In perhaps one of the only legitimate beefs in the so-called “war on Christmas” it appears the good guys actually won one. Malls across the country have attempted to capitalize on the Santa business by installing what they call “the Santa adventure” and charging parents fees from $35 to $50 just to get their children in to see Santa Claus. In the most high profile of these cases Cherry Hill Mall near Philadelphia famous imposed the charges and then faced a brutal customer backlash that went viral on social media. The mall has since made Santa a free attraction, as he has been in the past.
The backdrop to all the Santa controversy comes courtesy of Dream Works who launched an enhanced Santa attraction described as a first-of-its-kind holiday experience that features Shrek, Santa and interactive storytelling with cutting-edge technology.
Shrek and friends take families on an enchanting journey to the North Pole. Five captivating rooms within the Adventure to Santa experience keep families engaged and entertained, including a cinematic adventure featuring a wrap-around screen and motion-based effects sure to excite guests of all ages. Once families complete the activities in each room, Adventure to Santa culminates in a special moment where children and their families enjoy a private visit with Santa.
Dream Works and malls featuring the service have been providing touring school groups with free access in order to build buzz and goodwill about the attraction. The problem comes when a mall allows Dream Works to control access to Santa — where seeing him requires an online reservation, a process that in turn requires the purchase of a photo package at a cost between $35 and $50.
Will the Dream Works attraction catch hold? Will parents actually pay $35 to give their children what amounts to a commercial experience with Santa Claus?
That remains to be seen.
What appears to be settled is that malls will continue to offer free access to Santa for those parents who can do without “the experience” or the cost.
Liberty Counsel, a staunch defender of Christmas and religious liberty, has published their annual Nice and Naughty list of retailers and their use of the word “Christmas”.
TJ Maxx, The Limited, Radio Shack (which is nearly dead), Old Navy, J Crew, Gap, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and American Eagle round out the list of retailers shunning Christmas this year.
In years past this list was big media news but the fight against retailers being so politically correct has been so effective that the “naughty” portion of the list has diminished significantly. Liberty Counsel’s efforts have to be credited for these changes.
Liberty Counsel’s name frequently gets cited in some of the highest profile cases in the War on Christmas as they jump to the aid of schools, families and individuals whose religious liberties are threatened in their celebrations of Christmas.
It is interesting to note that Liberty Counsel is considered a hate group in some quarters because of their support of traditional marriage and the defense of controversial figures such as Kim Davis.
This Christmas may go down as the year of the Home Owner’s Association — that dreaded Grinch accused of dousing Christmas from coast-to-coast. While there have been high profile cases of HOA’s killing off Christmas lights in Idaho, Washington, and Indiana the best response to a HOA has to be this video made by a man disputing a complaint from his HOA that he put out his garbage can too early.
Justin Porter says he received a nasty gram from his HOA for putting his garbage can in his driveway on a Wednesday, the night before garbage pick up on Thursday morning. So in response he went to Youtube and made this hilarious public response (warning: some graphic language in this festive video):
We live in a funny world. The American South is embroiled in a Christmas controversy over Confederate flags in community Christmas parades because many now define that flag as offensive, even though it has been in past parades for decades without a batted eye.
But their Yankee cousins aren’t free from the offensive things of Christmas either. Just because they come from a store doesn’t mean this stuff should be paraded around, at least according to some. This is the odd tale of two Christmas sweaters. The first many know about.
Target Corp came under fire weeks ago for selling a bright red Christmas sweater with the tagline of “OCD — Obsessive Christmas Disorder” emblazoned on the front. Like the Confederate flag, this is not a new item on the shelves of Target at Christmas. It is also a meme that has floated around on social media for years. But 2015 is the year of being offended and those with the very real mental disorder of OCD are now really upset at Target for mocking their disease.
While some people would like to see it pulled from store shelves, Target says it plans to keep selling the sweater during the holidays.
Meanwhile, another store has a Christmas controversy over another sweater. Uber-snooty Nordstrom’s — yes, those uppity merchants who every year make hay by claiming to “celebrate one holiday at a time” and refusing to decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving — had to quickly remove a Hanukkah it had for sale on store shelves (in November??). The Nordstom’s sweater was by the label Faux Real that reads “Chai Maintenance” followed by “Hannukah J.A.P.,” referring to the abbreviation for Jewish American Princess. Needless to say, customers on Nordstrom’s Facebook page were not pleased, with one poster calling the slogan “degrading.”
Nordstrom’s — fearing the discovery that they actually DO celebrate holidays prematurely — quickly removed the item from their shelves.
“We made a mistake by not looking more closely at the words on the sweater before we posted it — had we done so, we wouldn’t have offered it,” said Nordstrom spokeswoman Tara Darrow. “As soon as we heard from customers, we removed it from our site right away. We’re terribly sorry for offending people and sincerely apologize.”
No word yet on whether or not Sons of Confederate Veterans plan to wear these sweaters to Christmas parades held this year in the South.
A Louisiana mayor is under fire — and being applauded — for banning the confederate flag from the City of Natchitoches Christmas Parade scheduled for December 5th. For more than 20 years the Sons of Confederate Veterans have marched in the parade with a float and a rifle company with upwards of 40 people all carrying Confederate flags. They will be sitting this one out, unless attorneys file a first amendment claim.
“As mayor, I am accountable to all citizens who live in our city, and for many the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate, bigotry, violence and division,” Posey said during a news conference attended by about 50 people in the Natchitoches Arts Center. He said that while there will be many confederate flags flying he cannot allow the “flag of controversy”, even if such was permissible in the past.
“To be clear, the city of Natchitoches has not banned the Confederate flag from public display,” Posey said.
“The only thing we have banned is the flag being marched in the Christmas Festival parade.”
The parade “should be a symbol of the Christmas season and should be associated with peace, love and unity,” Posey said.
“I truly believe that our Christmas festival should seek to bind us, not divide us,” he added.
Earlier this month, Posey wrote to the Christmas Festival Committee to ask that the flag be banned from the parade, saying the flag “could cause substantial disruption or interference with the parade.”
Posey said he knows some members of the community disagree with his decision on the flag.
No word yet on whether the ACLU will take up the case of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on the basis that they have a right to express free speech, but that argument has been made and the idea forwarded by many.
Same story, different state. For four decades the nativity in Baxter County Arkansas was a holiday tradition that went up without complaint. All of a sudden a judge rules it unconstitutional.
Baxter County, Arkansas, home to about 45,000 people in the northern part of the state, was ordered to remove the nativity display after a hearing on a suit brought by county resident Dessa Blackthorn and the American Humanist Association. The suit claimed the county and county Judge Mickey Pendergrass had allowed the Christian nativity display to remain at the courthouse while denying requests from other groups.
Blackthorn said Pendergrass denied her request to put a “Happy Winter Solstice” banner near the display.
The display is owned and erected each year by a local attorney. In 2014, the county leased the small piece of land where the nativity now sits to a local chamber of commerce for $1.
In their December 2014 suit, Blackthorn and AHA had asked the county to either allow displays from other faiths – or no faiths at all – or remove the nativity scene. The county maintained the plaintiffs lacked standing in the case since they have not suffered any injury from the nativity.
In his order, U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks ordered that Baxter County must either “refrain from placing any religiously sectarian seasonal display on the courthouse grounds” or “create a public forum on the courthouse grounds for a seasonal display open to persons of all faiths as well as of no faith at all, without discrimination on the basis of viewpoint.”
The AHA is celebrating the ruling with a pin-the-nose-on-Rudolph party at headquarters while sticking voo-doo pins in Baby Jesus dolls.
The FFRF threatened to sue — and no one even put up a fight. It is an old and familiar story. The city of Wadena, Minnesota has for years displayed a Nativity in a local park. They even had a lighted archway illuminating the path to the scene.
Last year Wadena resident Tyler Rud brought the issue to the attention of the Wisconsin-based organization Freedom From Religion Foundation. They wrote a letter threatening to sue the city on the basis that they feel the display is unconstitutional and that it violates the separation of Church and State (though there is no “law” they can cite that was broken).
The city council replied to the letter by saying they would take the display down and decide on the matter before Christmas this year. That meeting was this week.
Residents of the city showed up to speak out in support of the display. In fact, not ONE single person spoke out against it. The city council offered several options as a course of action. They spoke out fervently against having to get rid of the display.
Then they simply voted to do so. They opted to sell the display for $25 to a local ministerial association, who has promised to display the Nativity on private property this year.
We have been unable to confirm reports that the residents of Wadena have unloaded and boxed up their firearms, turned over 100% of their paychecks and baptized themselves into the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The fiasco of a publicly perceived swipe at Christmas political correctness will soon be forgotten thanks to the quick action of Simon Mall CEO David Contis. Simon had come under rapid fire over the weekend for their new Santa set that would provide what they called “The Glacier Santa Experience” which basically featured Santa in a high-tech snow cave absent of any Christmas trees, lights or traditional decor. Reaction was swift and negative on social media.
“It was a mistake, and we had to correct,” Simon Mall President David Contis said Sunday. “If we lose money, so be it.”
The media is reporting that not only will the North Carolina display disappear but so too will similar displays Simon was either erecting or planning to install for this holiday season. Returning will be the trees, the lights and Santa looking anything but cold.
Simon has made nice. But will Starbucks?
Not likely. In response to the backlash over it’s removal of Christmas from their cup designs a social media campaign encouraged Starbucks customers to give baristas their name as “Merry Christmas” when ordering at Starbucks in order to compel Starbucks employees to say Merry Christmas.
Over the weekend several high profile Christian pastors took Starbucks to task for their stance. It remains to be seen if the backlash will continue or if it will ultimately affect Starbucks sales.
It is only early November but already there is a different feel to this Christmas season. Instead of localized battles over Christmas we are seeing for the first time widespread discontent and outrage over the common battles of Christmas and political correctness now especially associated with it.
We reported on the flap over Starbuck’s 2015 Christmas cups the other day. That report centered on a conservative news site claiming the cup was a statement of political correctness and a slap against Christmas. We disagreed in giving Starbucks the benefit of the doubt and, like us, most gave Starbucks a pass.
Then Starbucks stepped in it. In a published statement an official said “Starbucks has become a place of sanctuary during the holidays. We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s [a] more open way to usher in the holiday.”
And then the Internet erupted and well it should have. Starbucks a sanctuary? Wow, is that self important. They are a coffee bar. That is all. But even worse is the sentiment that their cups are somehow making the world more inclusive. Starbucks is promoting a political agenda, just as the original news story reported. There’s no other way to say it.
But for as widespread as that was a whole new bizarre situation erupted when a mall in North Carolina erected a new home for their Santa Claus absent of any sign of Christmas. Calling it “the Santa glacier experience” the new set had Santa sitting inside of what one television reporter called “that spaceship looking thing”. Shoppers remembered all to well the same spot in the mall where last year a towering Christmas tree dominated the mall space — and they were outraged. One even took the complaint with his kids to Youtube and song:
The situation worsened when another mall in New York featured the same set. The outcry there was enough to get the attention of local media and that story lit the fuse on Twitter and Facebook. Both malls played defense by claiming the display was not yet complete — and they quickly erected a couple of small pre-lit trees in a weekend attempt to quell the backlash.
The widely reported case of a high school sued by the Freedom from Religion Foundation for performing a production with a live Nativity has taken a new twist. In an announcement to local media the school now says the Bible verses previously used in the production have been removed and replaced with historical references to Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. The live Nativity stays, making the event “consistent” with other legally allowed events associated with public schools, according to a local attorney.
The case has been one of the rare events where a school refused to back down on their production and face the FFRF in court — until now. Reactions to the moves on social media have been mixed.
“I see nothing wrong with including Hanukkah and Kwanza I think it brings unity to the season.” writes Debbie Barden.
Richard Dick Trowbridge takes exception. “Apparently Mr. Wheeler has not read the Constitution, and has caved into the demands of the bullies that want to force Christianity out of our culture. The School should hire a real attorney who understands the Constitution. You have never needed to have equal representation of other religions or their history at a Christian presentation. Government can support religion but not interfere in the Free exercise of that religious experience.” Educate yourselves it is your Freedoms that are at stake.”
Some are predicting more kids than ever are now going to drop from participating in the program because of the changes.
In a new piece being broadcast today Starbucks is being accused of whitewashing Christmas through a series of incremental changes since 2009 to their iconic red cups. Every Christmas season as a seeming signal to consumers that the holiday season has arrived Starbucks changes from using white cups to red cups. In years past they have had festive holiday designs on their cups. This year, they don’t. It is just a red cup with Starbuck’s odd logo on it.
This is war on Christmas?
Raheem Kassam says so:
“But Ragih,” I hear you say. “Why do you care about what Starbucks is doing anyway? It’s crap coffee and none of us buy it.” Sure, but plenty of people do. And subliminally, they’re being told/reminded that this time of the year is no longer about Christmas. It’s about the colour red, or something. It’s a “holiday season”. Don’t say Merry Christmas. It’s offensive.
Let’s bring this back to reality.
First of all, nobody looks to Starbucks as a Christmas bellwether. Is it not Christmas because Starbucks or any other corporate entity says so.
If Starbucks wants to make a political statement with their packaging let them. Want to know what matters to them, really? It’s sales. That is all. If they go too far in their politics guess what? People won’t go there (see Target). People vote with money and Starbucks is most interested in money over Christmas. Christmas is just a means to their money end. That is all. When they go to far they will have slit their own throat.
Kassam may well be right in that corporate entities in America are whitewashing Christianity away from culture. But we don’t have to jump on the war on Christmas band wagon to make this point. Christmas isn’t going anywhere because it was never at Starbucks to begin with.
FoxNews is reporting a new light fight in the early War on Christmas 2015. In the little town of Hayley, Idaho a man who traditionally erects an epic light display reportedly received a letter from his homeowner’s association telling him that his display would be offensive to non-Christians.
We get behind most of these stories but on this one we smell a rat.
First of all, the man’s display does sound like it would be a problem in just about any neighborhood. In addition to turning night into day with thousands of lights the display of Jeremy Morris includes a 22-voice choir and a live Nativity featuring Dolly the Camel.
Second of all, this is a new resident bound by an agreement with a home owner’s association. Have you ever signed a contract with a home owner’s association? Basically you waive most of your property rights when you do so. Any kind of exterior decorating will fall under the jurisdiction of association. That is just common sense.
“Your event will be offensive to the senses and will interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of your neighbors’ private property rights,” an attorney representing the home owner’s association evidently told the Morris’.
Of course, Morris uses all the usual and very valid arguments of religious freedom.
But we’re skeptical in cases like this. Just as with the Hyatt Extreme Christmas display in Florida we tend to simply take the WWJD approach to these issues and declare that real Christians are good neighbors first.
Dolly the Camel does not seem like a good fit in a typical residential neighborhood.