San Diego Parade in Doubt

A wildly popular civic Christmas event in the San Diego, California area might not be held this year due to a ‘lack of time’. Even though Christmas comes every December 25th and even though the annual parade which draws tens of thousands is as popular as ever the community of Encinitas may not hold their parade this year.

Two years ago then-city Mayor Dan Dalager changed its name from Holiday Parade to Christmas Parade.

The parade was held but only after a series of complaints were showered upon city officials by Jewish community groups who claimed the city was favoring one religion over another on the taxpayer’s dime. In recent past years the parade was managed by the city. But that changed earlier this year when they were more than anxious to dump responsibility for the event off on the chamber of commerce.

The chamber had organized holiday parades – on a smaller scale – in the 1980s before the city took over the task in the 1990s. Chamber officials even thought about changing the event’s name to Poinsettia Parade to be inclusive. Now they are leaning towards not holding the event at all.

“One of the things we are considering is that maybe not doing it in ’07 but doing it in ’08,” chamber Executive Director Gary Tucker said. “We have not said we are not doing it. We want to make sure we are doing it right. We’re looking at all options.”

Yesterday, news that the parade might not be held upset some.

“It’s probably one of the coolest events the city puts on,” Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said. “There will be a lot of disappointed people if the chamber doesn’t hold a parade.

Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan said she was shocked.

“People are just blown away,” she said. “People love the parade. It’s community-building.”


Garden City Residents Fight Back

Last week we told you of a Long Island, New York school board who wanted to rename an annual Christmas concert to a “winter concert” and move it to February, citing the reference to Christmas as “offensive”.

Citizens are not taking this lying down. Here is a recent letter-to-the-editor:

First let me say, I am a homeowner in Garden City Park and my husband and I also grew up here. One of the reasons we chose to stay and raise our family here is because of the wonderful traditions our community has. Growing up in this town gave us memories we wanted to pass to our children. For Dr. Cohn to try to change our traditions is an outrage. The “Christmas Concerts” have been a staple in our schools for as long as I can remember.

Dr Cohn, when you chose to accept the position of superintendent, you knew what kind of community this was. I am sorry you had to work on Christmas Day, but the only businesses that stay open in this town are 7 Eleven and the gas stations. Unless these were your previous employments, I cannot image a business that forces people to work on Dec. 25. The Fire Departments hang wreathes and lights on Jericho Turnpike and Hillside Avenue and every block has families who take pride in hanging their lights and decorations. Our town hall has a tree lighting ceremony. This is who we are.

Dr. Cohn stated that using the words “Christmas Concert” is offensive. I find the fact that she has come into our community and is trying to change a way of life we are accustomed to offensive. There are many other districts out there that I’m sure would fit her ideals better.

Many residents of NHP/GCP have been here for generations. Yes, I know our community is changing, but like Dr. Cohn, they came here knowing what our town and schools were about and it was their choice to live here. Trying to change our Christmas Concert and move it to February will not be taken lightly. I, personally, will not allow my children to participate if this happens.

It is at this time that I ask my friends, my community to speak up, lend their voices and fight to keep our traditions, keep what has made this town our town for generations. Dr. Cohn is a guest here, this is her 9 – 5, this is not her home.

Michele Chambers

Picketing: A Merry Christmas Tradition

The Salt Lake City Council passed an ordinance last week intended to stop animal rights activists from harassing University of Utah researchers with regular picket lines in front of their homes. But a different group of activists is suing because they say the new law silences their Christmas tradition of free speech:

“In the past couple of years at Christmas time, they’ve gone to the Governor’s Mansion and sung parodies of Christmas carols to bring home the issue of poverty,” says Barnard.

Attorney Brian Barnard filed suit in federal court Wednesday against Salt Lake City on behalf of the Anti-Hunger Action Committee. The new ordinance prohibits picketing within 100 feet of a private residence, and Barnard says that applies to the Governor’s Mansion.

“The way I read the ordinance, it’s broad enough that it covers any kind of targeted demonstration in front of a residence,” says Barnard. “The Governor’s Mansion is a high profile building and it’s an appropriate place to go communicate with the Governor.”

Barnard believes the City Council drafted the ordinance hastily and under pressure from the University of Utah. A spokesman for the animal rights group Utah Primate Freedom says it, too, will file a lawsuit for the right to picket the homes of university researchers.

Florida City Won’t Light It Up this Christmas

Port St. Lucie, Florida has made Christmas headlines for years as the city that cannot grow a Christmas tree. Over the past decade the city has attempted several times to plant a tree they could hang lights and decorations on every Christmas season, as tradition has dictated. But they can’t keep a Christmas tree alive. They finally gave up on the tree. This year, they are giving up on the lights and decorations, too.

The holidays will be a tad darker in Port St. Lucie this year after reluctant city council members late Monday decided to save $70,000 and forsake an age-old tradition of adorning major intersections, city buildings and a parade route with colorful lighted wreaths and toy soldiers.

Faced with a $1 million deficit in the road and bridge fund for the next budget year, council members said it is better to patch potholes and repair traffic signals than celebrate a holiday season that likely won’t be too joyful with state-mandated tax reform.

“There’s no way we can say ëyes’ to street decorations and ëno’ to vital services,” Councilwoman Michelle Berger said.

Councilman Christopher Cooper suggested residents step up their own home decorating to combat the darkness and “make the city glow.” “People want us to cut spending,” he said. “I don’t see anybody from the public saying they care one way or the other about lights.” Berger led the charge to cut decorations rented from a private vendor after City Manager Don Cooper advised officials to cut all displays or none to avoid claims of favoritism by certain neighborhoods.

Mayor Patricia Christensen said the decision could mean an end to the annual Festival of Lights and parade along Midport Road since there will be no lighted decorations there. She’s also wondering where money for a new Christmas tree will come from since the last eight planted in front of city hall have died, some for unexplainable reasons.

“How do you cancel display lights and still spend money on a tree or a festival of lights?” Christensen asked

Liberty Counsel Takes Up Sea-Tac Christmas Fight

For the second time, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is considering a ban on religious symbols during the end-of-the-year holiday season.

According to the Port of Seattle’s Holiday Decorations Advisory Committee, the airport is expected to be decked out in festival attire during the holidays, but officials will not include religious symbols in the festivities.

A Christian legal group, Liberty Counsel, is worried about the reoccurring circumstance, however, and is threatening legal action if the airport holds its position.

“Obviously, Liberty Counsel will get involved as we did last year with this airport,” said Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, according to One News Now. “We sent a letter [last year] demanding that they return the Christmas decorations to the airport – and with the public outcry, the airport did. This year, obviously, we’re back to the battleground again, and we’re certainly going to go to bat for protecting Christmas.”

The first incident occurred last December when a rabbi complained about nine Christmas trees that were decorated in the terminals. He said he would sue the airport for religious discrimination unless they added a menorah to the decorations.

The trees were pulled from display to avoid litigation, but were later put back into view after the rabbi explained that he had not wanted their removal and after pressure from Liberty Counsel lawyers.

The Seattle committee is now proposing a policy prohibiting any kind of religious symbols for the upcoming holiday and Christmas season to avoid future problems.

Christian attorneys from Liberty Counsel are threatening legal action if the international airport decides to keep the policy, however.

They argue that Christmas decorations are historical more than religious, and that they are not biased towards Christians. The public has no problem with the ornamentation, they urge.

Also, Christmas trees are not even a Christian symbol, they added. They are censoring things that are not even applicable.

“I think it’s ridiculous in a country where we have December 25 as a state and federal holiday to celebrate and honor Christmas,” added Staver, “something that’s rooted in the history of America – that governmental entities would come to censor it out.”