Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Sparkle Season!!!

I was just reading my Bloglines, when I came across an interesting article at archy on my favorite subject, the war on Christmas. About half way though the article (which mostly consisted of transcripts (transcripts well worth reading, by the way) of news broadcasts there was this little parable, repeated by FOX host Eric Burns.
You know, a few years ago in Pittsburgh, there was an edict in one of the school districts that if you were an employee in that school district, you couldn't say "Merry Christmas" to a kid. A memo came down -- you had to say, "Happy Sparkle Season."
Hmmmm. Did that really happen? Well I diligently googled the story up, and found most of the references led me back to an 1996 op. ed. piece by John Leo.
Can an event marked by about 90 percent of Americans become unmentionable? Sure. School bus drivers in Fayette County, Ky., were warned not to say Merry Christmas to any of the children. Presumably, they would say, "Happy holidays," "Merry solstice," "Hail to winter" or something of the sort. In Pittsburgh, they could have said, "Happy Sparkle Season," the city's weird euphemism for Christmastime.
What an interestingly phrased statement. In Fayette County Kentucky they were forbidden to say "Merry Christmas" (another story that makes me suspicious, but there are only so many hours in a day), and Pittsburgh crafted a weird euphemism for Christmas (Sparkle Season). Or course, that doesn't mean that they required their teachers to say Sparkle Season, does it?

Still by placing those ideas so closely together, I do understand how reading this article quickly might lead one to believe that Pittsburgh was also forbidding Merry Christmas. Tracking Sparkle Season a bit further back (with the help of a Diligent member of Democratic Underground, in an article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review decrying the commercialization of Christmas, we see who is responsible for "Sparkle Season."
Duquesne University marketing professor Audrey Guskey recalled when Downtown's annual celebration took on the "Sparkle Season" name in 1995. Since then, Light Up Night hasn't emphasized Christmas, and references to specific holidays have been fading.
Hmmm. No mention of the school board here. And you have to assume that a Pittsburgh paper would know the score right?

So let's trace it forward.

Pittsburgh community leaders come up with a stupid theme for their tree lighting ceremony.

John Leo puts it in an article close to a riff about Fayette County, KY, which may have forbade it's bus drivers to say Merry Christmas.

People reading the story combine the two, in standard myth-making tradition, and create the legend of the town who made it's teachers wish their students "Happy Sparkle Season."

Of course it's possible that there are clues that I have missed. But right now it looks like Eric Burns is either a liar or an idiot.

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