A proposed bill aimed at legalising the presence of Christmas creches in public spaces has been filed by twenty Les Républicains senators under the initiative of Stéphane Le Rudulier, representing Bouches-du-Rhône, the department of Marseilles in southern France.
Le Rudulier’s bill suggests modifying the 1905 law on secularism to allow nativity scenes in public places, deeming them “cultural and non-cultural symbols” and “immemorial traditions of the French nation.” This would involve amending section 28 of the law, which currently reads:
It shall be prohibited, in the future, to erect or affix any religious sign or emblem on public monuments or in any public place whatsoever, with the exception of buildings used for worship, burial grounds in cemeteries, funeral monuments, and museums or exhibitions.
Senator Le Rudulier points out that creches flourish every year at Christmas in many town halls in Provence without any religious proselytising. In an interview with radio station France Bleu Provence, he said:
I know several mayors of the Bouches-du-Rhône who install creches without having a religious vocation. They are also Provencal traditions. The installation of creches dates back to the 13th century!
For centuries, the tradition of nativity scenes has been deeply rooted in the south, and that is also where the famous santons—the figurines that populate these representations of the Nativity—are traditionally made by local craftsmen.
Advent 2022 saw a proliferation of controversies in France concerning the installation of nativity scenes in public spaces. Several mayors defied the organisations that have used the judicial system to oppose the Christmas creches, installing nativities in their town halls before being condemned by the justice system for infringement on secularism.
For the senators proposing the bill, the danger is very real and goes far beyond the sole question of Christmas creches. Other traditions are also subject to attacks motivated by ‘woke’ ideology:
The symbols of our traditions are attacked by an extremist and wokeist political movement that aims to deconstruct what we are: Christmas trees, nativity scenes, santons, galettes des rois (king’s cakes) and even Easter eggs are targeted.
They therefore propose to complete the existing article 28 “by adding cases of exception in connection with the immemorial traditions of France, namely the temporary presence of nativity scenes and Christmas trees, santons, galettes de rois, and Easter eggs.”
The battle that is being waged around these multiform traditions, whose transmission should be a matter of course as they are part of the identity of a country, proves that such traditions are now an integral part of the cultural and political struggle.