The Starbucks cups may not mention Christmas this year, but there won’t be any confusion about the annual lighting display and celebration at Metairie’s Lafreniere Park. No longer a “holiday” party, as it’s been referred to since 2009, this year’s event will go under the title “Christmas in the Park.”
Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn said the idea of reverting to the use of the word “Christmas” came from constituents but that it seems especially appropriate in light of recent world events.
The decision may upset some residents, Zahn acknowledged, “but I believe it will restore faith in traditions and the true meaning of the season to our festival.”
He said it also will be more in keeping with some other area celebrations, such as Kenner’s Christmas Village.
“With some of the current issues. ... I thought it was time to show where this country started out and use that word,” he said, referring to the Islamic State attacks in Paris last month and this week’s shootings in San Bernardino, California.
Christmas in the Park is sponsored by parish government, but Zahn said the issue of the name has less to do with promoting a particular faith than with honoring “tradition and patriotism — how this country started.”
Zahn, who worked with Parish President John Young’s administration a couple of years ago to return the Christmas Nativity scene to the park’s annual display, said he still considers the event to be welcoming of all faiths.
His office noted later that a 7-foot-tall Star of David that had been part of the event years ago had returned Friday.
Zahn said all religions — “within reason” — are accepted in the event. Any symbol related to the group, the Islamic State, for example, “is absolutely not welcome,” he said.
New to the energy-efficient lighting display this year are a pirate ship, a New Orleans paddlewheeler and icicles dangling from the carousel and pavilion. Many of the displays were donated by the Al Copeland family.
Friday and Saturday hours are 5:30 to 11:45 p.m., while Sunday through Thursday hours are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Santa Claus, Frosty and Rudolph will make appearances on Friday and Saturday nights. The entrance fee is $5 per vehicle; proceeds go toward funding future displays.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.