Christmas Lights Go Out in Europe
The lights are going out all over Europe. The Christmas tree lights, that is. Not all of them all at once, mind you, but one at a time – one here, one there, one Christmas season after another.
Just the other day, for example, came the news about a co-op apartment building in Kokkedal, Denmark.
Not long ago, the co-op, which has a considerable number of Muslim residents, spent 60,000 kroner (about $10,000) to celebrate the holiday of Eid. Three days afterwards, however, when the co-op board, consisting of five Muslims and four unbelievers, got together to decide whether to spend approximately 5000 kroner on a Christmas tree – a tradition in the building – they voted the proposition down.
Although a "private donor” later stepped in to pay for a tree, the news of the co-op board’s decision had meantime made the national news, drawing two journalists from Denmark’s TV2 who, after making their way to Kokkedal last weekend to investigate the story, found themselves under attack by a couple of dozen masked individuals who threw bricks and cobblestones at their van and called them "neo-Nazis.”
The tidings from Kokkedal were unpleasant enough. But then came the news that the traditional Christmas tree in the Grote Markt (Market Square) in Brussels has now also become a thing of the past. In interviews with the media, Brussels councilwoman Bianca Debaets expressed her suspicions that municipal authorities had put the kibosh on the tree for religious reasons. (Brussels, it should be noted, is at present 25% Muslim. And climbing.)
At first, Brussels city officials vehemently denied that the decision to banish the Christmas tree in the Grote Markt had any religious basis. Perish the thought! Instead, they sought to convey the message that Christmas trees are old-fashioned – yesterday’s news. And they made a strenuous effort to stir up public excitement over the fact that, instead of a tiresome old traditional tree, the Grote Markt will be the site of a cool, hip, up-to-date "light sculpture” that will suggest the shape of a tree, but that, instead of branches and needles and such, will be composed of strobe lights and other high-tech electronic paraphernalia.
It will, in short, be a trendy, twenty-first-century celebration of – well, nothing in particular, exactly. Certainly not Christmas. One thing that was made perfectly clear to the Belgian populace was that this newfangled installation would not allude in any way, shape, or form to the Christian holiday, but would instead be characterized as a "winter” decoration. Indeed, the Brussels city government took the trouble to issue a directive ordering that accounts of the new downtown "sculpture” should not include any reference to Christmas.
One news report described this postmodernist artifact as follows: "The electronic sculpture will stand 25 meters (82 feet) tall and consists of a set of television screens.” Another noted: "During the daytime you can climb to the top of the tree where you will be able to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.” And: "As soon as it becomes dark the tree turns into a spectacle of light and sound. Every ten minutes an amazing show will unfold.” (continue reading...)