Carved statues of Mary, Joseph and Jesus have been removed from under Neuchâtel’s town Christmas tree because the town doesn’t want to be associated with religious symbols.
“The town’s Christmas tree shouldn’t be associated with religious symbols. It’s everyone’s tree, all citizens, non-religious and religious” said commune councillor Olivier Arni to archinfo.ch.
The figurines were ordered by the city last winter as a gift to the Swiss federal council in Bern when Didier Burkhalter was president – Didier Burkhalter is from Neuchâtel. After failing to find a home at the Federal Palace, the woodworker who made them had hoped to display them under the town’s tree, but without luck.
Neuchâtel’s authorities say they have not been influenced by the Paris attacks. It’s “just common sense”. The town belongs to everyone, not one faith in particular.
The action has not pleased everyone. After expressing “astonishment” on Twitter, Les Jeunes UDC de Neuchâtel launched a petition against the removal in the hope that the commune’s leaders would back track on their decision. “Christmas is after all a celebration of the birth our Lord Jesus Christ, the celebration of nativity. How can we properly celebrate Christmas if we take away its most important symbol.” they said in a press release. “If the commune doesn’t want to be associated with a “belief” in this way, what should we expect them to do next? Take down the statue of Guillaume Farel or blow up the Eglise Rouge?”
The statues have since been placed next to the Temple du Bas according to archinfo.ch. The Temple du Bas was constructed in 1696 shortly after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which led to the arrival in Neuchâtel of large numbers of French protestant Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France. Today the church is used primarily as a concert hall.
Full Le Matin article (in French)