The name debate surrounding the third annual Christmas Village is an example of political correctness gone overboard.
It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays. Practically every student is tweeting and updating Facebook about all-nighters at the TECH Center, panicking over tests and papers and cutting loose in preparation for finals.
However, the even bigger indicators of the holiday horizon – the third annual “Christmas” Village at the northwest corner of Dilworth Plaza at City Hall and the annual lighting of the “holiday” tree – are the ones causing all the drama.
The Philadelphia Daily News reported on Nov. 30 that the private organizer of the Christmas Village, Thomas Bauer, issued a statement that “Christmas” in the village’s sign would be replaced with “Holiday.” This decision was made after Bauer discussed the issue with the city’s Managing Director Rich Negrin.
The Inquirer article reported that Negrin said the City Hall tree-lighting will still happen. The article stressed the title of the tree as “holiday tree,” which it was called in a news release from Mayor Michael Nutter’s office.
“People have to go to public buildings,” Bauer told the Daily News. “They shouldn’t feel offended. We want to stress that the name was not intended to upset anyone.”
The great Christmas tree debate doesn’t end there. The Daily News city and local politics blog, Philly Clout, reported the following day that Nutter spoke with the Village organizers and that the “Christmas” sign would be back up by Dec. 2.
“The Christmas Village is not a religious service. It’s an outdoor fair. It’s a very commercial enterprise,” said Nutter, who also told Clout that he had nothing to do with the original talks that led “Christmas” to be removed in the first place.
The debate surrounding this holiday fiasco is a tough one – both sides have points that shouldn’t be invalidated.
This time of year is somewhat a reminder of exclusion for those who do not celebrate Christmas. Everywhere, there is Santa and Christmas tree iconography in one form or another, reminding these individuals that the echoes of Christmas overpower the whispers of the various other holidays celebrated around the same time.
The views of those who celebrate Christmas are equally important. The erected village neighboring City Hall, reported the Inquirer in a Nov. 30 article, is supposed to be modeled after an early 1600s German “Christkindlmarket,” or farmers market that had Christmas toys, ornaments and foods.
For this reason, renaming the Christmas Village, the “Holiday Village,” is not only inappropriate but also moving the point of the village away from the concept that gave it birth.
It’s important to note that, while the Christmas Village has been around for three years, and, as described in a Dec. 7 Temple News Arts & Entertainment article, the Village celebrates an international weekend right before Christmas to highlight diversity in Philadelphia.
I am all for being respectful and mindful of difference – whether that’s race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and so on – but the Christmas Village isn’t about religious celebration. It’s about the historical commercialization of a holiday through retail sales and the obnoxious repetition of red, white and green.
Any one who is offended by “Christmas tree” or “Christmas Village” is forgetting that.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.