And so, after four days of squabbling, the sign over City Hall's clutch of seasonal shops blinked on Thursday evening, uncensored.

"Christmas Village" it read once again, with the provocative - and briefly erased - word Christmas restored in large, golden lights.

Mayor Nutter's decision Wednesday to reverse other city officials, who had changed the name of the shops to Holiday Village, has not entirely calmed the waters.

"People feel very strongly" about allowing religious names and images on public property, said Sarah Mullen, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Nationwide, the legal issues have been largely resolved: Government may not use public property to promote one religion over others. However, "the controversy has not cooled down," Mullen said. The squabble over Philadelphia's Christmas Village "may not be a legal matter, but it is cultural."

The temporary collection of 50 hutlike gift shops on the western concourse of City Hall is a "holiday fair," according to Nutter, and "not a religious activity."

But most separation-of-church-and-state activists such as Mullen and the ACLU say Nutter should have been more respectful of non-Christians and the nonreligious and stuck to a secular word such as holiday.

"We think the government should try to be as inclusive as possible," Mullen said.

Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, applauded the return of the word Christmas.

Changing the name to Holiday Village "defied common sense," she said. "Christmas has a pure, rich meaning to it. It means the birth of Christ. If you change it to holiday, you take away its meaning."

The Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Center City, said he had qualms about using Christmas in the name of a frankly commercial enterprise on public property.

"I take the view that we live in a pluralistic society," he said Thursday. "We in the majority can sometimes fail to see the impact on the numerical minority of the things we do. One day Christians could be in the numerical minority. I wonder how we would feel if we were made to say prayers in school to that which we did not believe to be God."

He added: "But what's funny to me is that very little of this [controversy] has anything to do with Christmas. So to me, as a Christian pastor, the idea of a Christmas Village simply reinforces the worst aspects of the overcommercialism of the holiday."

Martha Knox, head of the Humanist Society of Greater Philadelphia, which rejects religious beliefs as a basis for ethical behavior, said most of her organization's 100 members had no quarrel with the use of religious terms and icons on public property "as long as government is not promoting one religion over another."

If a county courthouse or firehouse permits a Christmas manger, Knox said, it should also allow a Hanukkah menorah and other imagery.

Although her views are not necessarily those of the Humanist Society, Knox said, "the humanist stance is pretty much: 'We're fine long as there is equal opportunity.' "

Margaret Downey of West Chester, president of the staunchly atheistic Freethought Society, takes a stricter view. "I was elated when the village's name was changed to Holiday," Downey said. "I felt that somebody was recognizing the diversity of the community, which demanded a more inclusive title.

"Now that it's changed back, I think it exemplifies a mind-set that says majority rules. I believe there was too much pressure from the religious community on Mayor Nutter to recognize a specific belief - that of Christianity."

Still, sensitivity to diversity is the watchword at some area institutions. Penn Charter School in East Falls does not have a Christmas concert or even a holiday concert this time of year. It has a "winter concert."

And while Macy's department store in Center City - originally Wanamakers - still calls the popular children's show it inherited its Christmas Light Show, Elina Kazan, Macy's vice president for marketing, said the chain was careful not to play the religious card.

"Our intention is to make every customer feel welcomed and appreciated, whether they celebrate Christmas or other holidays," she said.

Too much political correctness can rankle, however. Although the Fairmount Park house tour that began in 1972 as a Christmas tour became a holiday tour about 10 years ago, guide director Joyce McNeely said she missed the original name.

"It should be a joyous time of year to acknowledge one another's holidays," she said. I have no problem wishing people Happy Hanukkah."