City defends ‘Holiday Parade’

Published 11:57 pm Friday, December 3, 2010

The city has found itself defending the name of today’s “Holiday Parade” after at least one citizen wrote a strongly worded email to City Council protesting the moniker.

In a letter to the citizen, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said the city is “proud of its diversity” and is attempting to schedule winter activities where every citizen “feels welcomed to participate.”

“It is outrageous that in the name of ‘political correctness’ you have decided to re-name our Christmas parade,” wrote Betsie Leahy. “Get a grip. Keep Christ in Christmas.”

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In a reply nearly two pages long, Roberts noted the annual December parade has been called a Holiday Parade since at least 2003, when the event was sponsored by the Downtown Business Association. Some themes since that time may have mentioned Christmas, he added.

Roberts also outlined other holiday-themed events the city is sponsoring, including the Grand Illumination, students painting downtown business windows, the movie “Fred Claus” coming to Bennett’s Creek Park, a gingerbread contest and family storytime at the North Suffolk Library and Santa calling local children to remind them to be on their best behavior.

Roberts used the word “holiday” 13 times in the letter, including references to the parade. “Christmas” was used only twice, in the name of the popular poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” a feature of the library event, and to tell Leahy that some of the parade themes throughout the years “may or may not have mentioned Christmas directly.”

The theme for this year’s parade is “A Musical Holiday.”

In a letter to the editor of the Suffolk News-Herald, resident Greg Cowles also expressed concern about the name of the parade.

“For the first time since becoming a Suffolk resident in 2003, I will not be attending or participating in the annual parade that is now called the Holiday Parade,” he wrote.

In his own letter, Roberts told Leahy residents of all religions can participate in the city’s activities, no matter what they’re called.

“The sense of community [at the Grand Illumination] was evident as residents of all religions gathered to kick-off the start of the holiday season,” he wrote.

At the close of the letter, Roberts added, “Of course, there are countless opportunities sponsored by churches and religious groups across our city where citizens are invited to celebrate the season in whichever manner or fashion they desire as guided by their beliefs, as I am sure you will.”

The parade begins at 10 a.m. today and will march from Broad Street up West Washington Street and turn onto Main Street. It ends at Finney Avenue.