By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
For the past several years, the Hanukkah/Christmas edition of Athens Now often has taken time to remind people that our freedom to celebrate the holiday season in the public square is under attack. The point is not to sully the season any further than has already occurred with Black Friday starting in July and Jesus nowhere to be found on TV. It is to lovingly sound an alarm while we wish complete strangers “Merry Christmas” in stores and on the streets.
Essentially, as nuts as it sounds, parts of our badly divided culture feel it is somehow inappropriate to show an angel whose only “crime” is to announce “Peace on Earth, toward men of goodwill” near a publically-owned building. Thankfully, in our town we don’t have that problem, as proven by the Christmas parade of two weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean that we never could. I came up with the term “Crèche Craziness” to describe an irrational fear of spying a Nativity scene in plain view of all.
The word “crèche”comes from the French language and technically means “manger.” A crèche vivant is where live actors, and perhaps animals, are present. The other term with which we are more familiar in the 21st century is Nativity. All of it means a three-dimensional representation of Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus in a manger, and depending on how elaborate, shepherds, wise men, animals, angels, and a star. And, in case you are worried, if someone decided to put one on the Courthouse lawn, it would not mean that the First Amendment had been cut out of the Constitution.
I was talking with my trusty copy editor, Yvonne Dempsey, about my chosen topic for this Publisher’s Point, and she chuckled as she told me that when she was a kid, a major department store in her town that happened to be Jewish always had one large display window dedicated to the Nativity, and I replied that it was the same in my hometown of Seattle. No Christmas decorations went up until the day after Thanksgiving, and every downtown department store had a Nativity scene. Times have sadly changed, but times might be rolling political correctness out to sea and the will of the people back to shore. Except for revisionists, everyone knows the people of this great country never had a problem with the meaning of Christmas until the very end of the 20th century.
I am thinking tongue-in-cheek of making 2019 the first year that Athens Now gives out an annual “Crèche Craziness Award.” This year’s inaugural winner would be the mayor of Rehoboth Beach, a small town in Delaware. Mayor Paul Kuhn told townsfolk in general and the Knights of Columbus specifically (by way of ordinance) that after 80 years, they could no longer put a Nativity scene on the circle in the middle of town.
I am pleased to announce that the citizens of Rehoboth Beach are just not having it. The first act-of-pushback was made by a couple who created a rolling Nativity scene and placed it in the flatbed of their pickup. They have been rolling all over town, careful to be mindful of parking ordinances and hours allowed to park, and have not broken the law. Emboldened by Mike and Pam Pichola’s decision to give a new meaning to, “Let’s roll,” ten shopkeepers near the circle, who had previously just made winter scenes in their storefronts put up their own Nativity scenes. Some even put the scenes outside their shops, careful to not obstruct traffic or violate the ordinances that apply to sidewalks. In addition to the actions of the Picholas and the shopkeepers, it seems that the whole town has gotten involved. Restaurants, hotels, cafes, hair salons and several people who have historical homes in full few of the “sanitized” City Circle have put crèches outside their establishments or in their driveways. The mayor was apparently surprised, “They got kind of upset about the fact that we weren’t allowing it there,” Mayor Paul Kuhns told news station WMDT in Salisbury, Maryland.
He then added, “But the city policy is not to have religious displays on public property or city property. We didn’t want to be exclusive.” Hmmmm-, how is that working out for ya, Mr. Mayor? I guess we’ll know by your next election.
Meanwhile,” back at the ranch” and from our crew to you, a Happy Hanukkah, a most Merry Christmas, and a New Year full of hope and peace to all of goodwill in this part of Earth known as Athens!