TULSA — Many in this Bible Belt town thought the perceived war on Christmas was over when Tulsa’s downtown parade put the word “Christmas” back in its title after a four-year absence. But the battle will apparently last another year, with some residents continuing to stage their own parade — also with Christmas in the title — on the south side of city.
Organizers of each parade claim there’s no animosity toward the other and that the events aren’t competing, but the resentment is apparent in the backhanded compliments and not-so-subtle digs between the parties — evoking more of a Grinch than a Kringle.
Things became frosty in this city of nearly 400,000 when parade organizers dropped the word “Christmas” from the title of its Parade of Lights in 2009. That caused a backlash from conservatives and cable news pundits who accused leaders here and in other U.S. cities of declaring war on Christ and his holiday.
The spat came to a head in 2011, when a small group of residents staged their own parade at the Tulsa Hills Shopping Center, a mecca of big-box retailers and restaurants that sprouted up off U.S. 75 several years ago.
Simply titled, the Tulsa Christmas Parade unabashedly catered to folks who wanted to shout “Merry Christmas” to fellow revelers. It was wildly successful — even though it was on the same day as the bigger parade downtown — and drew more than 20,000 spectators. It also grew in popularity last year.
This year, albeit briefly, there were signs of thawing in the cold war over which parade was the real thing. Josh McFarland, one of the founders of the rival parade, defected to work on the downtown event after it restored Christmas to its title — now called the Tulsa Downtown Parade of Lights: A Celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and Other Holidays. The downtown parade is set for Dec. 14.