"Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza," Jim Law, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, said in a statement.
Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the office, said the city does not want to appear to endorse one religion over another. While acknowledging that there is a nativity scene on the plaza, Gatziolis said there also will be representations of other faiths, including a Jewish menorah, all put up by private groups.
"We’ve worked hard to make sure there is a fair representation of all those faiths celebrating something special," said Gatziolis, who stressed the city did not order organizers not to allow the studio to be a sponsor. "If you add more for one faith over the others, it does tip the scale to that faith."
I would love to say that the ridiculous sensitivity extends only to Chicago city officials, but, unfortunately the event’s organizers have gotten into the act. Here’s their explanation of the "Christkindlsmarket":
Since 1999 Christkindlmarket’s Grand Opening is a special highlight during the celebration of the City of Chicago Annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony which always takes place on the First Friday after Thanksgiving Day. The Christkindl, the Christmas Fairy, is a cherished highlight during the Holiday Tree Lighting. The Christmas Fairy proclaims the opening of Christkindlmarket Chicago. The Christkindl is a holiday icon of the Christkindlesmarkt Nuremberg, Germany, Chicago’s sister market.
The Christmas Fairy???? Das Christkindl, as any German speaker knows, is the Christchild. Unfortunately, even the folks in Nurnberg have succumbed to a kind of political correctness.
Here’s the English version of their description of the "Christmas Angel," which is at least an improvement over the "Fairy." By contrast, the folks in Kitchener, Ontario get it right. Here, for those who are still reading, is the Wikipedia entry.
In any event, to discourage any mention of the Nativity in a festival that commemorates that very event (as anyone in attendance, at least those who don’t get all their information from marketers, would know) is the height of ridiculousness.
My apologies for this rant, since this hits close to my old Austrian home. (My father still has the incriminating tapes of me, at age two, speaking in German about what "das Christkind" brought me.)
Update: Here’s the latest Chicago Tribune article, which reflects a change in the city’s story regarding its objection:
Stung by criticism that the film’s maker was dropped as a sponsor to ensure the event appealed to all faiths, city officials said Tuesday they objected to "The Nativity Story" because it was too commercial.
"This particular incident is about a movie studio aggressively marketing a movie and trying to sell tickets to that movie," said Veronica Resa, spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.
They’ve backtracked into aesthetics, in other words, regarding something about which I doubt there was a constitutional or church/state issue to begin with. Consider, in this connection, this fact: the Christkindlmarket is put on by a private organization. Consider another fact: I’d bet that Daley Plaza would be considered a "public forum." Consider yet another fact: the market already offers a mix of secular and (other) religious symbols (Jewish and Muslim).
The Corner’s Kathryn Jean Lopez
is right: this is an opportunity for a politician closely associated with Chicago to step up to the plate about the city’s ridiculousness. If it isn’t Obama, then perhaps HRC ought to beat him to the punch, since she grew up in the suburbs.