Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Let's call it the German 'Holiday' Village

Crews remove the word "Christmas" from the sign at Dilworth Plaza. (VANCE LEHMKUHL / Staff)
Crews remove the word "Christmas" from the sign at Dilworth Plaza. (VANCE LEHMKUHL / Staff)
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It's that season again, which means that for the third year in a row, the German Christmas Village has set up a cozy collection of wooden booths and tree vendors in Dilworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall.

But a few shoppers noticed something amiss yesterday on the tall metal archways signaling the entrances to the shops. The archways had just one word on top - "Village."

Sounds festive, eh?

It turns out that the letters spelling "Christmas" were removed yesterday afternoon from the archways on the north and west sides of the plaza, at the request of Managing Director Richard Negrin. They will be replaced with the word "Holiday."

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    City spokesman Mark McDonald said Negrin asked for the change after the city received complaints from workers and residents.

    "As a city of great diversity, one shouldn't be surprised that there's a difference of views when it comes to symbols and words," McDonald said.

    Thomas Bauer, of the German American Marketing Inc., which runs the Village, said he was happy to change the sign. He said the brochures and the posters would keep the Christmas Village title.

    "People have to go to public buildings. They shouldn't feel offended," Bauer said, stressing that the name was not intended to upset anyone. "It's been very successful the last two years. People like the name. We built it like a German Christmas market. We did not think a lot about it."

    McDonald said the city, which is billed as a "partner" to the event, didn't have a problem with the word "Christmas" remaining on posters and fliers. He also said the city is working on an official policy to deal with such structures set up on city property.

    With Nat King Cole music blasting through loudspeakers, and evergreen trees at every turn, the village is clearly focused on Dec. 25. But the ornaments and decorations for sale are largely of the secular variety, like elves, Santas and colored balls.

    Still, there are some religious items offered. The enclosed Kathe Wohlfahrt tent features a beautiful collection of traditional German pyramids - tiered wooden decorations with candles on the bottom and spinning windmills on top. Many of these pyramids, which cost from $93 to $258, feature nativity scenes with the baby Jesus in the center.

    luceyc@phillynews.com 215-854-4172
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