E-pistle December 3

In Defense of the No-Name Village

You’ve probably heard or read the stories about the politically correct eggnog all over the face of the city of Philadelphia and Mayor Nutter himself.

A couple of years ago a group of entrepreneurs got together and asked the city if they might use Dilworth Square near City Hall for a “Christmas Village” loosely modeled on the market days leading up to Christmas in Medieval Germany. Seemed like a win-win. The city got to collect permit fees for the use of square and sales tax on the trinkets sold by the vendors who rented space in the village. The citizens had one more place to buy Christmas trinkets and, well, it felt like Christmastime in the city.

Posters were posted, commercials aired and an archway entrance with the words “Christmas Village” erected at Dilworth Square just after Thanksgiving. Everything seems to have gone well for two years and everyone was eager for a third year of the Christmas Village in the city.

But then, as the story goes, this year, just after Thanksgiving, a few people who don’t like Christmas, or maybe they just don’t like Christ, got their feelings hurt about the C-word appearing in a public place and in quick order proved to one and all that you can fight city hall. The mayor or one of his men sent a crew from the public works department to remove the offending word from the archway entrance to Dilworth Square and replace it with the ubiquitous “holiday.”  Demonstrating that the principle of concern for a few hurt feelings was more important than money from permit fees and sales taxes, the city at first held the moral high ground. But not for long.

The guys from public works had just taken “Christmas” down and hadn’t even put “Holiday” up when talk radio, cable news and newspaper columnists got a hold of the story. The best of them pointed out that the supposed moral high ground was a swamp of inclusivity gone wrong. And the worst of them? Well, it’s talk radio and cable news, after all. Anyway, about the same time the mayor had an epiphany, “I took some time to step back from all this and to think about it in its larger context,” Nutter said during an interview in his office. “Christmas Village from my perspective is not a religious activity. . . . It is an outdoor fair.”
The mayor said they’d put the “Christmas” sign back up. But for forty eight hours or so the place had no-name, neither “Christmas” nor “holiday”; just village.
Some people have taken this to be one more skirmish in the battle for Christmas and the keep-Christ-in-Christmas crowd is grateful for the victory. I’m not so sure. In a lot of ways, I would be willing to cede Christmas to the happy holidays partisans, so long as they get the malls and the headaches and the stress and the credit card debt along with it. 

I’d be happy if the outdoor fair at Dilworth Square remained the no-name village.
When Joseph and Mary arrived to find no room at the inn, the tiny village was pretty much a no-name place. It had been a thousand years since anything important had happened in Bethlehem.   For sure, there were no sparkly lights over the entrance to the little town proclaiming it “Christmas Village” – certainly not "Holiday Village." Just a no-name village. And they were a no-name couple. And the baby they laid in the manger that night in the no-name village came to bring joy and life to no-name people like you and like me.
I kind of like the idea of a no-name village.