Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sign points to Christmas in Philadelphia

Big news often springs from the humblest of beginnings. Take the story on the “little Christmas Village that could,” which has blanketed the region's media and gone national.

You couldn’t have missed it in daily newspapers, radio and television stations but here’s a recap: A plaza of Philadelphia City Hall hosted a nice conglomeration of about 50 kiosks selling arts and crafts Christmas items. It had a tall archway sign above it appropriately stating “Christmas Village.”

Someone got upset about the word Christmas (they had nothing better to do?), complained to the city and like that, down came Christmas from the sign.

Then the media glare went megawatt and the whole sign was taken down. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia voiced its disappointment and pointed out the lack of common sense to removing Christmas from an obviously Christmas themed-display.

Getting burned around the edges by all this heat, the city, thanks to Mayor Nutter, is bringing Christmas and its sign back.

Everyone presumably is back into the joyful Christmas spirit. Hopefully the craft items are selling as briskly. The controversy has got to be a marketing boon: "Is Christmas OK in Philadelphia? Of course! Come on by (buy)!"

The Catholic Standard and Times made its own contribution to the reason this little story became as big as it did. To say it went viral, as Mayor Nutter said, is to acknowledge how powerful the Internet is in disseminating information widely and quickly, and helping people respond in kind.

The Archdiocese’s strongly worded statement was issued Wednesday morning, the day after our weekly paper goes to press. So our story on the matter included the statement that also was used in radio and TV news reports that day, and in other newspapers the following day.

We’ve updated the story today and pulled together pertinent links, including the archdiocesan statement.

Just goes to show, when you mess with Christmas, you provoke a response. In this case, the city and the vendor did the right thing. In fact they recognize what always should have been acknowledged and protected: the word Christmas is not an epithet designed to offend but a fact of culture and, yes, religion.

Religion is present in society because religion is an integral part of human culture, indeed the human spirit. It is as wrong to remove religious images from public observation as it is to whitewash from society words with religious meaning.

If people are offended by such words as menorah, Judaism, Allah, mosque, Christ, Catholic or Christmas, then the fault lies not in the culture or the government. For such people, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault lies in themselves.

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