There are many lessons, ethical and otherwise, to be learned from Charleston, West Virginia’s short-lived “Winter Parade.” I originally missed the story, which apparently took place over three days in October. Fox News, which has led the “War on Christmas” narratives since the days of Bill O’Reilly, covered it.
Even before Halloween, Charleston’s new mayor (and its first female occupant of the office) Amy Goodwin sent out a Facebook announcement that “The Charleston Winter Parade will begin at the corner of the Kanawha Boulevard and Capitol Street.” For years, the city has had an old-fashioned “Christmas Parade” (you know, like they show in “A Christmas Story” ?) with Christmas-themed floats, marching bands, fire trucks, Shriners in their tiny cars and Santa Claus. Suddenly it was officially a Druid-sounding “Winter Parade” because Mayor Goodwin wanted to signal that her city embraced all faiths and cultures. “I wanted to show that Charleston is a welcoming and inclusive city,” she said.
A large number of Charleston residents didn’t welcome her unilateral decision at all. “The new mayor needs to be voted out if she does away with the Christmas parade,” read an early comment on ther Facebook post. “Christmas is all about Christ, not some winter parade.” Columnists and radio shows weighed in, almost unanimously condemning her decision. The largely white and Christian city of 48,000 hadn’t exactly been racked with controversy over the Christmas parade, but now renaming the parade felt to many like a rejection of Christianity and tradition.
The New York Times quoted the president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in Charleston, Steve Roberts: “The community reaction was a collective groan, It’s a cute little parade with cute little kids and can’t we just have a Christmas parade?”
The change threatened to start a chain reaction. The Times story says that Brandon Willard, a junior high band teacher, began to worry about his musical selection for his student band scheduled to march in the parade: Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”It’s a secular Christmas tune of long-standing (they always played it at my High School Christmas assembly), but Willard became worried that he would be accused of having the band take side. Maybe parents would pull their children from the parade in protest, maybe even preventing the band from having enough musicians to march. It would be a big disappointment to the students, who march every year in Santa hats and with decorated instruments, and this year, with new light-up necklaces he had ordered. The parade also counted toward their grade. Continue reading