During Christmastime, oops, the holiday season, or, um, whatever, I find it interesting to observe the institutional gyrations as businesses, schools, and governments deal with the challenge of Christmas. Traditionally, of course, “Merry Christmas” prevailed, along with Christmas trees and even nativity scenes. But, in recent years, concerns about the feelings of non-Christian folk have led to the masking or squelching of Christmas celebrations in favor of neutered “holiday happenings.” In my children’s elementary school, for example, we had a “holiday concert” rather than a “Christmas concert.” The “seasonal songs” never mentioned anything remotely related to the birth of Jesus.
A couple of recent news stories caught my eye, bringing this years holiday bowl score to a tie.
Happy Holidays – 1
Happy Holidays has prevailed in Rhode Island, at least for now. Governor Lincoln Chafee insists that the 17-foot tall spruce tree to be erected in the State House is a “holiday tree,” not a “Christmas tree.” Thus, Chafee has thumbed his nose, not only at Christmas, but also at the Rhode Island House of Representatives that passed a symbolic resolution in January that the tree be called a “Christmas tree.” Chafee is not the first governor of Rhode Island to refer to the tree, which looks a whole lot like a Christmas tree, in religiously-neutral language.
Merry Christmas – 2
Less than a mile away, there will be a “Christmas tree” on display at the City Hall of Providence, Rhode Island. It will be 35-feet tall, or more than double the size of the nearby “holiday tree” at the State House. And it will be, unquestionably, known as a “Christmas tree.”
Last month, the Canadian government decreed that there were to be no Christmas decorations on display in the Service Canada offices. (Service Canada is a government program that helps Canadians gain access to government services.) Employees “were directed not to display any festive furnishings in places that the public would see or have access to.” But, lo and behold, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley reversed the earlier directive. According to her spokesperson, “Minister Finley has asked Service Canada to send a revised directive to employees that they can celebrate Christmas or the holidays as they please. This includes decorations in Service Canada offices across Canada.”
Current score: Merry Christmas 2 – Happy Holidays 1. But the game isn’t over yet.