The True Meaning Of Christmas

Finnegan on traditional values

In today's world, we find some people hesitate to wish one and all a Merry Christmas! The secular progressives prefer happy holidays. Sadly silence and intimidation from others have had its effect. Children's Christmas parties have been canceled and replaced by holiday or winter break parties. Yesterdays beautiful Christmas tree, if part of any celebration at all, now magically becomes the "great tree," or the holiday tree.

No red/green napkins allowed, as they can remind the kids of the real reason for the season. Christmas parades renamed "The festival of lights parade" and the generic holiday parade. Department and specialty stores happy to take our Christmas dollars, while they refuse to wish you a Merry Christmas. The good news is that without a doubt this is beginning to change. The true meaning of December 25th is once again becoming alive and well.

Activists for keeping Christ in Christmas have begun to speak out, often with their wallets, by avoiding the retailers who do not acknowledge the reason for the season. That being the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child as documented in history, some 2000 years ago.

I have been blessed since 1995 to be a Co-Owner and Co-Chairman of the Chicago Nativity Scene. During Christmas 2010, we will celebrate the 25th year of its presence at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. Daley Plaza is known as a free speech venue, and is the epicenter of pedestrian traffic in the entire area. The beautiful life size figures remain up during the entire month of December. The telephone calls and responses from those who view it are some of the most heartwarming I have ever received.


In 1985, for as long as anyone could remember, the City of Chicago had always erected a Nativity Scene in the lobby of City Hall outside of the office of Mayor Richard J Daley. The display was a warm and welcome sign to anyone entering City Hall, that the Christmas season had arrived, while recognizing respect for the Christian heritage of the United States and the people of Chicago.

In 1983, after the death of Mayor Daley, (1976) Harold Washington became Mayor. One of his appointments was an attorney named Judson Minor to the head of the city's legal department. In a letter dated October 22, 1985, the Midwest Legal Director for the American Jewish Congress requested the City of Chicago not allow the erection of the Nativity Scene in the lobby of City Hall. The AJC sued the City over the issue and lost. Upon appeal, the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision in a 2-1 opinion written by Judge Flaum on August 18th, 1987. The head of the city's legal department, Mr Minor, said the City of Chicago would not appeal.

When news broke that City Hall was ending the tradition of having a Nativity Scene in the lobby at
Christmas, a group of Chicagoans went to speak with Judson Minor, who after a long wait, admitted them to his office, only to tell them "that besides violating the principle of separation of church and state, it was time to get rid of that thing."

The group decided if the City of Chicago government was going to evict the Christian holiday display from City Hall, they would erect their own across the street in the Daley Center Plaza, public property long used as a venue for free speech. They applied for a permit under the name of The Chicago Nativity Scene, and received this permit from the Public Building Commission to place a Nativity Scene in the Plaza. It was erected, as it continues today, by a group of volunteers.

In a move that shocked the world, the PBC yielding to pressure from the American Jewish Congress, in spite of having had a Menorah in place for the past eight years, reversed itself, and ordered county employees to demolish the Nativity Scene. In a fortuitous occurrence, this was happening just in time for TV news crews to film the entire episode. Pictures of government employees demolishing the set while wrestling with Nativity
Scene volunteers made prime time news across the world. Angry calls of protest came from as far away as Germany would could not believe this could happen in America.

In case number 87 C 10746, Grutzmacher v. Public Building Commission, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, the late Senior Federal District Judge James B. Parsons ruled on December 4th, 1989 that the PBC was enjoined from discriminating against all forms of religious expression, and ordered the PBC to permit the Chicago Nativity Scene Committee to erect a Nativity Scene display during the Christmas season. This expensive lawsuit was won against opposition from the American Jewish Congress, the ACLU, American Atheists, and circulators of a petition opposing the NS.

In 1996 the original owner of the Nativity Scene, William Grutzmacher, retired and moved form the Chicago area. Before leaving, he contacted two friends, Terry Hodges and me, about the continuation of what had become a Christmas tradition in the display of one of the largest Nativity Scenes in the world. Both felt blessed in agreeing. The wonderful tradition of keeping Christ in Christmas continues to this day as shown by the large crowd of almost 200 people who welcomed the 2009 opening of the Christmas season again in Daley Plaza.

The Nativity Scene Committee is pledged to continue to erect this display every Christmas with the important help of a group of thirty volunteer tradesmen who have erected and taken down this special scene for over 25 years. They are proud to be referred to as The "God Squad." Pictures of The God Squad, along with the Chicago Nativity Scene itself, are shown at the end of this posting.

Special copies of this history of the CNS, with a front page picture of same, as well as the actual Federal Court decision by Judge Parsons protecting our freedom of religious speech under the first and fourteenth amendments, are available for the asking.

As far as our God given and constitutional approved rights to keep Christ in Christmas, with efforts such as the Nativity Scene, the saying by Edmund Burke, pretty much says it all. "All that is necessary for evil to succeed, is for good people to stay silent and do nothing." In Chicago, and in a growing number of cities across America, people are standing up and refusing to let this happen. That is good.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and yes a happy holiday season to those who do not believe in God, just don't become the Grinch who stole Christmas, to the millions who do.

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