HOLIDAY HARDBALL ARCHDIOCESE WRONG TO LIMIT GRAVE DECORATIONS.
A branch of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese has outdone itself this year in striving for some sort of award for bureaucratic insensitivity and stupidity that surpasses anything found in the secular public-sector world. The great minds running the local Catholic cemeteries are cracking down on excessive Christmas decorations at burial plots.
Even if this weren't the first holiday post-Sept. 11, and one laced with unsettled nerves and psyches, it seems inappropriate to issue petty, restrictive rules for the celebratory holiday season with all of its pent-up joy and gift-giving.
Among the banned items are ``Santa Claus, Nut Crackers, Candy Canes, Snowmen, Easter Bunnies and Nativity Mangers.''
The cemeteries' administrators obviously have put a lot of thought into their one-page edict distributed earlier this month. But what sort of grinches are these people?
Until I buried my daughter 4 1/2 years ago I paid little attention to cemeteries, particularly Cardinal Roger Mahony's Catholic organization in charge of burial plots, but since then I have become (unfortunately) a regular visitor. As such, I have become quite familiar with the seasonal changes and celebrations taking place in these usually forgotten pieces of open space, the most notable being the end-of-year holiday season.
Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, where my daughter rests, has become a veritable sea of increasingly elaborate Christmas decorations just in the last four years that I have witnessed the cemetery's annual yuletide decor. My wife and I (and a couple of my daughter's good friends who still live close by) put up trees, tinsel and garland, but on a relatively low-key scale compared with most of the gravesites in the sprawling hills overlooking Los Angeles International Airport and Marina del Rey.
My wife and I have commented that some people may be excessive with their decorations, trying to outdo families at surrounding gravesites. But we were both appalled recently to see the notice this year of a restrictive decorations policy as part of a notice for the three-week period during which cemetery workers who normally discard flowers weekly will not disturb the graves.
For those of us with loved ones we'd prefer to have still with us at the holidays, it is bad enough to have to depend on graveside visits to rekindle the spirits of our dear departed, without having to worry whether our Christmas tree is taller than two feet and what sorts of materials were used in our decorations.
In a green-on-white, one-page sheet adorned with holiday bell and candle drawings, the Catholic cemeteries spell out succinctly what is permitted and what is not:
``Permitted: 2-foot Christmas tree that will fit in grave flower vase or in a potted container, one (1) tree/grave, not taller than 2-feet high; tree ornaments made of fabric, wood, rubber or paper; poinsettias and potted plants 8 inches tall; Christmas Wreaths.
``Not Permitted: Decoration on cemetery landscaping and cemetery crypt fronts; decorative fencing around graves; Christmas lights (battery or electrically operated); garland; glass or plastic ornaments; standing decorations (examples: Santa Claus, Nut Crackers, Candy Canes, Snowman, Easter Bunnies, Nativity Mangers); valuable ornaments; spikes to anchor decorations.''
I called the archdiocese cemetery offices on Wilshire Boulevard, trying to find out what prompted such Draconian measures this holiday season. A receptionist filled me in given the fact that all of her managers were apparently either in meetings or otherwise indisposed.
The very earnest-sounding woman told me too many families were over- decorating, infringing on other patrons' plots and in some cases stealing one another's decorations. The size, shape and elaborateness had gotten out of hand, she said, so the archdiocese stiffened its rules and printed its bulletin for distribution at its 11 cemeteries.
Church operators just want to avoid any more problems, she said. ``The rules are a little more strict, so hopefully people will pay attention.''
I am unsure how the officials intend to enforce the new edicts, but the woman on the telephone told me there would be security and cemetery personnel to help police decorations. A Christmas tree exceeding the two- foot height limit would be carted away.
As one who has had small pumpkins, flags, wind-driven twirlers on small sticks and various other items ``disappear'' during everything from Halloween to Easter, I am reluctant to comply this year out of principle. I have not used decorative fencing or lighted ornaments in the past, but I am tempted to use them this year as a strong protest.
Collectively, the decorations add a shimmering coat of cheerful color to the cemeteries each holiday season. The cardinal and his cemetery managers should get out to see the spectacle this season - although in view of Sept. 11, the decorations may be less ostentatious. Nevertheless, it may spark some gladness in their seemingly cold, number-crunching hearts.
It would be nice to have mere mortals like archdiocesan leaders solve this dilemma, since a few well-intentioned among them helped create it. Otherwise, it seems we'll have to ask for some divine intervention and pray that common sense prevails even at the cemeteries this holiday.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 9, 2001|
|Previous Article:||COST OF NEW SCHOOLS UP INCREASE PUTS SQUEEZE ON CONSTRUCTION.|
|Next Article:||FREEWAY UPGRADE BRINGS CLOSURES.|