In the wake of a new city council review of the city’s festive decorations, many Victorians online have taken to decrying Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt as the city councillor who stole Christmas.
Isitt initiated the review, stating that he is looking to reduce the amount of Christmas decor in favor of more inclusive displays. While he takes no issue with the lights and snowflakes that line Victoria’s streets, Isitt is looking to “roll back” Christmas trees, poinsettias, and other decorations that he feels are symbolically non-secular.
In particular, he noted that the giant sequoia in Centennial Square, which is decorated by the Downtown Victoria Business Association, should not be turned into a Christmas tree for the sake of inclusivity.
Although this review was supported by the city council, some of Isitt’s fellow council members feel that the current downtown displays do more good than harm.
Lights can be a culturally welcoming symbol for immigrants and other individuals who may not be used to the display, Councillor Sharmarke Dubow, who is Muslim, told the Times Colonist.
The municipality has made an effort to reduce overt religious symbolism in decorations over recent years, pointed out Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe. Now, she feels they are more indicative of a celebration for winter.
However, Isitt said, “I think there are still many elements of Christian symbolism that are paid for with taxpayer dollars and, for me, that doesn’t reflect a clear division between church and state.”
In addition to Victoria’s $64,000 Seasonal Animation Program, which installs city-wide seasonal banners, the city partners with the Downtown Victoria Business Association on festive decor for Christmas and Chinese New Year.
Since this review was announced, a Change.org petition entitled “Hands off Christmas!” has gathered several dozen signatures. Online, Victoria residents have largely expressed both discontent with the review and support for the city’s current light display.
“You don’t have to be Christian to enjoy lights and decorations,” Murray MacMurchy wrote on a local Facebook group. “Poinsettias are not a Christian symbol.”
“This is madness … Why can’t they just add other beliefs and traditions rather then [sic] to strip away the existing ones?” said Antón James. “I think the majority of all people enjoy all festive times of all cultures.”
Not everyone has joined the uproar, however. Some Victorians feel this review will not be as impactful as hype suggests.
“There is no war on Christmas,” commented Kevin Richard Nex. “This story comes up every year, just manufactured outrage to get the excitable excited.”