(Editor’s note: Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin has announced that after hearing from the public and consulting with religious leaders of all faiths she has decided to return the word ‘Christmas’ to the Charleston Christmas Parade. Props to the Mayor for correcting a mistake) HK
(Editor’s note #2: The original version of this commentary included an anecdote about a non-Christian friend who prospered during the Christmas shopping season. After several complaints, I have removed that portion of the commentary.) HK
(Earlier version of commentary)
The city of Charleston has decided to change the name of the annual Christmas Parade to the Charleston Winter Parade. City spokesperson Mackenzie Spencer said, “Charleston is a welcoming and inclusive city. Charleston Winter Parade is a more inclusive name for the parade.”
The float rules and guidelines say, “No advocating, opposing or depicting of any political, religious figures or social issues. Any unit doing so may be removed from the parade line and not allowed to participate.”
Where to begin?
First—and this must come as a shock to the leaders of the state’s capital city—Christmas is, in fact, a holiday. The employee handbook for the city recognizes December 25 as “Christmas” and a paid day off. West Virginia and the federal government do the same, acknowledging that the day is “Christmas.”
Employees don’t have the day off to celebrate the start of winter or Frosty the Snowman’s birthday, but people of all religions (or no religion at all) who work for Charleston, the state of West Virginia or the federal government get a paid day off for Christmas.
Second, was this really a problem? Was city hall deluged with taxpaying citizens who viewed the Christmas parade as not inclusive? This decision strikes me as a solution—and I use that term loosely—looking for a problem. It has created a division where none existed.
Third, Christmas parades, including the one in Charleston, are largely secular. There are bands, floats, children and Santa Claus usually brings up the rear. People who don’t celebrate Christmas may still enjoy the parade and a festive atmosphere without feeling left out.
Fourth, Christmas parades are traditional. Historically, they marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. However, with the marketing of Christmas beginning earlier and earlier, they are more of a reminder to shoppers that time is running out!
I don’t put Charleston’s decision in the inflammatory category of “The War on Christmas.” No, this is just a poorly thought out policy change that will likely produce a powerful backlash. Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, who proved during her campaign last year that she is dedicated and hard-working, will get tagged as the Grinch who took Christmas out of the parade.
Luckily, there are 75 more shopping days until Christmas and 63 more days until the “Charleston Winter Parade.” That means there is still plenty of time to shop for presents and to put “Christmas” back in the parade.
Until then, “Merry Wintertime.”