'Tis the season for decking halls, shopping-'til-dropping and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with the Christmas season -- or the holiday season. Or, well ... OK, for safety, let's just call it the festivities leading up to Dec. 25. What once seemed like a time for celebrating with your fellow man has become a polarizing event that helps one judge their fellow man. At some point a line was drawn in the snow with a big ole candy cane. Do you say "Merry Christmas" or do you say "Happy Holidays?"
It's a trick question these days, so think about it carefully. "Merry Christmas" is a sign that you celebrate the traditional, Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. "Happy Holidays" is -- depending on whom you ask -- either an attempt at inclusivity or a refusal to acknowledge the reason for the season. This may seem simplistic, but to some, it really is that black and white -- or red and green.
This highly-charged issue of semantics landed right under Tulsa's Douglas fir, wrapped in controversy and topped with a hateful red bow. Ah, controversy, the gift that keeps on giving.
Across the country, one of the hallmarks of any community is their Christmas parade. With decorated floats cruising down the streets, the echoes of marching bands and the appearance of Santa Claus as the finale, Christmas parades demonstrate Americana at its finest. Tulsa's Parade of Lights has been filling downtown streets with fully-lit floats, larger-than-life helium balloons, and parade-goers for over 75 years. But in 2010, it made a change. There were still floats, marching bands, and the same parade route: the very same parade Tulsans have known and loved. The change they made seemed miniscule, but by changing one little word, a lot of heated words arose in protest.
To adapt to the changing face of Tulsa's diverse population, organizers exchanged "Christmas" for "holiday" and the parade became the Tulsa Holiday Parade of Lights. From the reaction of some Tulsans -- even some of our politicians -- one would have thought that Santa stood atop Tulsa's tallest building and unleashed a furious rain of urine all over everyone's parade.
There just weren't words, there was action. Some enterprising, highly-offended folks decided that if they couldn't make the Holiday Parade of Lights see the, er, "light," then they would do something about it. Now Tulsa has a righteous "festivus for the rest of us" -- Tulsa's Christmas Parade. You better believe it is packed with all things Christmas -- floats, marching bands, Santa Claus. So, SO, very different from that "other" parade, right? OK, so maybe there are more similarities than differences. So many similarities, in fact, the Tulsa Christmas Parade is being held on the exact same date at the exact same time, two years running. Revenge is a cup of cocoa best served cold.
The first year, choosing the same date seemed to be a deliberate decision. This year, the story has changed a bit.
"It's not intentional," said Melissa Armstrong, one of the Tulsa Christmas Parade's coordinators. "When we submit our applications [to the city], we don't know which days are being picked. We pick a day to have a parade that is not too early or not too close to Christmas."
So choosing the date is left up to the stores of the Tulsa Hills Shopping Center and dependent upon city permits. According to Armstrong, that the dates are the same is nothing more than coincidence.
"There is no animosity or anything," Armstrong said. "A lot of other parades are going on outside of Tulsa on the same day. The only controversy was really just the name change."
Larry Fox, coordinator for the Tulsa's Holiday Parade of Lights doesn't agree, however.
"It's a little disappointing," Fox said. "When they [Christmas Parade coordinators] met with me last year, they promised they wouldn't schedule it for the same time; yet they did anyway. Now they have done it two years in a row."
The Parade of Lights has been on the second Saturday of December for over 75 years, but despite newcomers, the threat of competition doesn't have them shaking in their stockings.
"From a qualitative standpoint, the Parade of Lights really has no competition in the city, or the region for that matter," Fox said.
The Parade of Lights features floats built by professionals out of Dallas, helium balloons brought in from California, our reigning Miss Oklahoma, marching bands from the tri-state area, fireworks. All this is broadcast live on KTUL Channel 8.
"It's a tradition we've kept alive for decades, and it just creates a wonderful atmosphere you can't get anywhere else but downtown Tulsa," Fox said.
So maybe the parades haven't buried the holiday hatchet. But for the happy-go-lucky parade-goer, who just wants their family to experience the magic and festivity of the season, a bigger question still lingers. Do they want their kids to have a "merry Christmas," or a "happy holiday?" It used to be so simple.
Obviously this time of year is special to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons, and all are steeped in long-standing traditions. The key thing to remember is that there is no "right" way to celebrate, which means there is no "wrong" parade to attend. Perhaps that is the reason for the season -- acceptance and love in a spirit of harmony. So just relax, have a cup of eggnog and try to keep it jolly out there.
Tulsa Holiday Parade of Lights
Saturday, December 8 at 6pm
Parade starts at 4th and Elgin; down 4th Street to Denver, past BOK's Winterfest; then back to Elgin
Tulsa Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 8 at 6pm
Tulsa Hills Shopping Center
Parade starts at 73rd and Olympia, concludes at 81st Street Shuttle service available from the Mabee Center Parking Lot
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