Don’t expect to see a Christmas tree outside at least one Vancouver Island city hall next year.
The City of Victoria is considering scrapping Christmas decorations in favour of separating church and state.
In a motion put forward by Coun. Ben Isitt, city staff have been directed to look at making city winter decorations more culturally inclusive, which may include removing anything related to Christmas, such as Christmas trees and Santa Claus.
“Tax dollars should not go to religious symbols,” he said. “Decorations costs should not be expended on any particular part of Christmas practice.”
Isitt noted that keeping lights up is something everyone can enjoy and that generic symbols such as snowflakes and stars wouldn’t be a problem.
Annually, the city spends $90,000 on seasonal decorations, which includes downtown decorations at Christmas and Chinese New Year, and banners installed in various neighbourhoods throughout the year.
Isitt said he didn’t have a problem with the Chinese New Year decorations because it relates to a “cultural group rather than a religious act.”
He added he has no opposition to people displaying their own holiday decor, as long as the government isn’t involved in its purchase or promotion.
“It’s just safer for us to steer clear of religious symbols,” Isitt said.
Downtown lights in the winter are a big incentive for holiday shoppers, the Downtown Victoria Business Association told Isitt, so Isitt argued that by not decorating Christmas trees the funding could also allow for more generic decorations throughout the city.
So far the idea has spurred a lot of pushback, including a petition called “Hands Off Christmas!” that as of Monday had garnered more than 260 signatures.
“If this council wants to kill Christmas then they will have to take away all that it comes with it … including the consumer side of things,” the petition reads. “No more gifts, Santa, turkey dinner, lights and most importantly they have to go to work on Christmas Day without double pay.”
Annually, the city also spends more than $50,000 on Canada Day for police presence alone, and $200,000 for seasonal flower baskets.