Now, two Irish-American businessmen from Boston, who also happen to be named Marley, are haunting what they have identified as “Scrooge-like” stores and shopping malls around Massachusetts. Their message is a simple one: Put “Merry Christmas” back into the stores, or lose customers.
The Coalition to Save Christmas in Massachusetts was started last year by Bob and Kevin Marley and their friend Steven Ciambelli, real estate developers in Lynnfield.
“The vast majority of people shopping in malls at this time of year are buying Christmas presents, but from looking around you’d think that Christmas is a dirty word,” said Bob Marley during an interview at his Lynnfield, north of Boston. “It’s ludicrous, and we’re trying to do something about it.”
What irks the 48-year-old Marley more than anything is that he has heard from some employees who have been told they would be fired if they wished customers a Merry Christmas instead of the more generic “Happy Holidays.”
“We’re not asking for employees to rush up to us and greet us with “Merry Christmas” when we walk in the door, but if someone offers that greeting to an employee, that person should be able to respond in kind,” he said.
As a father of four children ranging in ages from 19 months to 17 years, Marley said that his primary goal is to preserve Christmas traditions for future generations. “If people don’t wake up, the secularists in our society will take that tradition from us,” he said. “Corporate America wants to rake in huge profits at this time of year while at the same time they’re insulting us by making no mention of Christmas.”
Marley, who said that he also wants “Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy Kwanzaa” restored, has drawn up lists on his Web site (www.savingchristmasinmass.homestead.com), which distinguish “Scrooge” stores from “Christmas-friendly” stores.
He said that Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s and Sears are at the top of the “Christmas-friendly” list, while Best Buy is a prominent “Scrooge” store for having banned any mention of Christmas. “Sears came back to Christmas big time this year, and we recently got a nice letter from Toys ‘R Us,” he said.
The coalition’s biggest success so far has been the recent turnaround by the 15 Simon Malls in Massachusetts, which had been targeted for an informational picket before marketing directors decided to become “Christmas-friendly.”
Ciambelli said that he and the Marleys will continue their efforts throughout the coming year. “I predict that we’re eventually going to turn this situation completely around,” he said.
Marley has received hundreds of e-mails from around the country, from both Christians and non-Christians. “Ninety-nine percent of the responses are coming from people who are as fed up as we are, and they want to join the effort,” he said.
Boston TV reporters converged at Marley’s home in November after the Boston Herald ran a story on the group, and radio stations around the country have been seeking interviews. Irish philanthropist and real estate developer Thomas Flatley has offered his support, publicly describing the men as courageous.
“It is hard to understand why anyone would want to get rid of a traditional salutation of good will, but that’s what we facing, and we’re happy to see so many people willing to join us and stand up for what they believe in,” Marley said.