Daniel Rubin: Philadelphia puts 'Christmas' back in the village

The city will restore the word "Christmas" to the sign above the German Christmas Village on Dilworth Plaza at City Hall.
The city will restore the word "Christmas" to the sign above the German Christmas Village on Dilworth Plaza at City Hall.
Posted: December 02, 2010

I'd like to thank Mayor Nutter for saving Christmas.

On Wednesday afternoon he announced that the city had overreacted in changing the name of the traditional German Christmas Village on Dilworth Plaza to simply "Holiday Village."

"Christmas Village" it will be once again.

And here I had been ready to bury the decision.

Why not? Pulling the word Christmas off the sign over the village gate seemed ridiculous on Tuesday afternoon when I walked around that dollop of Deutschland outside City Hall, sampling the hot nuts and sizzling bratwursts, and ogling the tiny elves and fat Santas.

After two years of trying, they'd finally built a pretty good Christmas market in Center City. Then they tried to paper over what it really was.

The name change struck me as way too P.C. as well as an offense to those who love language.

I stood in a media scrum Tuesday - news of the name change had made the Drudge Report - as city Managing Director Richard Negrin explained how he'd received complaints from city workers and residents about the market, how unwelcoming it was to those who don't do Christmas.

He told of how a little girl and her father had been walking by the market the other day, and the girl, who was Jewish, had asked, "Don't we get a village?"

Yes, dear, I thought. We call it New York.

So I was a little hostile. I was completely unbothered by a celebration of Christmas at City Hall, and was fully prepared on Thursday night, when the mayor was to light the "Holiday Trees," as they're called in a media release, to see more waffling in action.

Yes, it's the Christmas season. Get over it. I have.

This is a lovely time of year. People are in good moods. Prices have fallen. Most of us get a little time off to overeat and drink and behave badly at office parties, if people can afford office parties any more. Or offices.

'Tis the season when we non-Christians tend to feel a little out of step. But before you cue up Kyle from South Park singing that "it's hard to be a Jew on Christmas," there's nothing wrong with feeling removed.

It doesn't erode my sense of self.

It enhances my sense of self.

There's no offense when someone reflexively asks whether I'm ready for Christmas. I tell the truth - ah, not yet - and move on, usually to eye electronics ads and scout bad movies and good Mandarin beef, my people's tradition.

I get the day off, now that I've got some seniority, and make Christmas playlists for friends' parties while praying for snow.

Even when I had to work, the atmosphere was intimate and festive, and the newspaper provided us with a hot meal.

Unfortunately, the main course was ham, even though our skeleton crew resembled the starting nine for the House of David.

Wandering around the "Village" this week, I was reminded happily of the three years my family and I lived in Germany, and ate our way up and down markets named after Christmas (Weihnachtsmarkt) or the Christ child (Christkindlmarkt). I survived.

I was a guest in the Fatherland and a stranger to its traditions, and I appreciated the distinctive specificity of both, in addition to the serious wursts and spiked wines.

My feeling is have your Christmas market, and I'll have my Hanukkah menorah. I'll roast chestnuts with you by the fire, and you drop by my house when we wolf down some latkes and applesauce. Or sour cream. Just call ahead.

The mayor's announcement didn't address the "Holiday Trees" he's to light on Thursday night on Dilworth Plaza and at LOVE Park. I appreciate the thought, but know that trees aren't part of my history. There's no Hanukkah bush. Never was.

And doesn't have to be.

After illuminating the Christmas trees, maybe the mayor can find a little room around City Hall for a menorah. Next, to mark Kwanzaa, he can light the mishumaa saba.

Then he can have himself a merry little Christmas.


Contact Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917 or drubin@phillynews.com.

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