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A secular “Christmas festival” in Tuscumbia, Alabama, is on the verge of cancellation, although a pro-Christian festival will take place a week later. Local officials have already announced that the public will be able to voice their feelings about the Christmas holiday during a meeting on Monday, which could create the pressure needed to stop it.
For over a decade, Tuscumbia has hosted a Charles Dickens-themed celebration called It’s A Dickens Christmas Y’all. It includes horse-drawn carriages, images of Santa Claus and costumes that will take you back to 19th-century England. Nothing wrong with that. It’s unique, local and fun for the family. But make no mistake: the focus is on a Christian holiday. This year’s event will take place on December 10th.
Last year, Kendall Gilchrist, the owner of Hesperia Mystic Shoppe, decided to throw a festival in nearby Florence, AL that had something to celebrate Not based on Christianity. The first “Festival of Yule” showcased local businesses and had people take a picture with a 7.5-foot Krampus. It was a hit enough that Gilchrist wanted to host it again this year.
However, with so many events being held around the holiday in Florence, this time Gilchrist’s husband approached the city council in nearby Tuscumbia to see if the event could be held there, and there was an enthusiastic response. Gilchrist’s work partner even celebrated receiving the permit with a picture alongside the city leaders:
The Christmas festival is planned for December 3rd. Krampus will return and participants are encouraged to dress up:
Encourage the public to don your cosplay! I want to see Celtics, Vikings, Gods, Goddesses, Wizards and any other mystical beings or things! Let’s go crazy and have fun every first Saturday of [December]!
Just like the Dickens Festival, it aims to be a fun way to promote local businesses while giving people a chance to dress up and have fun.
Recently, however, some citizens complained on Facebook that this was all very satanic, and they criticized the city council for authorizing a “pagan festival.” The city responded with a public statement letting people know their next meeting — a working session — would be on Monday, November 21, and that anyone who wished to voice their opinion would be able to do so. The city of Alabama specifically cited “Kendall Gilchrist’s Festival of Yule” as something for people to complain about.
There is cause for concern. In private posts sent to me by a reader, Alabama residents describe the celebration of Christmas as a “serious concern.” They hope to flood Monday’s meeting with supporters in hopes that the city will revoke the permit Gilchrist issued.
That would of course be illegal. In fact, Section 5-205 of the Tuscumbia City Code states, “No permit shall be denied solely on the basis of the applicant or the content of protected speech to be held at a particular event.” Simply put, there is no reason the permit to revoke, except out of sheer bigotry or ignorance.
Gilchrist doesn’t expect that. After all, city officials had only handled her professionally, and much of the concern stems from ignorance. People mistake their festival for some overt promotion of Satanism. You don’t understand who Krampus was in folklore. Most importantly, Gilchrist told me, this festival is not meant to counteract the Dickensian event.
This is not an antichrist festival. It’s not exclusively pagan. It’s for everyone. It’s not antianything… It pays homage to the origins of Christmas.
Gilchrist added that she really only wants to promote small businesses and this is a great opportunity. She found out about the conflict only after some friends approached her. But she doesn’t think city officials will back down no matter how many people show up on Monday demanding the closure of her festival.
Interestingly, there is a picture online of one of the people complaining about her event, where the woman is wearing a witch hat in October. Why is this woman complaining about Christmas when she had no problem celebrating Halloween? There is no real difference! Both events are about dressing up for fun and no one should worry about underlying religious conflicts.
I hope Gilchrist is right that the backlash after Monday’s meeting isn’t going anywhere. City officials need to realize that complaints from Christians are not sufficient reason to ignore their own laws.
For anyone in the area, however, it wouldn’t hurt if devotees of Christmas were in attendance on Monday night. The City Council working session begins at 5:30 p.m. local time.