Mayor: 'Christmas Village' is back

PHILADELPHIA - December 1, 2010

The sign referencing a collection of shops set up at Dilworth Plaza known as 'Christmas Village in Philadelphia' has been the subject of controversy over the last few days.

Earlier this week, the word 'Christmas' was removed from the sign and the word 'Holiday' was said to replace it. On Tuesday night, a decision was made to remove the sign entirely.

Sign or no sign, 'Christmas' or 'Holiday', officials said the shops would still be called "Christmas Village."

On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Archdiocese condemned the city's decision to remove the word Christmas from the sign.

In a strongly worded statement, the Archdiocese said it was "disappointed" in the decision to remove the sign from the "Christmas Village."

German American Marketing, Inc., which runs the village, says the word 'Christmas' was removed from the archways at the request of the city after they received numerous complaints.

Philadelphia Managing Director Richard Negrin told Action News that the change was made "to be more inclusive."

However, in the statement, the Archdiocese said "If we are to be a truly diverse and inclusive community, we must certainly be respectful of all of the various celebrations that occur during this time of year. Christmas deserves its rightful place among those.  If we are truly to use common sense, we should understand that Christmas villages and trees are just that and not vague symbols of some nebulous winter "holiday" devoid of meaning. "

The statement goes on to say "This decision is a stark example of the secularization that is obscuring the true meaning of the Christmas season. It is a time when we Christians rejoice in the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and rekindle within our hearts a renewed spirit of charity, forbearance, and benevolence toward our fellow human beings. As it stands, the decision in question falls far short of capturing that essence."

The Archdiocese concludes by saying "The heritage of the City of Philadelphia is one that celebrates and respects freedom of religious expression. It is indeed disappointing to see this basic freedom undermined in America's cradle of religious liberty. After all, there wouldn't be a village if it weren't Christmas!"

German American Marketing says in a press release, "We at German American Marketing, Inc. never intended to exclude anyone. The whole concept of Christmas markets in Germany is about joy, fun and entertainment and not a place for religious conflicts."

However, as of Wednesday night, the sign will return and so with it the words "Christmas Village."

Mayor Nutter said he spoke with Thomas Bauer, the owner of the "Christmas Village," and asked him to reconsider the removal of the sign.

"I'm pleased to let you know, 'Christmas Village' is back. The sign will be back [Thursday]," Nutter said.

The mayor said Bauer was supportive of the request to change the sign back. Mayor Nutter went on to say from the start, the city told Bauer only of the complaints they were receiving and the city never asked for the removal of the word Christmas.

But while this controversy may be over, another mystery remains unsolved. What will the tree be called? Christmas? Holiday?

"I believe it's called the city's tree lighting," the mayor said referrring to Thursday's lighting ceremony.

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