"To see a creche or a manger scene right out in public might offend someone who's not Christian," said City Council President Richard Vanderhaven. "But if you think of it as sort of a holiday petting zoo, it's fun for everybody."Vanderhaven points out that in order to be fair to all religions, under the ordinance mangers will join the former Christmas tree, now a "holiday tree," and other objects, like a dreidel (now a "holiday top") a menorah (now a "holiday candleholder") and a Kwanzaa kinara (also a "holiday candleholder").
"Referring to them as holiday candleholders doesn't favor a particular religion," pointed out Vanderhaven. "Anybody, no matter what his or her religion, can appreciate a candle holder that you happen to put out during the holiday season. Technically, you could roast chestnuts over it. You know, one at a time."
Asked how people might tell the difference between a menorah and a kinara if they're both now referred to the same way, he answered, "The kinara's the one being lit by a black guy.
"Wait, sorry, African American," he added quickly.
The phenomenon is far from limited to Cambridge, though. In nearby Saugus, an annual trip by Santa Claus to area schools was almost cancelled when the superintendent determined that the visit could violate state law. It was only reinstated when Santa agreed to be referred to as an "overweight holiday visitor" and wear street clothes instead of his traditional red suit.
"It's unfortunate, but we simply can't allow these things in school the way we used to," said Superintendent of Schools Dick Langhorn. "What if Santa came in here with little canisters of holy water trying to baptize the Jewish kids? We could get sued."