Disneyland’s Christmas celebration is legendary, but that tradition almost came to a grinding halt in 2009 due to a lawsuit that claimed that the park’s focus on a Christian holiday was a violation of the United States Constitution’s establishment clause.
The case was brought to court in November 2009, just after Disney put up its holiday decorations for the season. Not wanting to have to change anything during their busiest time of the year, Disney sought dismissal of (or, at least, a preliminary injunction against) the case based on the fact that the company — despite its massive influence over Congress — was at most a quasi-governmental entity and therefore not subject to the amendment requiring strict separation of church and state. The court did not see Disney’s position as strong enough to prevent the case from going forward.
Disney then sought to settle out of court, pointing out that although the park did have many decorations related to the Christian holiday, it also had a window on Main Street with a menorah in it in honor of the Jewish holiday, several windows that were completely bare in recognition of atheism, and both Santa Claus and a focus on the gluttony and commerce of Christmas, which was generally thought to be pleasing to Satanists. This effort was also fruitless.
Fearful of a court possibly driven to an extreme by misdirected political correctness, Disney made some quick changes to its Christmas festivities. These included, for example:
- Labeling the Main Street Christmas tree a “Seasonal Megabush.”
- Overdubbing references to Santa Claus in atmosphere music with references to Mickey Mouse (“Here Comes Mickey Mouse,” “I Saw Mama Kissing Mickey Mouse,” etc.)
- Changing the traditional freshly made candy canes from peppermint to dill.
- The Festivus Fantasy Parade.
Rumors persist that Disney also replaced the snow that falls during the night-time holiday fireworks with soap bubbles, but this is highly improbable as guests would surely complain about having soap spread on their heads.
Fortunately, just before the new year, the court realized that the lawsuit was (in the judges words) “probably the most ridiculous thing ever” and nullified it with prejudice. Since then, Disneyland has gone back to being the Happiest Place on Earth for the holidays, and we couldn’t be more pleased.
Merry Christmas, everyone!