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City Defends Holiday - not Christmas - Village

Hoping to ease one headache, City Managing Director Rich Negrin recently shared with the private organizer of City Hall's "Christmas Village" that some city workers and residents were offended by the giant "Christmas Village" sign erected on Dilworth Plaza's northeast corner.

After all, there are also Jewish and Muslim vendors among the wooden booths that make up the Philadelphia replica of the traditional German Christmas Village, which officially opened Nov. 25.

There was also a story that reached Negrin about a little Jewish girl walking with her father who asked, Negrin said, "Dad, don't we get a village?"

The upshot is the organizer, Thomas Bauer, agreed to remove the word "Christmas" and replace it with "Holiday."

The H-O-L-I-D-A-Y letters haven't yet been delivered to the village. Banners saying "Christmas Village" still hang in the archways of City Hall, and the village website still reads "Christmas Village."

But word of the sign change left Negrin this morning with a new headache as new complaints reached the mayor's office, and stories about the disappearance of the word "Christmas" appeared on the Drudge Report, a web site that aggregates news items from around the country.

"This is not about taking Christmas out of the holiday. It's about being more inclusive," Negrin told reporters outside the mayor's office this afternoon. "I expected some complaints. Sometimes you have to make tough choices."

He added that the sign's removal was not a move in the name of political correctness, but rather one of "common sense."

Separately, Negrin confirmed that a decision had been made to move a manger to LOVE Park from in front of the Municipal Services Building, where it was displayed last year. But that move stems from a public safety concern, not a religious one, related to the erection of free-standing objects on the plaza of MSB, he said.

The lighting of the City Hall Christmas Tree will go on as planned tomorrow at 5 p.m., Negrin said, because the tree is "not a discreet religious symbol. It's a pagan symbol." Tomorrow evening is the first night of Hanukkah.

Said Negrin, "I'm willing to receive all complaints."

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