Yesterday the City of Chicago successfully pushed the German American Chamber of Commerce to drop New Line Cinema’s The Nativity Story as a sponsor the traditional German Christkindlmarket. City officials said the new film –segments of which were going to play on televisions at the market– “might offend non-Christians.”
So why did Mayor Daley light the Christmas Tree last week? I guess it is ok to give offense if the Mayor gets face time in the media:
It’s the 93rd Chicago Christmas tree. Chicago businessman P.J. Jordan presented the first tree to Mayor Carter H. Harrison in 1913 to commemorate his friend and business associate, Capt. Herman Schuenemann , a Great Lakes ship captain whom, each year, brought a boatload of Christmas trees to Chicago, some of which he sold and some of which he gave away to the poor.
Schuenemann, his ship and crew were lost in Lake Michigan while bringing a load of trees to Chicago in late 1912.
Jordan’s tree, a 35-foot Douglas spruce, had 600 multi-colored lights and was topped with the Star of Bethlehem. It sat in Grant Park, as did all of Chicago’s official Christmas trees until 1966. The official city tree was moved to Daley Plaza in 1967.
You can see the 90-foot tree nightly through Jan. 8. Surrounding it is the 11th annual Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket, which will run through Dec. 24.
What is amazing is that Chicago profits enormously from Christmas-season shopping, andgoes out of its way to attract the seasonal business. Think American Girl Place for starters. (I have a friend Dan with four girls who had to make the pilgrimage to the mother ship store.) If Chicago is going to anti-Nativity, will the merchants of the city complain if shoppers take that into account?
I’ll be kicking this story around with Wyck Godfrey, producer of The Nativity Story, and my colleague from Chapman Law School, Professor Larry Rosenthal who spent many years as a senior lawyer inside the City of Chicago’s legal office following his clerkship with Justice Stephens. My guess is that some bone-head low level staffer has put Daley in this position, and I expect the Irish-Catholic Daley doesn’t like being anti-Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus.
UPDATE: The Nativity Story’s producer Wyck Godfrey just offered on my show to hold a screening of the film –which opened at The vatican, for goodness sakes, for Mayor Daley and his staff in Chicago. If I was advising New Line, I wouldn’t wait for the mayor’s knuckle-headed staff to call. I’d set ithe screening up in a theater near the mayor’s office for noon on Friday and see if Mayor Daley and/or his senior staff shows up.
Sponsors acceptable to Mayor Daley? Lufthansa. ComeToGermany.com. Mercedes Benz. DaimlerChrysler. BMW. Bischoff. Great Lakes Wine Company.
Just not a movie about the proverbial “reason for the season.”