Seven Dwarfs, who filed similar labor grievances.

As if that wasn't headache enough for Santa, the U.S. Department of Nosey Nutritionists  got on him for being overweight. They said his belt-popping belly that jiggles like a "bowlful of jelly" isn't amusing any more.

There's no mirth in girth.

The health nuts say Santa sets a bad example for a society struggling with a weight problem. They want him to join a fitness spa and shed a few pounds.

They also want kids to stop tempting Santa with cookies left by the chimney on Christmas Eve. They suggest putting out a few celery stalks and raw carrots.

Next came a complaint from PETA about the reindeer.

PETA said it is cruel to harness the poor deer to a heavy sleigh and force them to fly through the cold winter night and land on icy, slick rooftops.

They are especially incensed over reports of Santa cracking a whip over Donner's derriere.

"How would YOU like to pull a fatso in a sleigh through the freezing cold while he cracks a bullwhip on YOUR buttocks?" PETA asked in a press release.

PETA also said it is unnatural for Rudolph's nose to glow, and would like the Humane Society to look into it.

On top of all that, Santa received a snippy letter from the Department of Sleigh Registration advising him that his sticker has expired and he has to take it through emissions inspection before it can be renewed.

You don't want to get pulled over driving an un-registered sleigh and reeking of eggnog.

There was also the matter of an unpaid speeding ticket Santa got last Christmas Eve as he sailed over Chicago. Santa claimed he speeded up to dodge the bullets.

Meanwhile back home, a group of Earth-First tree-huggers chained themselves to a stand of cedars to protest cutting down a conifer for Christmas. They call the annual tree-cutting ritual the "Christmas Chainsaw Massacre."

They also protested the abuse of holly, spruce and mistletoe, chanting, "Don't be mean to the green."

The tree-huggers and the PETA people joined hands, the latter carrying placards proclaiming "Don't wear fur" and the others waving signs that said, "Save the Fir."

I hope I can remember everything I'm supposed to do and not do over the holidays: don't offend little people and over-weight people, don't eat treats and sweets, and commiserate with deer-lovers and tree-huggers.

I'd better make a politically-correct Christmas list -- and check it twice.

We CAN still say "Christmas," can't we?