San Diego Prepares to Fight Christmas

Intrigue. Controversy. Finger-pointing. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Encinitas.

Oh sure, it’s Labor Day weekend, and people are thinking more about barbecues and suntans than they are mistletoe and holly, but as sure as Santa is making his list and Rudolph is playing reindeer games, the residents of Encinitas are gearing up for another showdown over the annual [expletive deleted] Parade.

It was just two years ago when then-Mayor Dan Dalager decided that the Holiday Parade should be renamed the C*****mas Parade. Dalager says the change was a nod to local tradition, not some plan to convert the heathen. Whatever his intention, judging by the reaction, he may just as well have announced the beheading of those who won’t don the red and green.

But perhaps the supposed outrage was a bit overplayed. In the end, just three groups dropped out of the parade: the local Girl Scouts Seacoast Service Unit, the Leucadia Town Council and the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Southern California.

I’m not sure that the dogs cared one way or the other, but a parade that included the Christ person’s name was enough to curdle the cream in Jennifer Zaayer’s eggnog. Zaayer, a Cardiff resident and vice president of the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Southern California, said at the time: “I feel very strongly about the separation of church and state. It’s freedom of religion and freedom from religion.”

To be fair, concerns were also raised by Jewish leaders. Rabbi David Frank of Temple Solel said the name change was “ill-conceived and inappropriate.” With all due respect to the Rabbi, Encinitas has had a Christmas parade intermittently for years without incident and without comment from the Jewish community. I’m not sure why the name became a problem in 2005.

Like a fruitcake you can’t give away, the parade fight still lingers. This January, the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce indicated it might be interested in taking the event back from the city (the chamber had organized the annual event until the 1990s, when the city took over). The City Council seemed to like the idea.

But not much has happened since then. Chamber officials say they met with city staff sometime in the spring, took a look at the numbers and decided they’d need some help from the city to do it. City staffers say that communication between them and the chamber was practically nonexistent until they received an Aug. 20 letter asking for almost $50,000. That matter will be taken up by the council at its Sept. 12 meeting.

One thing is certain, however. If the chamber organizes the parade, it won’t bear the Christmas moniker. Gary Tucker, the chamber’s CEO, is adamant that his organization won’t be involved in a “divisive” event. As business people, they’re concerned about offending customers (and Bernese mountain dogs?).

So it seems that, once again, the fight over the annual ? parade, held sometime between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25, will come down to its name.

I actually disagree with those who argue that Christmas and all of its related celebratory activities are secular events completely devoid of religious meaning. Tenuous as the connection to its original religious meaning has become, Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. Had America not been settled by Christians, we would not be celebrating the holiday.

And I guess that’s the point. Although less so than it was 200 years ago, or even 50 years ago, America remains a largely Christian nation. As such, its people have a right to celebrate their traditions and customs. One of those traditions is a nondenominational, generally inclusive, vaguely religious, federally recognized holiday called Christmas.

That this concept even needs defending seems odd in a country where multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance have become the watchwords of a generation. I’m sorry, but we can’t call ours a diverse, pluralistic, tolerant society and then tell the majority religion that their traditions and customs won’t be tolerated, at least in public. That’s nothing less than the tyranny of the minority.

The “wall of separation between church and state” is not a constitutional mandate. It was a passing phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a personal letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, and it’s not a particularly felicitous one at that. For history has shown that when religion becomes so contentious and volatile that people feel they need a wall to protect themselves from it, trouble can’t be too far behind.

When it comes, Jefferson’s metaphorical wall all too often becomes real, like the ones separating Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland , Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land and, at least until recently, Shia from Sunni in Baghdad.

Even worse, contemporary secularists have turned that wall into one between religion and public life. Contrary to their belief, a world where people insist on a strict separation between the public and religious spheres —- a freedom from religion —- is liable to be one more prone to strife, turmoil and violence, not less. Every fight over Christmas parades and Easter egg rolls is a stake through the heart of neighborliness, comity, and goodwill toward man. That’s not good for anyone, whatever your religious belief or disbelief.

If, as the Chamber of Commerce maintains, a Christmas parade is divisive because of its glorification of Santa and Christmas trees and snowmen, I’m not sure how a “Holiday” parade that glorifies Santa and Christmas trees and snowmen is any less offensive. It also seems that the chamber runs the risk of offending more people by ditching Christmas than it would by keeping it.

Since the people of Encinitas are going to pay for a holiday-Santa-winter-poinsettia-Christmasy-type parade, then the people of Encinitas, acting through their representatives on the City Council, should decide what to call it —- not the unelected members of the Chamber of Commerce. As an Encinitas resident myself, I think Christmas says it all.

Written by Joe Scheffo, North County Times

Leave a Reply